The concept of the 12th (or in While She Sleeps' case sixth) man is something that usually gets dramatised in sports. It's a simple enough idea: your fans adoration, passion, and commitment to the cause acts as a motivational apparition - making the complex more possible. Where most bands use this connection metaphorically, it is quite literal when it comes to the Sheffield metallers.
It makes sense then, that fifth record Sleeps Society - aptly named after the bands Patreon, is the ultimate payback for those that have pledged allegiance. More so than most outfits - While She Sleeps consistently acknowledge the link between fan participation and their existence.
But when it comes to taking musical steps forward, that's a hard line to toe. Fortunately, WSS are something of an anomaly when it comes to finding a way to sound fresh without having to find something to sacrifice. Sleeps Society bridges the gap between delivering a thank you note to those who got them here, and looking out the corner of its eye at modern civilisation.
'Enlightenment (?)'s beamed chorus vocals ask for self reflection as Matt Welsh pleads "Can we all just take a moment, and see what we've become?" Whereas 'Call Of The Void' features guest vocals from members of the very Patreon the record is an ode to. The latter warms the heart, but the modern metal gallop of 'Enlightenment (?)' merged with Sean Long's classically sumptuous lead guitar passages, and a perfectly pitched attack from Welsh make it one of the all time great Sleeps tracks.
A somewhat inconsequential feature from Sum 41 front man Deryck Whibley does nothing to detract from 'No Defeat For The Brave's This Is The Six era hostile throwback. While She Sleeps have seldom mixed such a low tuned guitar force with this level of tempo since their beginnings. It's a neat, if swift nod to what bought them to the dance, with (of course) a tectonic plate shifting breakdown to boot.
There's a more direct approach on the metal forcefield that is 'You Are All You Need'. Loz Taylor's patented growl sounds more at home than ever, and who do you trust more to pen an emphatic climax than While She Sleeps? But when it comes to messages - they get no clearer than album closer 'DN3 3HT'. A delicate piano sits underneath scratched interviews with each member discussing their thoughts on the Sleeps journey. In the hands of 99% of other bands - this would have been doomed to come across as forced, fake, and pretentious. But for the last decade, While She Sleeps have been the 1%.
As the While She Sleeps story continues to manifest - they give you no reason to put the book down. Now on album five, the Steel City crew have forced us into a position where we can compare their 10 year run to bands outside of their generation. With the leaps their fanbase are prepared to risk in order to support them, the pressure is consistently on the quintet to deliver. Sleeps Society is further proof that there are few more fit for the job.
We recently reviewed Sleeps Society on the Noizze Podcast: