I think While She Sleep’s The North Stands For Nothing might prove to be the odd one out in this series. Looking at the short-list of albums I intend to write about, by and large they have the common characteristics of being long, conceptual, and possessing some sense of breadth or expansiveness about them. The North Stands For Nothing is riff-based, short, overtly aggressive and polemic, just as much hardcore as it is metal. It’s actually an E.P., only 24 minutes long; short and
While She Sleeps use many features familiar to the Sick Of It All/Hatebreed style of hardcore, with plenty of low and simple chugging riffs, gruff vocals, gang shouts and oppositional lyrics, with song titles like My Conscience, Your Freedom and Proud Of The Demon In Me. The production is meaty, more metal than scratchy hardcore.
The opening track, The North Stands For Nothing, chugs straight in, with a low-slung, pummelling riff, the hoarse vocals shouting oppositional lyrics, with minor harmonics over the top and gang shouts in the chorus. Given this description, on paper this sounds fairly standard, and by association, fairly mediocre. However, whereas a lot of bands who combine hardcore and metal in this fashion write riffs and songs that are imitable, forgettable, and from a musician’s point of view, quite lazy, the calibre of the riffs and the song writing on this E.P. have clearly been given some thought, and the quality is evident; sitting here, listening to music that is not While She Sleeps (the soundtrack to the film Pi, actually), I can replay the songs in my head no problem. On his review of Kylesa’s Spiral Shadow on Invisible Oranges (www.invisibleoranges.com/2010/12/kylesa-spiral-shadow/), Cosmo Lee wrote ‘For a heavy band now to write 11 songs that one can tell apart is virtually unheard of’. This E.P. is one such exception.
Case in point, the second track takes me unaware; Trophies is just piano and vocals, reverb-heavy and brooding. The lyrics are presumably about a deceased father or friend, and come across as a kind of personal dedication, but the vocal style is still the same. When have hardcore vocals been used over a piano-led eulogy before? This is far more honest and sincere than most hardcore bands’ almost default status of pointing fingers, ranting about betrayal, and how D.I.Y. they are.
Third track Crows continues to hold up the calibre of the riffs and the song writing, although the lyrics are confused, with oppositional diatribes jutting up against posicore lines, such as ‘Give me your hands/This is the end/We’re all going to fucking drown/Let’s make a change now’. Although such inconsistencies crop up throughout the E.P., such as ‘We are beaten but we are the ones you can lean on’ in Proud Of The Demon In Me, it’s not as though these occasional lines stop the music dead. There are moments of writhing lead guitar work, particularly in My Conscience Your Freedom, some charging gang shouts throughout, and an evocative step back in Lost Above The Arches.
So this is a very good, and in some ways, typical, metallic hardcore album. So how is it suited to winter? There’s no element of it that overtly makes it so; the production is full and meaty, and the lyrics revolve around day-to-day struggles of integrity and personal toil, rather than around nature or themes of transcendence. Whilst there are quieter, contemplative piano-driven tracks, the whole album feels suited to sitting outside in the cold, so it’s not just on the basis of a few tracks that I’m attempting to call it a ‘winter album’.
Having though about it for a while, I can’t quantify or break down why this is. There’s a lot of grit to it, and is good for a bit of energy. I suppose whilst it’s still reflective, it is faster, shorter and more constant than the other albums I have in mind. However, I’m sure there are other albums that fit into this criteria that I’ve omitted from this list, which thus deconstructs this line of reasoning. In what feels like a bit of a cop-out in reasoning, I’m going to say listen to it, and see what you think.