While She Sleeps – ‘So What?’

By Dave Stewart

While She Sleeps are one of the most exciting bands in British music today for a hell of a lot of reasons. Hailing from the steel city of Sheffield, they’ve grown from a tiny local metalcore band to one of the flag bearers for the scene in this country. Their music is relentless and electric, able to communicate both anger and love with the same weighty punch – and their live shows mirror that electricity too, known for their unlimited energy and unpredictability. For the release of previous album ‘You Are We’, they abandoned their record label and did things themselves. Fans both new and old completely rallied around the band and elevated them onto an incredibly high platform. Now they’re unleashing ‘So What?’ unto everyone that’s gazing up at them – if you aren’t already one of those gazing, you will be soon.

This is, without doubt, a classic While She Sleeps record. Everything that you already know and love is on display here in full force, from the elating choruses to the pummelling riffs and drums. But something sounds ever so slightly different. That difference? Attitude. They’ve never been ones to shy away from expressing themselves, never afraid of speaking their mind or doing what they want. Their views and stance are often projected through the lyrics, but on ‘So What?’ that attitude has woven itself into the music too. The end result is a balance between ferocity and beauty, all perfectly sculpted to hit like a runaway train.

If you’ve come here wanting breakneck riffing, ‘The Guilty Party’ will fix your appetite, brimming with both technical twiddling and ferociously paced chords to keep your head banging. Title track ‘So What?’ is a taste of the same, with hooks in the guitar parts that will drill themselves into your brain after the first listen. ‘Elephant’ boasts one of the most uplifting choruses on the record, with gigantic chords sitting behind group chants of “everything will be OK”. ‘Set You Free’ lulls you into thinking it’s going to be a radio friendly tune, but flips that completely on its head towards the end with a dangerous breakdown.

There are plenty of anthems dying to be played live here, such as single ‘Anti-Social’, ‘I’ve Seen It All’ and the enormous ‘Good Grief’. The standout track, though, is album closer ‘Gates Of Paradise’. Acting as a conclusion, it’s crammed full of all the best parts of the album before serenading you out with the most beautiful vocal melody on the record. An epic end to an incredible album.

When describing how ‘So What?’ sounds, guitarist Sean Long stated “I don’t want to be following everyone else; I want people to follow us.” Guitarist and vocalist Mat Welsh elaborated on that point, adding that “‘You Are We’ was basically a demo for this record.” Both are very bold claims, but the music that they’ve produced undoubtedly backs them up. The most beautiful thing about While She Sleeps is that there’s something so familiar about their music, yet they manage to manipulate the sounds into something so unique. They’re a long way from ‘The North Stands For Nothing’ now, but elements of their roots still shine through, more precise and sharp than ever before. They never stop evolving.

Every single song here stands alone as a powerhouse, but put them together and you’ve got a sonic wrecking ball. ‘So What?’ isn’t just a message to everyone surrounding their platform – it’s a statement to the rest of the genre. Something along the lines of “Come on then, come and have a go if you think you’re ‘ard enough.” While She Sleeps have set the bar high for metal in 2019. Let’s see if anyone tries to raise it.

DAVE STEWART

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