Review: “So What?” by While She Sleeps

Sheffield’s premier independent Metalcore heroes While She Sleeps have returned with their 4th Studio album “So What?”. Following the huge success of 2017’s “You Are We”, the pressure has been very much on for the band with this new release. Why? Well, they’ve been improving with each set of material.

The first single from the album “Anti-Social” has been out for a fair while. Kicking off with the sounds of Police sirens and dogs barking before it’s hooky main riff appears. A harsh whispered vocal makes way for some clean singing in the chorus and a bark that isn’t unclean during the verse. There are some Pop inspired elements which have been seen before like a spoken word rap that is slowed down and it actually is beginning to sound like the Sheffield are moving towards a sound that Shvpes are looking for in about 5 years time. “I’ve Seen It All” is a heavier, more guitar oriented tune with some much improved uncleans though an ambient bridge adds a melodic piece to the jigsaw puzzle of a song. There are some mid-career Bring Me The Horizon esq industrial backdrop sounds that add something else to the mix. “Inspire” continutes the addition of that industrial element while offering some solid breakdown style riffage. In the late 90s that riffage would have had some vinyl scratches on top of it and we’d have called it Nu-Metal. In 2019 is has some fun drops on it that seem unnecessary.

Album title track “So What?” starts with a Hard Rock sung verse that false starts the track into some faster riffs that offer a decent amount of chug while overlayed with some lead flourishes adding to it. The lyric states that the band are waiting for us to be out of a comfort zone. There are places where the band sound out of their comfort zone on this album. Like they’ve done too much, adding too much to some of the tracks as the extremes within their sound push out. “The Guilty Party” is no different, a blistering opening then let’s up to an ill-fitting verse that sounds like an entirely different track before breaking back into the original tune with some killer riffs, bounce and energy. That same sing-a-long section returns once more before building out with some lead work into a stompy section that sounds far better. “Haunt Me” does the same thing. Threatening to take off with some lead riffage an opening verse and some pounding kit work that suddenly dies off into some almost acoustic work for a very short couple of verse lines. A big sing-a-long chorus manages to save it from that oddity and the rest of the track is a solid heavy riff-o-rama. The group vocal of the final verse sounds like it’s made for a choir but works really well.

“Elephant” was the final single before the albums release and is a distinct hark back to some of their early material during the opening attack. It’s very much a new sound verses old sound with the verse and chorus, with the heavier elements sounding heavier off the back of the more melodic parts. “Set You Free” has some decent punk rock riffs while being the most melodic tune on the album. It’s one that has been built for the vocals to shine and adding a choir for a verse eases the pressure on the band themselves to achieve some of the higher notes. The heavier ending seems to have been thrown on and is perhaps unnecessary because while it sounds great, it doesn’t fit the track itself. “Good Grief” has a pre-chorus that sounds like it belongs on a bright upbeat pop track while the lead flourishes sound like a Metalcore song. As with some of the earlier tunes there is an electronic voice and while it closes in a more traditional While She Sleeps fashion, the mixed up nature doesn’t have the appeal of some of the other cuts.

“Back Of My Mind” returns While She Sleeps to the sound of some of their earlier material with cut glass uncleans and a dual guitar attack for the opening verse. The pre-chorus is a more melodic affair and the use of an autotune seems completely random but even more so a Grime segway rap into some of the heaviest riffs and screams to feature on the album. “Gates Of Paradise” talks about breaking the rules and the need to wake up while we’re still alive over a longer cut of fast paced riffs over the first 3 minutes before dropping the guitars out and building into a big sing-a-long section brings things to a close [6/10]

Track listing

1. Anti-Social
2. I’ve Seen It All
3. Inspire
4. So What?
5. The Guilty Party
6. Haunt Me
7. Elephant
8. Set You Free
9. Good Grief
10. Back Of My Mind
11. Gates Of Paradise

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