Review by Shannon Shumaker
Brainwashed, the new album from UK group While She Sleeps, feels larger than life. Aggressive unclean vocals and hard-hitting breakdowns bring in the album, but the clean choruses and melodic guitar work carry it forward, making Brainwashed not only a versatile release, but also fun to listen to.
Right away, While She Sleeps waste no time in throwing you into one of the hardest and most aggressive songs with “New World Torture.” The song almost serves as an “opening paragraph” of sorts, telling you just what there is to expect from this album; hard-hitting unclean vocals and breakdowns paired with clean, beautiful choruses, gorgeous lead guitar work, and a huge, anthematic sound that will stick with you long after the album ends. Another strong point of Brainwashed are the gang vocals that a peppered throughout much of the album, making many songs like “Your Evolution” sound like a battle cry.
The album’s title track is one of the strongest songs on Brainwashed. The urgency in this track is enough to make you want to get off your feet and move, but on top of that, it is easily one of the most well-written songs on the album. The time change about a third of the way through the song is incredibly well done, and then it leads you into this breakdown before progressing even more, making “Brainwashed” feel like a journey. Following the aggressive and urgent fast pace on “Brainwashed” is the beautiful interlude track, “We Are Alive At Night,” which hosts some incredible clean guitar work that gives you a second to breath between the exhaustingly heavy songs before and after it. “We Are Alive At Night” comes at just the right time, before the heaviness on the album becomes too much, and it flows perfectly into the following song, “Our Legacy,” which feels huge and anthematic. “Our Legacy” is another one of the strongest songs on the album, mostly due to the clean vocals beneath the screams which make it sound that much fuller and bigger, but on top of that, the lyrical content of the song is touching and personal, about brotherhood and family. The line, "Loyal to the last breath I take/Our legacy won't be wasted on me," is one of the strongest on the album, and the strong vocal work on top of it only makes it hit home even more.
The more that Brainwashed progresses, the more it seems to bloom and become something larger than life. Despite the fast pace and very similar sound on the first few songs on the album, While She Sleeps definitely prove their versatility with the second half of the album. “Four Walls,” for instance, is easily one of the most diverse songs on Brainwashed. The clean, slow guitar and group vocals in the beginning of the song are haunting, leading perfectly into another fast-paced song. But “Four Walls” isn’t without some little bits that make it special, such as amazing clean breaks and tempo changes. And after “Four Walls,” it just seems like the album only gets bigger and stronger.
One of the only complaints I have about Brainwashed isn’t in the band’s actual songwriting - it’s in the production. At times (especially in the beginning of the album) the guitar tones tend to sound a little muddy and overdone, but that is very easy to overlook when the band just produces track after hard-hitting track as the album progresses.
“Kangaezu Ni” is another quiet, haunting interlude track toward the end of the album, separating the last six songs from the others, and flowing flawlessly into another great track with “Life In Tension.” If While She Sleeps are good at one specific thing, it’s making the listener feel something before the vocals even come in, and that is apparent with “Kangaezu Ni” and the following song, “Life In Tension.” The calming effect that “Kangaezu Ni” almost cleans your palate before the following slower song comes in, and the effect it amazing.
Brainwashed is a huge album, both because of it’s length and the larger than life sound on many of the songs, and by the time it comes to a close, listeners are bound to feel exhausted. Every single song on this album is ambitious and aggressive, but somehow, Brainwashed still manages to grow and change as it progresses, making it well worth the listen, even if fifteen songs may seem like an arduous task to take on. By the time the final note of of the anthematic track, “Modern Minds” rings out, you're bound to be left feeling fulfilled.
Listen to "Brainwashed" or "Our Legacy"