Sleep Theory – ‘PAPER HEARTS’

By Ian Kenworthy

Sleep Theory are on the defensive and it’s not hard to see why. Listen to their debut single ‘Numb’ or its follow-up ‘Another Way‘  and you’ll be struck by how confident, accessible and full their sound is. Naturally – irritatingly – they’ve been tarred with the label ‘industry plants’. Making music is hard, never mind finding success, so when a band’s ascent appears effortless, the trolls come out. It’s not a new thing either, back in 2000 Metal Hammer ran an article saying the same thing about Linkin Park. The irony being that the whole ethos of Sleep Theory’s debut EP ‘Paper Hearts’ seems to be ‘What if Linkin Park liked R&B more than rap?’. It’s not exactly subtle either, the vocal parts, the record scratches, the filtered guitar breakdowns, the screams, even their name sounds overly familiar. So yes, it’s very derivative, but it’s also worth your time.

‘Meteora’ is twenty years old. Musicians have grown up listening to it so it’s no surprise nu-metal is coming back into fashion. Press play and you’ll hear guitarist Daniel Pruitt strumming huge chords with electronic beats and loops providing nuance. So many modern records are constructed so differently, it creates the illusion of freshness. That said, the opening track ‘Fallout‘ feels like a shameless cover of ‘Don’t Stay’. This isn’t a problem per se, but when your core sound is so heavily indebted to one of only two records, copying the vocal melody feels lazy and pandering.

Thankfully, we can leave easy comparisons behind as subsequent tracks try harder to be their own thing. All six are pleasingly different from each other while sitting comfortably in a similar space. This contrast keeps the songs engaging and its notable how the machine gun backing to ‘Another Way’ sits alongside more interesting dancefloor vibes on ‘Gone or Staying’ or the huge heavy chorus parts on ‘Fallout’. However, it’s the R & B inflected second track ‘Enough’ where the band really grasp their sound. Vocalist Cullen Moore alternates between a smooth croon and forceful bark making him effortlessly compelling. He’s not a one-trick pony either and it’s interesting how he shifts gears, especially through the lethargic chorus of ‘It’s Over’. However, they way he leans heavily on ‘Ay’ sounds on ‘Gone Or Staying’ creates a massive hook and is a clear highlight.

Throughout the EP, the song writing is very strong, but it does feel almost workshopped. This is mirrored in the way that it has been produced with each song, beat, loop or filter is placed exactly where it needs to be. The results are difficult to fault; Even the breakdowns arrive on cue and they’re enough to get the blood pumping, especially on ‘Numb’ (Hardly a subtle reference) but it never feels particularly exciting. Yet, despite being so calculated, it’s never cold and is an extremely accessible package.

‘Paper Hearts’ feels manufactured for success. It struggles against the weight of its influences, but doesn’t put a foot wrong making it effortlessly likeable.

IAN KENWORTHY

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