Best of 2016 Playlist

June 19, 2015

Sleeping with Sirens - "Madness" Review

Though it's been about three months since the release, it seemed stupid not to do a review of this album. "Madness" is the fourth effort from post hardcore giants Sleeping with Sirens. Or used to be post hardcore, now some odd mix of mainstream pop, emo, and acoustic band Kellin and the Quinns. 

*Warning - The review is fairly lengthy

After about five years on Rise Records, SWS made the bold decision to split with them in favor of Epitaph Records. It seemed like a strategic move for the better as their previous album "Feel" was met with lukewarm reception from critics and fans ("Rise-core" becoming more and more evident in their music). Epitaph's large and diverse roster has some best bands in the industry. Metalcore heavy weights such as Architects, I Killed the Prom Queen, Every Time I Die, letlive, among others. With SWS signing to ER one would think they band would be going back to the original post hardcore, emo sound that they became famous for. WRONG!!!

The band pulled a complete 180 upon the release of their newest album. Incorporating pop, R&B, acoustic, and punk into their songs, the band is trying all kinds of new things. On paper that seems like a recipe for either disaster, or the most incredible album ever spawned. The result, somewhere between mediocre, awful, and pretty cool (at least for me). Unlike other band who have been trying new sounds (Paramore, Bring Me The Horizon come to mind), SWS doesn't seem to have found their niche yet. 

The first single, "Kick Me", was the light in the dark fans needed after "Feel" undershot expectations. It's a fast paced, punk influenced track that is full of sing along moments. It invokes thoughts of The Used or some MCR tracks. Guitar driven, Jack and new guitarist Nick seem to be in perfect synch. The chorus is catchy, the breakdown is solid, and let's face it, everyone loves Kellin's vocals more than they'd care to admit. The biggest let down are the lyrics. All about not giving up when you're down, and not caring about what anyone else says, it's a pretty generic power anthem. This track is band's attempt to crossover to a more mainstream rock audience, and it is a very good effort. 

That being said, the second single "We Like It Loud", isn't that far off from "Kick Me". Another punk inspired number, the song starts off with a power scream from Quinn "Yeah!!! Are you sick? Turn up your fucking headphones!" So in terms of lyrical content it's not very interesting either. The best part is the line "sell us the world but we ain't selling out", which is directed at all fans and critics claiming the band has "sold out". 

As far as the rest of the album is concerned, it's a mix of all sorts of music. Individually, each song is a solid effort from the band. But put together, and you get an album that is complete and utter madness. There's no sense of consistency, and it feels as if the band are trying to please everyone."Kick Me", "We Like It Loud", "Better Off Dead", "Don't Say Anything" and "Go Go Go" are for more directed at fans of their previous works, but are still leaning towards a more mainstream alt-rock sound. 

Technically, there isn't much going on here. The guitar work is solid, but not anything special. Drums consist of slow beats for the most part, save for the heavier tracks where drummer Gabe Barham has some real fun. Bass, well I have a hard time hearing any of poor Justin Hills' parts amid the vocals, which are the focus of this album. The programming, vocals, and acoustic guitars are the center of the softer tracks, which is sad because you lose the some of the drums and bass. 

The bulk of the album consists of pop oriented, anthems that don't feel like the band at all. They try to down play tracks, in favor of a soft alt-rock acoustic vibe. Are they trying to break into mainstream music with these radio friendly pieces, it's hard to say. One thing is obvious, they're not trying to write songs that create mosh pits anymore. That's not to say the songs are bad, because they aren't. Like I said, as individual songs the tracks are all worthy of an 7 or 8. But put them together and things start feeling forced. 

In fact most of the band's songs from this album are, lyrically, not that interesting. Pretty generic self empowerment and mushy love songs that don't even come close to the creativity that can be found on their previous albums ("Let's Cheers to This" in particular). That signature SWS sound fans fell in love with on their debut and sophomore release seems to have been abandoned for an attempt to get radio plays. And since I have yet to hear anything, other than "Kick Me" on some of the alt-rock stations, I guess their effort to crossover didn't work. 

In fact that seems to be the band's direction these days, trying to break into mainstream music. They have a huge fanbase (mostly due to Kellin fangirls), and chart topping albums, but little to no mainstream radio play or recognition. Yet their live sets are mostly their old work, fan favorites like "A Trophy Father's Trophy Son" and "If I'm James Dean You're Aubrey Hepburn". So why make the move to mainstream music when it's clear that it's not what gets you ticket and album sales? 

Summary - 

Not an album for fans of their old post hardcore tracks. In fact this isn't a recommended album in general, especially if you're new to the band. It doesn't showcase what these guys are truly capable of, makes them look like another half assed boy band with instruments (like 5sos).

If you enjoy Tyler Carter's soulful approach to music, and songs that you don't have to think much about, then you'll probably love this album. But if want something with a little more edge, and less of the cuddly, stripped acoustic tracks then avoid this album. Instead go get fellow ER label mate Too Close To Touch's debut, "Nerve Endings",which also dropped in March. Ironically enough Quinn's vocals are featured on "The Chase", which feels as if it was meant for the SWS album, but got placed on TCTT's instead. 

Favorite track

Don't really have one. "Kick Me" is a stand out because it's the heaviest track on the album, but "Go Go Go" and "Fly" are also very good tracks. 

Rating -