Friday, 21 March 2014

The Sleeper Wakes' 'The Sleeper Wakes' - EP Review

It is not often that a local band comes along and blows you away, but is just what Plymouth's The Sleeper Wakes have done. Forming last year from the ashes of many other bands playing the local metal scene, the five piece are already making a name for themselves around these parts. A few well-placed support slots, including one with Every Time I Die, which saw the band hone their craft on stage went down very well. Earlier this month, the band released their debut self-titled EP and celebrated this with a free headline show at Plymouth's White Rabbit, which has always been the spiritual home for the Plymouth metal scene. By all accounts, this show went down a storm with plenty of people turning out to make it a night to remember for the band. Though short, the band's EP is full of quality. Considering that this is a totally self-released effort, the quality and the production values of the material is very high. Guitarist Adam McKay Smith, who has a growing reputation in the area for the technical side of music, handled the production and he has done a stirling job. The material here walks the line between rawness and being polished and this suits this style of metal down to the ground. Stylistically, The Sleeper Wakes are hard to describe. They are somewhere between metal and hardcore (yes, I know there's metalcore but in many ways this does not seem like a metalcore record), but they put emphasis on the tunes. The riffs are memorable and frontman Luke West sings with plenty of conviction and vitriol, without coming across as over-angsty. The melodies mainly come for the catchy vocal lines and riffs, but there are a few sections of nice lead guitar work from Smith and fellow guitarist Sam Fenney. Soloing is not the name of the game here, but certain chorus sections have subtle leads to back up the vocals and add great depth to the songs. Considering that most of the songs are under three minutes in length, a lot of music is packed into each and every one. This makes for an EP that never outstays it's welcome and one that you will want to play again and again, if only for the infectious energy of the whole thing!

The EP kicks off with the introduction-come-song Should the Day Come which sets the tone nicely. It's bassy tone, courtesy of Billy Suter's heavy basslines bring other modern metal bands like Heart of a Coward to mind. It is not long before the first 'proper' song Hours Pass starts which is full of headbanging riffs and excellent vocals from West. The chorus is the high point of the song, with gang vocals to bulk up the sound and some of those guitar leads that I mentioned above. Leon Deeley's drum sound throughout is really excellent. He punches through the music well and his double-bass drumming is excellent. The song is over almost as soon as it has begun but the energy continues on into the next song Rise and Fall. The band filmed a video for this song, which can be seen below, and it is probably the best song on the album. The riffs have a really nice groove to them and it is worth mentioning here that none of the songs on this album are really all that fast. This is not a speed-fest, but instead an exercise in pounding rhythms that you can headbang to. Hadley's Hope has a nice distant-sounding effect in the intro before the metal resumes full throttle. The riffs in this song have a really nice stop-start rhythm to them, which helps it stand out from the rest. This EP manages to avoid being a constant chug, and breaking up the pace with slightly off-kilter riffing sections helps this. Lifeless is probably the catchiest number here and would probably be the highlight of their live set. West really sings his heart out on this one, and the catchy gang vocal sections are made to be sung live by a sweaty metal crowd. The bass really shines towards the end of the song, and a few pinch harmonics keep things interesting. After the short instrumental Ambition, the album's final number For All of Us brings things to a close nicely. It is the album's 'epic' track, which leads on nicely from the melodic sheen of Ambition, and builds up from a slow pace to a fast number with plenty of huge gang vocal sections to get the crowd involved. Again, the subtle guitar leads are excellent in helping to enhance the song's melodies and West uses plenty of emotion in his voice. Some higher, almost spoken, vocals which are in great contrast to the usual deeper growls, sung by Fenney, are a highlight towards the end. The song fades to a close with some nice harmonised lead guitars and anthemic drums. Overall, this a really solid debut release from a band which have the potential to do great things. They are definitely ones to keep an eye on!

The album was released on 8th March 2014. Below is the link to the band's Bandcamp page, where you can hear the whole EP for free, and their promotional video for Rise and Fall.

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