While She Sleeps - This Is The Six
Record Label: Search and Destroy
Release Date: August 13th, 2012
It has been six years since the members of Sheffield band While She Sleeps took tenure of the British metalcore scene. It is fitting, then, that their debut album be named This Is The Six, which according to the band refers to the five band members and their fans. While their mini album The North Stands For Nothing turned a few heads when it was released in 2010 (scoring a distribution deal with Sony) the bands newest release is set to turn even more.
The album screeches to life with "Dead Behind The Eyes", a fast paced track sure to drive the masses at their ever-expanding concerts into a frenzy. With its break-neck guitar line courtesy of stringsmen Mat Welsh and Sean Long and hard-hitting drum beats from Adam Savage, this track certainly has appeal to the fans that go to gigs to party. Then, Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor’s opening lines set the tone for the rest of the album. “Surrounding me is a picture of a world gone wrong, Paved with sickness and the broken young”. Indeed, this is an album set to criticise. While it may seem lyrically in the vein of hardcore lads Gallows, Taylor’s lyricism surpasses these with ease, and with a much more authentic, genuine delivery. In addition to this, comes a well delivered chorus line in which Taylor sing-screams “We are nothing like these creatures” with enough pop qualities to ensure the hordes will sing back to them at every single show they play. This theme carries onto the second track "False Freedom", with waves of anti-establishment connotations and a few lines that beg to be sung along to. While this theme is recycled, it in no way feels overdone.
Tracks 3 and 4 come in the form of the one-two punch "Satisfied In Suffering" and "Seven Hills", two tracks that in terms of the band’s music could not be greater polar opposites. While the former is a very rhythm-centric track in which everything was clearly intended to be as heavy as possible, the latter is something very different indeed. "Seven Hills" is melodic in its delivery a la Parkway Drive- it retains the bite of their other tracks and fits in with the rest of the album, yet the masterful guitar work breaches new territory that will certainly introduce them to newer crowds. This new sense of melody is still apparent on the next track, "Our Courage, Our Cancer" which opens with a neo-classical piano arrangement, dark and chilling enough to have been taken straight out of a horror film soundtrack. This then segues seamlessly into a mid-tempo sing-along; more evidence that this is a band that has mastered the art of creating the perfect storm of a catchy song that isn’t cheesy. Not only that, it throws back to the last album without it feeling forced or clichéd.
Next comes the title track "This Is The Six". Here is one of the fastest songs on the album, and certainly the most aggressive. This song hits hard without being constantly breakdown-laden or mind-numbingly unimaginative. Not content with just hitting one side of the metal spectrum, Taylor continues to blur the line between singing and screaming during the chorus, while the riff used at this point seems to be lifted straight from a Trivium song. However, it contains just enough of their own style to avoid plagiarism and keep originality. "The Chapel" calms down entirely, opening with a mellow guitar riff and very little else- this ambient track while pleasant enough is a predictable mid-album song and not one that a band of this calibre should be making. However, this is redeemed by track 8 "Be(lie)ve". This track showcases the more melodic elements of the band, with an irresistibly catchy guitar part and a fairly audible bass line (something not particularly well documented on the rest of the album’s tracks) and Taylor’s uniquely melodic screams. This track is a personal favourite and one that will remain on my iPod for many months.
Track 9, "Until The Death", screams anything but happy- This track is fierce, and perhaps less subtle than their other tracks- Opening with the lines "I put my trust in poison to teach me how to live, I put my trust in darkness to teach me how to see", these lyrics make pessimism seem almost too soft a term to describe them. This has a layer of fairly ominous but ever quiet guitars behind it. This then explodes into a barrage of drums, in what is probably Savage’s highlight on the album, bursting at the seams with off beats, seemingly impossible to copy. The amalgamation of these elements leads to an anthemic yet gloomy track that is tailor-made for being played onstage. The next track shows the band leaning towards piano-based metal once again, as song number 10 "Love At War" opens with very distinctive bass chords, that carry for a long period of time, and contrast entirely with the melody of this section, very twinkly and light. The contrast here creates another piece that sets the scene for this dark song, brimming with melody and melancholy. This is built upon by gang vocals (a vital part to creating melody on the album, working directly against how many of their contemporaries use it). This crescendos in a full band piece, again breaking the mold and showing their own sense of style once again.
The penultimate track, "The Plague of a New Age", is an unusual choice for this late in the album. Instead of slowing down as if coming to a halt, this track powers on, as an up-tempo piece heavy on rhythm with little given to melody. While standing alone this track is excellent, its placing in the album feels out of place and it would seem its predecessor would fit much more appropriately in its place. However, the final track on the album could not fit more perfectly. "Reunite" is instrumentally all piano, recorded in a way that makes it sound aged and is more of an epilogue to the album than a song in its own right. All lyrics spoken in gang vocals, it works as a justification for the hatred and feelings of betrayal shown in the rest of the album. With the lyrics, “The north still stands for nothing, but the streets don't feel the same. We are the neighbours of broken promise, in a nation that will never change” repeated twice in the song, it shows a certain bitterness towards the way that they see the world around them. Indeed, the reference to their EP once again shows their progression into darker territory than they have so far stepped, with a ‘no-forgiveness’ attitude to it all.
This is an album that any other band would be expecting to make three or four albums into their career; it reeks of maturity, both lyrically and musically. It appears this is a band that has forged more than an album; they have formed an identity. While the progression from their last EP to this was innumerably better than anyone could have predicted, I for one am interested to see where they go next, and how much of this they plan to retain with their next release and how much they propose they will progress. All I am certain of is that right now, at this moment, this album is a masterpiece.