While She Sleeps – Self Hell

While She Sleeps - Self Hell Album Cover Artwork

Self Hell, While She Sleeps sixth studio album, comes at a time where the band have never been bigger. Their magnificent Alexandra Palace headline show last Autumn shows that they are now at the point where they’ve got the catalogue and the authority to put on brilliant arena shows. This Summer has them appearing on their biggest festival slots of their career so far, including sub-headlining the second stage at Download on the Saturday night. It’s in this atmosphere of positivity that we find the release of Self Hell.

Unfortunately, some of the positivity dissipates from the off. After the intro (Peace Of Mind), first track proper Leave Me Alone is the most generic, metal adjacent track that perhaps the band have ever released. It feels like a watered down version of a recent Bring Me The Horizon track – which in itself should give some impression of the vibe. Rainbows would instantly repair the damage, if it didn’t sound like the track had been produced using a muffler mixed with the St. Anger snare drum. What could be a really great song, utterly let down by the production.

The album’s title track on the other hand, IS a genuinely enjoyable, stand out moment. When it was released last year there were many cries of “While She Sleeps have gone nu metal”; On reflection, that’s probably fair, but it also doesn’t matter. It’s a really fun, bouncy track, that is interesting, and for anyone who has seen them at a show since it came out, knows it works fantastically live.

The album features a collection of guest collaborations; No Feeling Is Final (w/ Aether) is an instrumental interlude which is fine, but at the length of a full song outstays its welcome a little. Dopesick (w/ Stone) has one nice riff and a nice guitar solo to be enjoyed, but for a band who are as lyrically proficient as While She Sleeps usually are, the lyrics are sadly bordering on clich├ęd / cringeworthy. Second single Down (featuring Alex from Malevolence) unsurprisingly fares much better; One of the stand out tracks of the album, there’s proper bite and aggression on this track, where it feels forced in other places.

To The Flowers is perhaps best enjoyed alongside its very impressive music video – and is the best bit of experimentation on the album. The main riff is arguably something out of high level post-rock, while in other places the track feels like While She Sleeps take on 00’s emo / post-hardcore. Off this description, it shouldn’t work, but this one does. But that’s where the good stuff ends, with the last three tracks really not worthy of anything more than a cursory mention.

Self Hell as a collection of songs feels like While She Sleeps were suffering a bit of an identity crisis. Really wanting to try something a bit different, not totally sure which way to take it. As a result they’ve not fully committed to any direction, and the result is a muddled collection of songs where there are more misses than hits. While this isn’t a Temper Temper scale disaster, this album could check the hugely impressive progress the band has made since the pandemic. On the other hand, it could also take them more into the mainstream. We will have to wait and see.

Self Hell is out now on Spinefarm Records.

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