"Self Hell delivers as a record and statement of our unstable, head-spinning times." While She Sleeps' latest album doesn't always hit the mark, but it's a bold levelling-up of their blueprint all the same

With British metalcore in a golden age and new bands Bad Omens and Spiritbox tearing up the rule book, While She Sleeps are feeling the pressure to transform their own sound on new album Self Hell

While She Sleeps 2024
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If timing truly is everything, then While She Sleeps could be forgiven for feeling hard done by. Their ascension through British metalcore’s ranks since their 2006 inception has been one of slow and incremental gains, from the country’s spit’n’sawdust village halls all the way, in 2023, to London’s Alexandra Palace

That it’s come in a golden age of British metalcore, however, has always left a feeling that Sleeps were forever playing bridesmaid to their friends in the indomitable Bring Me The Horizon and Architects. Little wonder that it has left frontman Loz Taylor talking up feelings of imposter syndrome within their ranks

The build-up to Self Hell, the quintet’s sixth full-length, has also seen the frontman and his comrades keen to announce the experimentation and progression to be found in its 12 tracks. This perhaps further hints at the feeling of breath on the back of their necks, the genre’s young innovators such as Bad Omens and Spiritbox not so much creeping up in the rearview mirror as ripping up the road entirely. 

‘Adapt or die’ would be too strong a sentiment for a band that continues to take forward, if not sometimes circuitous, strides, but While She Sleeps won’t be alone in feeling the sense of ‘adapt to thrive’ in the current heavy music landscape. It is in that revolutionary promise alone that Self Hell falls short of expectations. 

This is not, whatever you may have come to anticipate, While She Sleeps 2.0. True to the form of a band who have never shied from tinkering under the hood, Self Hell deals in assured reinvigoration, not radical reinvention. Prominent synths and electronics are introduced out of the gate on the first track proper, Leave Me Alone, which also sees the band’s multi-pronged vocal assault experiment in rapped and spoken styles far beyond Loz Taylor’s trademark screams. Rainbows and the album’s title track take this baton and run with it further still. Meanwhile, the brooding, cinematic No Feeling Is Final and the drum’n’bass-leaning skit Out Of The Blue serve as a pair of almost entirely instrumental interludes. 

At their best, such explorations bring a new palette and energy to Self Hell; when they land shy of their mark, however, such as on the ballad-of-sorts To The Flowers and Radical Hatred / Radical Love, there is a case for putting Sleeps in the dock on charges of simply trying too hard to force differentiation. 

Self Hell’s strongest moments remain when the band lock in to spaces they have long mastered, and ride on the oft-underappreciated strength of Mat Welsh and Sean Long’s fretwork – see the anthemic Down, featuring a stellar turn from Alex Taylor of Malevolence. 

Sonically and – in its authentic, if not original positive mental health advocacy – thematically, Self Hell delivers as a record and statement of our unstable, head-spinning times. It’s a levelling up of the Sleeps blueprint, and a work that will undoubtedly see them make similar strides in the live arena, where the album’s scope of ambition will surely come further to life. 

With that in mind, nearly 20 years in, While She Sleeps may well have nailed the timing of their run at metal’s highest echelons to perfection.

Self Hell is out March 29 via Sleeps Brothers. While She Sleeps play Download in June. For more about the making of their new album, pick up a copy of Metal Hammer's exclusive WSS bundle

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Sam Coare

Sam is a writer, editor and music industry consultant who has been covering all things loud for the better part of two decades. The former editor-in-chief of Kerrang! and managing director of Alternative Press, he’s hopped on tour with Metallica in South America, joined Black Sabbath in the studio, followed Guns N’ Roses around the world, and had Frank Iero write a song about him (well, sort of). His debut book, celebrating the first 20 years of the Download festival, arrives in 2024.