While She Sleeps have never been afraid to challenge the status quo. After all, they’re not a band that fits in neatly into any heavy subgenre. They’ve got the huge choruses of your favorite hard rock bands, but they’re far too heavy to fit in there. WSS also have punchy, groove-based rhythms, but they also don’t coast on them. It’s all rather impressive, and their fanbase? Dedicated, to say the least.
With five full-lengths under their collective belts, it’s tough to pick one that might well define WSS. But their sophomore album Brainwashed might well qualify. Make no mistake, this is a balls-out metal record with the spirit and energy of hardcore. But Brainwashed is so much more than that – it’s truly a high point for what heavy music can mean to someone.
At its core, Brainwashed is an album about overcoming the odds, and considering that’s just what vocalist Lawrence Taylor had to do to even perform on this album, as he underwent vocal surgeries pre-release that could have cripples just about any other band. Clearly, though, he sounded better than ever here. Taylor is a driving force behind the band. Whether it’s on more melodic (but still aggressive) songs like “Torment” or more accessible fare like album highlight “Four Walls”, there’s never a lack of variety here. Brainwashed does carry a specific quality, though, in that there’s always a healthy balance of punchiness and melodies.
Sleeps really know how to build the song up – and then throw in a huge breakdown, like the one on “Your Evolution” that smashes all comers. And then there’s more moshworthy tracks like “New World Torture” that are damn near impossible not to bang your head to, yet these tracks also sport huge gang vocals and melodic choruses that continue to engage long after you hear them for the first time. It’s much the same for tracks like “Life In Tension”, whose melodic lead still carries on all the typical aspects of Sleeps that you’ll hear on Brainwashed. On no part of the album is there an imbalance of anything too melodic or over the top heavy for a sustained period of time.
The band also knows what they’re exceptional at – writing hardcore punk-influenced blasts of metal that go 100 MPH at almost all times. Cue the album’s title track, which does manage to slow down to a mid-tempo before hitting the accelerator yet again. It’s all so impressive, and yet the melodies and guitar leads keep things pretty accessible to a wider audience. It’s a neat trick that so many bands could do well to learn from.
Brainwashed could not have been a better follow up to their 2012 debut album This Is The Six, which put them on heavy music’s map. It might well be their magnum opus, and whether you agree with that statement or not, there’s so much to unpack here that’ll please many a fan of heavy music. From the huge riffs that’ll get stuck in your head to the gang vocals that inspire passion, Brainwashed is truly one of modern heavy music’s biggest moments.