By all accounts, While She Sleeps had absolutely no fucking right to release a metalcore album this fucking solid in 2012, years after the genre had seemingly run out of both steam and ideas. Indeed, so good was the Sheffield five-piece’s debut full-length that they themselves are yet to come close to topping it, somewhat shooting themselves in the foot by releasing something so full of venom before resorting to comparatively tamer efforts. Nothing the band released subsequently, no matter how good, could hold a candle to it, and it didn’t help that vocalist Lawrence “Loz” Taylor sadly had to undergo throat surgery before the band could complete the follow-up, all but obliterating the remarkable momentum the band had managed to muster.
2010 EP The North Stands For Nothing did more than enough to suggest that the band were on the cusp of brilliance, its raw sound only bolstering the hectic atmosphere within. It was a statement of intent, but the band remained the UK scene’s best-kept secret until This Is The Six kicked down metalcore’s door and reanimated its lifeless corpse. The album boasted all the relentlessness of the preceding EP with crisper production and a more palatable sound that saw them soar to the forefront of the rock and metal scene, achieving 5 Ks in Kerrang! and 9/10s in both Metal Hammer and Rock Sound. As The Guardian said at the time, “a best British newcomers award for While She Sleeps from metal bible Kerrang! was predictable, an 11am airing for the band’s thunderously heavy single ‘This Is The Six’ on Fearne Cotton’s Radio 1 show was not.”
Not that This Is The Six was a ploy for mainstream attention. The band were no doubt just as stunned as the rest of us when an album dominated by distorted riffs, breakneck percussion and vicious shrieks garnered such attention, but whilst the band weren’t ones for clean-sung choruses (back then at least) there is something contagious about the melodic leads of ‘Seven Hills’, the emotive refrain of ‘Our Courage, Our Cancer’ or the chanted vocals of ‘Love At War’. If you were a teenage, not-yet-fully-fledged metal fan at the time (as this writer was) it was these moments that won you over, before the chaotic fury of the title-track and thunderous guitars of ‘Dead Behind The Eyes’ began to ever-so-gently ease you into heavier territories.
For many, this was a gateway album, and by and large, this has been a decade somewhat lacking in those. The previous generation were lucky (or, arguably, unlucky) enough to grow up with commercialised rock anthems from nu-metal acts as well as early metalcore that was soon to be followed by melodicised takes from the likes of Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall – the sort of music that captured a potential young fan’s ear before they found their own way to the genre’s heavier subsets. Looking at today’s musical landscape, there’s less of that about, but metal will endure. It always has.
Words: George Parr