Sleeping With Sirens


Written by: TL on 21/03/2015 18:47:48

2015 sees once pop/metalcore group Sleeping With Sirens return for a fourth album, having moved from Rise Records to Epitaph. Arguably a move up in the world which - combined with the fact that 2013's "Feel" got tonnes of attention despite being an at times offensively stupid record - is a good indication that success in the music business has as much (often more) to do with targeted promotion than with creating particularly impressive records. Seriously relisten "Alone" and "Congratulations" and cringe at your own peril. The road from the Florida band's third to their fourth album has not been entirely smooth though, as guitarist Jesse Lawson has stepped down and been replaced by Nick Martin (formerly of DRUGS, In Fear And Faith and more), and a finished record's worth of material was scrapped and re-done when the band hooked up with producer John Feldmann in Los Angeles.

However, at first glance the new album "Madness" sounds deceptively unlike something created in a time of turbulence. The balance in Feldmann's production is noticeably better than Cameron Mizell's somewhat bloated result on "Feel", while the band sounds less -core than ever, and more like the polished, commercial pop-rock/teenage punk sensation they've been headed towards for a while now. The characteristic, unbelievably high-pitched lead vocals of Kellin Quinn are striking as usual, and the sound is set up up in a warm and streamlined fashion, obviously intending to deliver radio-friendly hooks galore.

As soon as you scratch the surface though, "Madness" quickly appears less impressive and more involuntarily comical. Take the way it opens with the aggressive in-your-face energy of "Kick Me". The track actually works well as a fist-pumper for rebellious adolescents, and the usage of "fuck" and "shit" in the lyrics will surely have people go "oh my" when they first put the album on. It gets comical though, because the next SIX tracks combine to have roughly as much edge as Katy Perry's "Roar", a song they incidentally do not sound all that unlike. You listen to "Go Go Go" and reluctantly find it catchy, despite how simple the lyrical hook is, but hey, at least "Go Go Go" are words, while the next handful of sunny tunes gets drenched in superfluous "Whoa-oh" or "Eh! Eh!" "hooks". As is his habit, Feldmann has installed string arrangements by the boatload, which feel most like filler noise, not so much like particularly dramatic contributions. The lone bright spot between track 3 and 7 is "Fly", where the lyrics are loaded with syllables in a way that allows Quinn to shine in proper r&b fashion, and overall the track has a cool, "oomphy" vibe that sounds like something left over from a writing session fellow Floridians There For Tomorrow could've had while preparing their similar sounding 2011 album "The Verge". The remaining songs here though, sound exactly polished enough to appear on popular radio in between Miley Cyrus singles from before she was controversial, and then be forgotten forever about a week after you first hear them.

It doesn't stop there however, because despite being a shameless pop-rock record, "Madness" is a ludicrous thirteen tracks long, which in 2015 would be a lot even for a record where you could hear some creative ambition in the songwriting. And then there's the sequencing of the tracklist, which must have been done by a monkey. After an angry punk opener and then six straight tracks of mostly shallow pop non-relevance, we get two more token "hard" tracks in "Better Off Dead" (which is actually decent) and "We Like It Loud" (which isn't), before getting effectively put to sleep with three ballads in a row. Of these, "Madness" is most noteworthy, though again for comical reasons, as the entire arrangement aside from an acoustic guitar consists of Feldmann's strings and synths. Yep, on the song which gives name to the band's album, three out of five members aren't playing anything. Nice. And don't expect much from the lyrics either, as Sleeping With Sirens circle back again and again, to tired themes of underdog mentality that will sound relatable to teenagers and ironic to everyone else.

There's no reason to go on at further length like this though, because really it should not surprise anyone that "Madness" is a 100% commercial sham, constructed to home in and blow up the allowances of the easily impressionable. If the album had been shaved dramatically down to maybe just a few more tracks than 1, 2, 5, 8 and 13, then this could be forgiven, and you could leave it on as a fun, easy listen. As it is though, there are a few cuts you can enjoy now and forget in a week, but you are likely to get bored to death if you let the album play all the way through. Think of it this way: You probably have a job that you're pretty good at, yet some days you just sort of put in the bare minimum and wait for your shift to end. "Madness" is what happens when people who make a living as artists make a living in the music industry do the same thing. Copying and pasting the efforts of yesterday, cashing their check and going home to relax.


Download: Kick Me, Go Go Go, Fly, Better Off Dead
For The Fans Of: Broadway, There For Tomorrow, Pierce The Veil

Release date 13.03.2015

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