While She Sleeps has always been one of those bands that leaves me scratching my head as to why they aren’t one of the “it” bands in heavy music. They received decent exposure with 2015’s Brainwashed and when “You Are We” dropped in early 2017 I was positive the heavy vibes and guest appearance from former arch-rival Oli Sykes (of Bring Me The Horizon) would catapult this underrated collective into the limelight. So What?, due to drop March 1, 2019 via Spinefarm Records, may be the album to change that.
So What? displays what While She Sleeps does so well. The band can hang with the best in crushing hardcore/metal riffs and heavy vocals but they also have mastered the ability to incorporate clean riffs and clean/group vocals that, in my opinion, only accentuate how heavy this band is when they turn it on. The inaugural track of the record, and lead single “Anti-Social,” is absolutely explosive. It is a continuous loop that pulls back just enough to return with another aggressive push. The use of silence and call and response drum solos really adds to a very fun song. The single has been out for awhile, and like many of your reading this, got me extremely excited for the album.
“I’ve Seen It All” continues the aggressive, heavy approach while at the same time incorporating clean vocals, and a solid group chant, that are sprinkled in among what can only be described as vocal chaos. The guitar riffs are technically impressive and add to that element of chaos and the intensity of the song. The ending push is an eerie choir chant that gave me chills and leads into a great transition for “Inspire,” returning the intensity left off before the group vocal. The track has an upbeat verse line that is pushed forward to a burst of a chorus that is both engaging and fun. There’s even an element of EDM hook lines many bands are incorporating currently.
The title track, “So What,” starts to slow things down a bit. While it maintains heavier elements, by the time you get through the first three tracks of the album it almost seems reserved. The chorus line has an amazing dissonance harmony that may be missed if not listening specifically for it.
Where “So What” pulls back a little, “The Guilty Party” brings the fury. Presenting what may be the heaviest track on the album, and most certainly the quickest paced, this song caught my attention. While She Sleeps has an excellent approach to their transitions. They can go from aggressive and heavy, to a piano track with clean vocals, and then pick back up seamlessly without hurting the integrity of the track. That is on full display here.
“Haunt Me,” my standout track, is heavy but so catchy throughout. The chorus is a group vocal that I can picture vividly killing it at a live show. “Elephant” is a slower track that doesn’t let the foot off the heavy pedal. It is so craftily placed, after a few intense songs, as another sing-along chorus line that adds substance to the record. The breakdown chant is mind-blowing as well.
“Set You Free” has the most well-defined clean vocals and an absolutely haunting melody that I can see getting some cross-over appeal. “Good Grief” stays with the clean vocal focus, implementing guitar solo transitions that are some of the best on the album.
“Back of My Mind” is another explosive track that goes back and forth from beginning to end. I love the band’s grasp over the power these transitions have. They ease off the insanity long enough to let you settle down just to explode into another feverish breakdown. “Gates of Paradise” is a fitting conclusion to the record. It is a pragmatic, heavy track that leads to a very musical let down. It feels similar to decompressing after a work out. I can assure you that after listening to this album my heart was pumping like I just did 30 minutes on an elliptical.
So What? made a huge impression on me. This is one of the heaviest records I’ve heard in a long time. This band gets it. They are true masters of musical psychology with transitions that are absolutely explosive and unmatched. Often times I find myself slightly let down when I am hyped for an album so long prior to its release. So What? is worth the wait.