When was the last time you thought for yourself? Are you sure? Listen to Brainwashed, the new While She Sleeps record, and you may call your answer into question–and that’s the point. “We have all grown [up] being told exactly what to do in pretty much every single aspect of being alive,” says Sean Long, guitarist for the UK metal band, “leaving little room for pure creativity and fun, even though we are led to believe that we have freedom. We are trying to make people aware and to just take a step back and be conscious of the fact that not everything you hear or are told is what’s right or what you should do.”
The band’s against the grain ideas seem to be working in their favor, as Brainwashed has already met with some rave reviews across the board. The new record earned a 5K rating from Kerrang, 8/10 from Metal Hammer and Rocksound, and not to mention HXC Magazine‘s own 4.5/5 rating. The band challenge the listener with poetics as well as sheer heaviness, penning lyrics like “If you want words to live your life by/ Walk the graves, walk the graves / It’s written on the headstones/ Time waits for no one” (“Our Legacy”). While She Sleeps mean to throw you outside your comfort zone if only to urge you toward something better–“We are not lost/ There’s method in this madness” (“Method In Madness”)–and now’s the time to listen.
The devastating energy and merciless attitude of the songs are also part of what make it a stand up metal album, an aspect of the music that Long sites as coming out of some serious trials. “I think [it’s] because we have had such a wild year of struggle and confusion,” he says. “It most definitely shines through our music and also as friends. We are in this together and we like to think that people who like our music, too, are also in it with us.”
One such struggle was a 2014 surgery on vocalist Lawrence “Loz” Taylor’s vocal chords, which could have been enough to send any band spiraling. Whatever the troubles, though, While She Sleeps have clearly pulled through, and have even surpassed expectations, both physically and musically. The song “Four Walls” relies heavily on gospel style group chanting, while the entire fifteen track record is bracketed by strange chatter and noise in “The Divide” and “The Woods.” “‘The Divide’ is a presentation of chaos into order,” explains Long. “It’s making a stand on what we could do if we worked together. All the voices of ‘The Divide’ are the same voices to the next track in which they all sync up. It’s showing the two poles of what we can do together or against each other.” Citing his personal favorite tune as “Life In Tension” he insists, “For us it’s a triumphant album.”
Brainwashed is not only the result of the five members of While She Sleeps, but also the result of the impressive audio professionals who helped work on the album. Recording engineer Carl Bown (Trivium) and mixer Colin Richardson (Bullet For My Valentine, As I Lay Dying) provide influence that is immediately recognizable upon listening to the full album.
“Carl Bown is our boy,” Long takes care to emphasize. “[He is] one of the best guys we know. All of this talent under his belt and [he] is just a great guy. No ego blowing up everywhere which I hear all too much these days about people with talent. It really pisses me off that people do well then somehow lose themselves and think they are owed something or they are better than most. Carl knew from the start just how to keep our punk edge yet give it the real production it needed without losing any raw vibes.” The combined effort from all involved make Brainwashed what it is, an album designed to interrogate as much as to console.
Go and get your copy of the new record and catch While She Sleeps on the Vans Warped Tour this summer for a performance Long declares will be “fucking mental.” Until then, question everything and take his most pressing message to heart: “Simply be your own god.”