If you had said to us way back in April 2017 that While She Sleeps would go from selling out The Dome in Tuffnell Park to selling out Brixton Academy in January of 2020 we might not have believed you. We would have hoped, and thought that they had the talent, but such a momentous rise seemed impossible. We were wrong.
It’s been a meteoric rise for While She Sleeps over the last few years. Following the release of You Are We, a slot at Alexandra Palace supporting Architects gave them even more exposure and worldwide tours began to make them a household name.
The release of their fourth studio album, So What? and a sell out headline tour that included a huge album release show at The Roundhouse in Camden proved they were capable of being within the top tier of metalcore.
However, as pleased and proud of this rise as we are, a niggling feeling was beginning to grow. Whereas This is the Six and Brainwashed are two of the greatest metalcore albums ever, You Are We was a little disappointing (still a great album) and So What? felt like a direction change that wasn’t for the ‘old-school’ fan. It was a good album, it had moments of greatness but for the first time, it just didn’t resonate personally.
That being said, it has proved to be a very successful album and gained them a brand new fanbase who has helped them sell out Brixton Academy tonight. While we’re not really on-board with the direction they’re heading (Fakers Plague was a bit of a miss for us), we’re so happy they have reached this size and they only seem to be growing.
Before they hit the stage, first up is the opening band Vein who have an absolute nightmare. A half full venue, the acoustics are rubbish. The sound is muddy to the point where you can’t make out the riffs or the vocals. They bounce around with a hell of a lot of energy and a pocket of the crowd is bang into it but it just doesn’t work. The one positive is that by the end, the sound starts to clear up but it’s too little too late.
That’s not a problem for Every Time I Die though who play as though they’re the headliners. A 45-minute set of everything great about the band; bundles of energy, humongous breakdowns, melodic highs and lows… if you’re a hardcore fan it’s wonderful. That being said, it does begin to drag near the end.
…and then it’s time. Time for While She Sleeps and time for Brixton to lose its collective shit. Something that’s easy to do with a stonking rendition of Anti-Social from So What? There’s no arguing with just how tight the band sound and Brixton’s acoustics are delivering.
Sound wise, this is a band at the top of their game. So…why come the end, does it feel so disappointing?
The short answer is the setlist but the long answer is the realisation that the direction While She Sleeps are going in isn’t something we’re on board with anymore. No-one can dispute that their sound is changing, some of it forced (Loz’s vocal issues) and plenty of it planned. It’s been something we’ve been aware of but seeing them live here has all but confirmed it. Why? Out of 16 songs just 1 comes from This is the Six (Death Toll) and 3 songs come from Brainwashed (Brainwashed, Four Walls and Trophies of Violence).
The majority of the set comes from So What and You Are We with new single, Fakers Plague thrown in too. This is a band seemingly wanting to forget their earlier work and to put the exclamation point on that, Loz introduces ‘Death Toll’ by saying “this one is for the moshers”. So, what’s the rest of the set for?
Looking around at the crowd, a humongous crowd who are really into everything the band plays, that niggling feeling has become a full-on itch. This is not the While She Sleeps we fell in love with, they’re still an amazing band and this show is an incredible accomplishment, but this might be the stop where we get off the train.
Hopefully, we can get back on board in the future.
While She Sleeps at The 02 Academy, Brixton, London (24/01/20)