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When it comes to the Mercury Prize nowadays, you tend to think of one of three things, modern singer-songwriters, modern indie or a slightly left-field/innovative take on an age-old genre. Year after year it feels the same – diversity is a word that debatably can’t really be applied to the subject anymore. Where are the heavier leanings? With British rock and metal being in such a rich and exciting place right now it feels wrong that these areas are ignored. Albums of genre-bending significance and brilliance are being looked over and this year’s example of that goes to northern metallers While She Sleeps.
Over the past two years the band have steadily come from relative obscurity in the clubs of Southern Yorkshire to becoming one of Britain’s brightest heavy lights and it’s all down to substance. This Is The Six, their debut album, is an absolute twelve-track raging monster, the band managing to wear their ranging influences on their sleeves while creating a sound that you can’t quite put your finger on, it taps into a uniqueness that is perhaps less frequently come by these days.
Kicking off like a sudden and shocking but somehow righteous punch in the face with Dead Behind The Eyes, Sleeps have you by the jugular from the off and don’t let go until the calm reflective resolve-of-sorts closer Reunite. Frontman Loz Taylor’s razorblade scream treads a fine line between total viciousness and a searching poignancy that genuinely yearns at points without falling into conventional melody such as in the lost and savoured memories of Seven Hills or the unwavering devotion to those close in the deep-cutting Our Courage, Our Cancer. Here Taylor’s scream of “I’ll be there” conveys a refreshing sense of dealing lyrically with issues that really matter, something that can sometimes be forgotten in the agendas of other modern artists.
The musicianship is exceptional too, guitarists Sean Long and Mat Welsh step forward here as two of British metal’s finest guitarists, bringing an interesting and unusual melodic feel to an undeniably heavy slam. In fact that’s one of the things that truly make Sleeps something different, the band crush as heavily as Slipknot at times and, similarly to the Iowan legends, they bring a melody hand in hand with it that feels new and can’t really be pigeonholed. And it’s wide-ranging as well, Satisfied In Suffering possesses the kind of killer bounce that couldn’t come from anywhere but the ghost of nu-metal while the climactic The Plague Of A New Age has the same level of heaviness found on Machine Head’s The Blackening and Love At War’s lifting gang-vocals lament the modern day lack of care and respect given to those who had to fight in the Second World War with a tangible sense of feeling. It’s a diverse affair that feels like it’s saying something while feeling invigorating.
Metalhead or not and Mercury Prize nominations aside, ignore preconceptions and approach this with an open mind, you might well be pleasantly surprised.