Given where they all are now, it’s pretty incredible that at the turn of this decade, Bring Me The Horizon, Architects, and While She Sleeps basically sounded rather similar; they all took similar approaches to their metalcore. Big, brawny riffs were contrasted with atmospheric and melodic flourishes.
Even though all three were certainly distinct back then, it’s pretty impressive how each act has been able to grow and change over time and member changes (RIP Tom Searle) into the best versions of themselves (to be fair, Sempiturnal is the best BMTH record, but Amo is the group’s most interesting).
For this Sheffield act, going fully independent resulted in a record that continues the band’s embrace of melodic punk. So What? Is still very much a While She Sleeps record; massive riffs, pit-starting breakdowns, and group vocals reign the day, but it also feels like the band are happy taking the widescreen approach.
The mix of the metallic and the melodic recalls Comeback Kid at their best, a longstanding influence for this band. Yet, the embrace of what works best for the song results in some rather stunning (though well-done) inter-song shifts. Haunting hooks will lead into jaunting riffs, and the band’s trademark, siren-esque leadwork is on full display throughout.
Guitarist Mat Welsh sings over a significant portion of the record, and his gruff-yet-melodic timber is perfect for this stylistic shift. Screamer Loz Taylor actually sounds fantastic, but he really takes a backseat at times to let an unexpectedly poppy side of the band shine. This isn’t exactly pop-metalcore in the vein of A Day To Remember or Four Year Strong, but it’s also not all that far from the melodic hardcore of Stick To Your Guns if they were somehow even more hooky and heavy.
In almost every way, it plays to the strengths of the band. Of the three British metalcore heavyweights, While She Sleeps always felt the most indebted to punk. So What? is every bit as endearingly melodic as the best of the recent pop-punk boom, but their classic ferocity is only able to shine even more through the record because of that contrast.
It’s also an album that works best in its entirety, as the sonic shift makes the most sense when taken in in full rather than over singles. In fact, the change feels less significant over the full record than it did with the pre-release singles “Haunt Me” and “Anti-social.” It may scare off some longtime fans who dislike the focus on bright melody, but for those looking for excellent and endearing melodic hardcore punk, While She Sleeps latest delivers in spades.