Monday, 13 August 2012

Review: While She Sleeps - This Is the Six

 When Killswitch Engage released Alive or Just Breathing in 2002 and Lamb of God released Ashes of the Wake in 2004, the heaviness and simultaneous heights of popularity these albums received effectively acted as the final nail in the coffin of the by then plague of nu metal that had brought metal music to the mainstream forefront all those years before. With the return of genuinely heavy metal music being of mainstream attention again, under the guise of metalcore in 2004, what followed was a Charles Darwin like process of natural selection, which goes on to this day. It means that the bands that fill their music with bullshit, loaded with auto-tuned vocals and needless electronics who try and make metal songs about partying and have people take them seriously at the same time are going to be left behind for all metal enthusiasts to jeer at (Yes, I've displayed a love for these bands many a time now, but even I'm getting a little fed up now) Meanwhile the bands that carry on in the vein of Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God and create crushing displays of unrelenting metal with a real emotional core and a genuine message will be the ones that go onward to become the most outstanding practitioners of metal in this day and age. They will be a band who, just like the original heavy metal resurrectionists can be looked upon with impenetrable respect. So there's a certain amount of pride that after a ten year wait, we finally come face to face musically with the debut offering This is the Six from the band that has wholeheartedly proven itself to be the forerunners of this natural selection of metal, While She Sleeps.

 At the start of the year, While She Sleeps were just another metalcore band with a mini album that the kids from Sheffield dug, living in the shadow of their fellow Sheffield metal peers Bring Me the Horizon. But somehow over the months, over the past few years even, the dirt, grit and never-ending mires of determination that comes with the Northern working class background has become ingrained within now iconic frontman Lawrence Taylor, guitarists Sean Long and Mat Welsh, bassist Aran McKenzie and drummer Adam Savage.

 And with this determination and unspeakable levels of passion having seeped into their music at long last, While She Sleeps have managed to charge forward on their debut full-length This Is the Six with a set of songs that boast the kind of forward thinking bullshit-free songwriting and performances that boast what is metal perfection. The kind of metal perfection we have been waiting ten years for from every single metalcore band.

 The boldness of the band smashes listeners straight in their unsuspecting faces within milliseconds of opener Dead Behind the Eyes, which already comes with the heaviness that would make the meanest pile of bricks look tame, only build up to a manner in which Long, Welsh McKenzie and Savage's combined work makes a sound heavier than the works of Lamb of God and Machine Head combined. Add a shedding of emotional heaviness that effortlessly shines through within the bellowing Northern screams of "Loz" Taylor and we have the heaviest new band ever.

 All to well it may be to be the heaviest kids on the block but While She Sleeps go far beyond the theories that many bands seem to hold of "brutality=art" and the amount of melodic grace heard across This Is the Six and the sheer extent put onto making it as potent a force on the album as heavy riffage is simply breathtaking. The lead guitar skills of False Freedom has the kind of widdling that would allow Iron Maiden to truly identify that they've influenced metalcore along with all the hardcore punk bands. That guitar work alone reflects the principles of what classic heavy metal wanted to achieve more than all that Unearth have done, which I can only hope is really saying something. The extent to which lead guitar builds up an immersive atmosphere across the likes of Our Courage, Our Cancer and Be(Lie)Ve is simply staggering, as the lush soundscapes still unleash an air of beauty even while your teeth are being rattled by the album's heaviness. And in terms of making a good metal song, that is legitimately multi-tasking.

 The real gift of melody is the ability that the band presents to craft songs that do push the metallic boundaries that still flow in an ideal way, packed with bursting choruses that you can sing along to at shows, whether you wish to chant along to the reflective messages of Seven Hills or scream your lungs out to "WE CAN SLEEP IN OUR OWN GRAVES!!" the prominent message of the album's title track, the best song of 2012. And by the time you realise how well the band are able to fit in verses, bridges and entire songs led simply by piano with rousing sing alongs, whether it's in the joyous Love at War or the emotionally forceful and though provoking of Reunite, which sees the band chant solidly to "The North still stands for nothing/ but the streets don't say the same/ We are the neighbours of broken promise/ In a nation that will never change", in a way that just makes you want to jump in and sing along, you realise that we have the new greatest songwriters in metal on our hands. So many bands try this and it ends up sounding cheesy, or like their attempt to make a pop song. While She Sleeps just make it so real. They make music real.

 Yes, many have been looking at metalcore as a musical genre, questioned it's validity, looked at the current state of bands and assumed the genre a train wreck. Yes there will always be people looking to bring down the genre in any way they can. Guys with big bears and Kreator T-Shirts will slam the genre to the ground on online forums, other blogs and in real life in as many ways as possible without taking any listen to the best names in the business. Those poor people. They'll never know. With This Is the Six, not only have While She Sleeps become their very own beast, but they've become their very own beast with a long line of metalcore musicians before them, many that are highly respected within the genre's circles and become a beast that triumphs all of them. They have gone on to make the kind of album that Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God were meant to set the path for all those years ago and though the wait has been long, it's been worth it in the long run. Because, it's given birth to a fact that no one may want to believe, the elitists will long to deny and will change the way things are run for a long time, because this is only the band's debut album and the future ahead is long and bright:

 While She Sleeps are the new kings of metal. And they demand their crown now.

While She Sleep's This Is the Six is out now via Search and Destroy. The band will tour the UK froM September-October with Bleed From Within, Crossfaith and POLAR.

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