Despite this being their fourth studio release, there are still a surprising number of people who aren’t that familiar with Palm Reader. It’s a shame, because those people are all missing out on a band that is a fine example of UK melodic hardcore. Ultimately, one can only hope that Sleepless, their fourth and most recent studio release, will elevate them to the recognition that they truly deserve.
Formed in Nottingham, Palm Reader’s first album Bad Weather was an explosive and chaotic metalcore album that drew heavy influence from bands such as Every Time I Die, Converge and UK stalwarts Johnny Truant. However, since Bad Weather, Palm Reader have put a lot of work into refining this sound, adding more melodic passages and a touch of progressive composure into the mix whilst retaining the energy of their debut album. This attention to detail led to two more critically acclaimed albums, 2015’s Besides The Ones we Love and more recently Braille, which was perhaps the biggest leap into melodic territory. However, Sleepless takes that melody one step further and fully establishes Palm Reader as a force to be reckoned within melodic hardcore.
Sleepless opens with lead single 'Hold/Release', which immediately sets a solid precedent for the rest of the album, with huge chords and an infectious chorus which is likely to get stuck in the heads of fans and newcomers alike. Lyrically the song couldn’t be more relevant, delving headfirst into the problems caused by toxic masculinity. As a whole, Sleepless deals with the idea of appreciating the perspective of others and being empathetic and passionate, something which amazingly still needs addressing in 2020.
The lyrical themes in general match up very well with the band’s more melodic approach on this album, which has a lot more atmospheric passages akin to post-rock and progressive rock than any of Palm Reader’s previous there albums. However, long-term fans need not worry about the band going soft or, even worse, delving headfirst into mainstream rock territory. Sleepless has progression aplenty, with two songs exceeding the six minute mark, and songs like ;Stay Down' will still pummel with huge riffs and breakdowns. Even on most of the slower songs there are passages where the band will bring all their signature rage.
The aforementioned longer songs are where Palm Reader really goes above and beyond in showing how far they’ve come since their first record. 'A Bird and Its Feathers' is a superb mixture of Deftones and Thrice, coupled with an ending that is signature Palm Reader, and 'False Thirst' similarly pulls from some of the best elements of Thrice’s heyday. Whilst Sleepless is still through and through, a hardcore album, it equally shows Palm Reader’s full embrace of the experimentation of post-hardcore to create an album that brilliantly mixes anger with vulnerability and tenderness.
Sleepless is by no means a perfect record; some of the shorter cuts don’t quite have the same emotional weight to them as songs like 'Hold/Release and False Thirst' and there are times when the album wears its influences on its sleeve a bit too transparently. However, it's pretty damn close. There can be no denying that this is a stratospheric release for Palm Reader, and one can only hope that it’s the release they need to launch into the stratosphere of heavy British bands, which is where they truly deserve to be.
Sleepless is released November 27th via Church Road Records.