Look, I get it: ‘metalcore’ is a dirty word in the metal community. Telling a bunch of underground metalheads that you like metalcore is the equivalent of painting a big scarlet letter right between your set of Fred Durst nipple rings. And while I agree the genre has its shortcomings, I can’t help but enjoy it nonetheless. Part of it’s because this is the music I grew up with – sure, there’s lots of emo choruses and re-purposed Gothenburg riffs, but they’re my emo choruses and re-purposed Gothenburg riffs, the ones that got me through high school breakups and summer jobs cleaning goose poop off the local golf course while dodging errant balls from half-drunk assclowns.
It was probably this nostalgia that first led me to check out Swedish quintet Adept back in 2013, with the release of their third LP Silence the World. Adept play a sort of revivalist metalcore of the screamed verse/clean chorus variety, not unlike Feed Her to the Sharks or about a bajillion other bands from the mid-2000s. It’s hardly original, but amidst all the chugs, squeaky clean melodies, and wails of “These days will never end!,” Silence featured some solid hooks and a bit of post-hardcore flavor that led me to really enjoy some tracks – even if some cringe-worthy moments prevented me from ever listening to it in full.
Sleepless largely continues in this vein, with a healthy dose of djent to boot. Opener “Black Veins” gives me everything my 16-year-old self could desire: colorful This or the Apocalypse-style leads, djenty chugs, a soaring clean chorus with an a cappella first iteration, and even an extended spoken word intro where vocalist Robert Ljung gets all his feels out before concluding “Maybe I don’t deserve to be happy!”
Yes, it’s bleeding-heart emo, but there’s more here than black eyeliner and poorly drawn heartagrams. Amidst the clean wails of “Let me hold your hand the last time!,” “Wounds” features an addictive, oinking verse riff that collapses into a breakdown overlaid by syrupy sweet leads, which feels like chugging grenadine and then dropping a glitter bomb on yourself. Adept seem to love the trick This or the Apocalypse pulled a lot on Dead Years, where djent riffs are overlaid by crystalline, shimmering leads – as heard on tracks like the stomping “Dark Clouds” and “The Choirs of Absolution.” “Rewind the Tape” mixes it up, sounding like a re-imagining of Bullet for my Valentine’s “Hearts Burst Into Fire” with its upbeat rhythm and echoing nostalgic melodies.
While the guitar-work is terrific, there are also some deep-rooted flaws here. Like Silence, Sleepless has some terribly embarrassing moments that make listening with headphones a must. “Down and Out” goes full Korn amidst its spacey clean picking and thumping bass drums, featuring pre-chorus line “You fucking bully/you fucking prick/you fucking coward/you fucking dick!” Later, the closing title track eats up half its runtime with an atrocious spoken-word high school poetry piece, while “The Sickness” features a bizarre jangling sound effect that sounds like a cellphone going off in the background. Additionally, many of these 10 tracks feature a similar structure and tempo, not to mention clean choruses that sound cut and pasted from track to track. The antiseptic clean singing doesn’t help, and even Ljung’s growls, while wholly competent and shifting smoothly from deeper to higher pitches, lack personality. The overall effect hurts tracks like “Dark Clouds,” where much of the charm generated by the hyper-melodic verse guitars is deflated when the insipid chorus of “Breathe in/breathe out!” breaks in.
Fortunately, the production is potent and features just enough range to make the leads ring clear and bright, while giving the occasional keyboard embellishments and “whoa-whoa” backing vocals room to breathe. The guitar-work is the real highlight of these 41 minutes, though, and while nothing here sound-wise makes Sleepless a painful listen, the dull choruses, similar track structures, and embarrassingly immature lyrics make this an album I would only spend money on if it came in an instrumental version. For the three or four AMG readers who actually like this stuff, I’d recommend checking out This or the Apocalypse’s Dead Years instead, which seems to have been a big influence on Sleepless, only executing the sound far better and free of the notebook-doodling lyrics. After all, if you’re going to kill your scene cred with metalcore, at least make it good metalcore [How did you get off the 70,000 Tons ship without being made to walk the plank? – Steel Justice].