When a band gets it's break and things are going better than great, the last thing you need is an unplanned hiatus caused by potentially band destroying throat surgery, but that's what happened to While She Sleeps. For a band that not only delivered creativity, ferocity and a relentless attitude to pushing themselves, yet still able to turn in surprisingly good performances (e.g. with In Flames last Autumn) despite the long break that made people sit up and remind them of what WSS are about. While admiring their impact and seeing the well deserved rise, This is the Six never totally resonated with me personally, it was great but not really my thing, a new release was a must listen, but I expected more of the same - great but not for me.
Enter 2015 and Brainwashed lands in my inbox and I am immediately thrown back to the iconic images of Loz climbing the sound tower brandishing the WSS red flag. It's either clever marketing or a statement that that red flag moment was as memorable to them as it was to those who witnessed it. Brainwashed's cover art is simply the flag, they made their claim and now the flag is being raised again. The flag and the bar.
Album opening New World Torture (post obligatory intro) kicks straight into what WSS are all about, sticking a hearty two fingers up at the establishment. While previously their 'metalcore' was more core than metal, this track showcases a thicker, richer divertisty that has a lot more of interest. It can be said of the entire album that while it retains the trademark While She Sleeps sound, it's developed into a much more unique proposition.
Brainwashed's title track brings us into the furiosity that makes being in a pit a potentially life threatening experience. It's a masterclass in how to make you feel bruised without even moving, layered with some subtle guitar riffs and variable tempos. While being packaged into three and a half minutes Brainwashed has the feeling of track that live could easily keep going for double that length of time without a hint of getting boring.
The sense of militism and of raising an army is a common musical thread throughout the album. Ample anthemic fist pumping moments, enough melody to get a huge crowd chanting along and the flipside of the relentless insanity where words haven't been invented for the resulting carnage. Throughout the album there are points that feel dangerously close to breaking down into a Dillinger-esque chaos but these Yorkshire upstarts know that the edge is the best place to live. I could go on about just how good each track is, but there is no point - this album has to be in your life, it almost feels like an injustice to think of it in terms of a collection of songs.
Where This Is The Six didn't resonate for me, Brainwashed has done the opposite and given me a soundtrack for life in 2015. 2014 was a big year for album releases that were game changers. I realised I could like Black metal when I heard Behemoth's The Satanist. I realised I didn't have to be ashamed at listening to We Are The In Crowd, and I understood that being told something is great isn't always true (King 810 anyone?). Brainwashed is possibly my 2015 game changer, having to now accept the existence of a 'core that works', is it core or is it metal? I don't give a shit.. this album is set to be the rock While She Sleeps stands on when they take their crown. Unless the extra fierceness robs the world of Loz's vocals, my money is on this band being the new headliner we've all been waiting for.