BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE is either checking their rearview every day or they're cheering on their fellow countrymen WHILE SHE SLEEPS. A lot of buzz has been swirling about WHILE SHE SLEEPS, much of it culminating from the dexterity of their worldwide debut, "This Is the Six". Yeoman, though? Not hardly. This band's been cranking through the industrial choke of Sheffield, England (aka "Steel City") and territories beyond for a few years and more than a few gigs. WHILE SHE SLEEPS' experience is evident within seconds of spinning their work.
The negative approach to WHILE SHE SLEEPS would be to wave them away as another proto-screamo-melodic hybrid, which is precisely what they are. The first four tracks on "This Is the Six" follow the same obligatory metalcore blitz-skid-blitz motif most of WHILE SHE SLEEPS' peers operate under. "Dead Behind the Eyes", "False Freedom", "Satisfied in Suffering" and "Seven Hills" excite with thrash segments then stymie each song's huffed-out momentum with skulking tempos that allow for fang-banging stomps and subsequent melodic fusions to take over. Of course, each of these songs includes tedious breakdowns which simply need not be, not when there's such manifest talent at play.
At least WHILE SHE SLEEPS opts for roughhoused gang vocals on their choruses where you'd stereotypically find sweet-toothed, post-pubescent cheeriness to offset the brute ugliness of the raspy front line vocals. Militia marches cast in the midst of the harrowing "Seven Hills" indicates a willingness to dwell out of the script, which, thankfully, WHILE SHE SLEEPS does once "Our Courage, Our Cancer" arrives.
The morose yet quick-stepped piano intro leading "Our Courage, Our Cancer" sets up for a mostly mid-tempo, straightforward track that incorporates its breakdown segments as a more agreeable continuum to the song's primary flow. It's a less busy track than the opening numbers, which lets listeners hone in on the lofty guitars of Sean Long and Mat Welsh. Likewise, the dramatic piano and group choral sections kicking off "Love at War" create a decorative spark. The song maintains interest via the agitated static hissing through the bridges and a sharp, piano-driven outtro.
The aquatic instrumental "The Chapel" isn't as macabre as it is ominous and strangely snuggly. It's confirmation WHILE SHE SLEEPS has a lot more spinning through their creative cogs than tooling with a hundred and one ways to use clever signature changes which grow less clever in this day and age of hammer-down-switcheroo redundancy. For all of its strengths, "This Is the Six" is a creature of metalcore habit, which means a lot of inspiration comes from the scene WHILE SHE SLEEPS mirrors along with IN FLAMES and of course, their homeland contemporaries, BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE.
The title cut, "Until the Death" and "Be(lie)ve" slide back into said metalcore conduits, which is why audiences outside of this demographic are likely going to drift towards the nearest doom or thrash album within reach instead of hanging about here. The only real applicable guilt WHILE SHE SLEEPS has is they are a young band playing for young audiences, and that's no real guilt. You either jive with this stuff or you don't, but what's presented here, to be fair, is beyond competent.
Regardless of your age or concentration in metal, "This Is the Six" is one hell of a debut based upon its fluid proficiency. The album works largely to a ploy, yes, but there's such undeniable aptitude at work you have to tip a hat to these dudes. For sure, WHILE SHE SLEEPS spent as much time consuming KILLING JOKE as they did THE AUTUMN OFFERING and AT THE GATES. Lyrically, "This Is the Six" writhes with a Jaz Coleman-esque dystopian outlook, minus the latter's elder statesmanship and blunt snarkiness. KILLING JOKE this is not, not by a long-stretch, yet for WHILE SHE SLEEPS' intended crowd, their seething pessimism is sure to resonate.
There are borderline moments when this band could find itself on FM rock radio ("The Plague of a New Age", for instance), but the tireless yelping of Lawrence Taylor will keep WHILE SHE SLEEPS relegated to the underground. Still, this band is likely to push themselves and their quickly-massing audience to the underground's fullest restraints. IRON MAIDEN broke BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE, so you never know where you're going to find WHILE SHE SLEEPS. You will find them out there, count on that. Their longevity, however, will be determined upon growth fortified from an already-existent musical maturity. A bit more risk and deviation the next time around could truly prove this band.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.