Are their hearts really, truly in this?
Diving right into this review, I’ve got some big issues with the latest While She Sleeps’ record. But before I get to any of that rambling, I’ll say a few things about the actual music on offer...
It’s great! It really, really is.
These five guys, whose music I've really quite enjoyed in the past, know how to write solid, bouncy and massive metalcore tunes and that is just a simple fact. Whether it’s the groovy intro on the title track ‘You Are We’ that has a soaring guitar lead-line that punctuates the air around whatever speaker that just so happens to be projecting it, or maybe it’s the punchy, melodic single of ‘Hurricane’ that blasts along at a million miles an hour; it doesn’t matter. These guys can write music that really gets you amped up and gets you singing along, as yes, their choruses are effective and catchy too. The riffs are as crunchy and are as heavy as ever whilst frontman Lawrence "Loz" Taylor screams draw that awesome line between beautifully harmonic and downright devilish. And the drums. Oh my fucking god, those drums are big and beefy. Adam "Sav" Savage's drums sound like goddamn war drums when backed up by the punishing bass guitar playing courtesy of Aaran McKenzie.
But that's just the music. My big caveats for 'You Are We', the ones that kill my enjoyment of the music and songwriting, comes with what motivates said music. See, the reason I have a problem with this record is because it’s just too goddamn generalised; there's no real political or societal specification here in the lyrics or themes. This is the same thing that held back In Hearts Wake 'Skydancer' to some degree too. Well, that and the generic as fuck metalcore it churned out! But I digress.
The message here of human unification is so watered down and diluted nowadays that it leaves me with one thought, and that thought is: I don’t fucking care anymore. I initially found the album's pre-release singles to be kind of depressing and dreary. But when I’ve digested them in the scope of this full record I don't feel the same way nor the complete opposite, but rather, I feel mere indifference. For I have come to realise that these lyrics and this message is the exact same shit I’ve been spoon fed by punk, metalcore and rock bands for years now - “We must band together", “Fuck the politicians”, “We are the voice", and so on.
And I have to ask: what is the bloody point?!
In my recent interview with the band, Sleeps even said so themselves that ever since their inception of writing political music, that the world is "just getting worse”. So clearly this type of thing just isn’t working, no? Unsurprisingly, a hardcore/metalcore song that carries a message about us as a society banding together in order to better our world hasn’t actually done so. So, why do bands keep insisting that this is what they have to do and that this is them doing right by the world? I think it is merely so some bands can sleep soundly at night. But isn’t the 1980’s or the 1990’s anymore, guys. I go onto Reddit every single day and see bleak news stories about the recent concentration camps for gays in Chechnya right on the front fucking page, sitting next to funny memes and videos no less, which are then also supplemented by posts that are keeping close tags on Donald Trump and the financial/economic cuts that he and his administration are doing.
I just don’t need a punk rock or metal song to help keep me informed in today's world.
The Internet has done that for me.
The best example of a band that did this right is no doubt Anti-Flag. Just look at a song of theirs like ‘The W.T.O Kills Farmers’ (from what is ostensibly their best record, 'For Blood And Empire'), which was inspired by the story of one Lee Kyung Hae who martyred himself to bring attention to how the W.T.O regulations on foreign imports and exports were driving farmers into harsh poverty and out of business. It’s a brilliant song that not only has the themes and poetics of what While She Sleeps try to capture here on this new record, but at its core is also a strong and an actual specific message that informs you and inspires you.
Maybe I’m probably being a bit harsh here, but it just bothers me to no end that artists tend to get up on a pedestal and preach to the wide world about how fucked up this or that is, and how we have to do something about it. Yet their idea of “something” is writing a generalised musical puff-piece about how angry they all are. Now, I’m not gonna pretend that I’m doing all these great things for the greater good because I. Am. Simply. Not. Yet I'm not the one in a band that gets angry and pissed off and then writes a song about being angry and pissed off, then pats themselves on the backs as if they’re doing God’s fuckin' work.
Because writing a breakdown will not initiate real change, my friends. And if you're going about life right now, listening to this new While She Sleeps record in thinking that you're morally and tangibly helping the world to become a truly better place, then I must inform you that no, you're not. You're just helping jack shit.
Look, the music on 'You Are We' is fucking brilliant. Truly. But at its core, ‘You Are We’ is a weak political message that's become so watered down and diluted that it just feels like a half-hour scream and chug fest of “I’m angry!” over some killer metalcore songs. This is a fine example of the weak message killing the actual music, sadly. With just these songs alone, and without seemingly any other tangible actions being taken to help the very issues they discuss here, it really doesn’t feel like While She Sleeps' hearts are truly in this one. Shame, really.
1. You Are We
2. Steal the Sun
4. Empire of Silence
5. Wide Awake
6. Silence Speaks (feat. Oliver Sykes of Bring Me the Horizon)
7. Settle Down Society
10. Civil Isolation
11. In Another Now
'You Are We' is out now. You can see similar comments of mine from a Dregg performance from last year with Hellions. So, I’m nothing if not consistent. Anyway, here's that song with old mate Sykes.