Candiria While They Were Sleeping Cover 2016Look up “adversity” in the dictionary, and you’re likely going to encounter a picture of Brooklyn’s Candiria. The legendary hardcore outfit, made infamous through their fusion of hip-hop, freeform jazz, NYC hardcore, and death metal, crushed crowds the world over with their frenetic live show. Influential albums such as 1999’s The Process of Self-Development and 2001’s 300 Percent Density wowed listeners with their amorphous stop-on-the-crest-of-a-dime style changes, ridiculous lyrical flow by frontman Carley Coma, and the ability to keep things heavy. A horrific van accident that nearly killed the band in 2002 disrupted the momentum significantly, causing them to opt for more melodic waters with 2004’s What Doesn’t Kill You… and 2009’s Kiss The Lie, before laying dormant. With a revamped line-up, Candiria finally returns with the ambitious While They Were Sleeping, a concept album based on a failed musician creating a monarchy in this crumbled society.

Now, I noticed that their fanbase generally falls into two distinct camps, and I will address the Pro-Self-Development/300 Percent crowd first. Yes, those two albums were and still are monstrous. However, if you are waiting for a return to that sound, it’s best to move on, as only the opening title track has that staccato-but-fucking-mean vibe that those albums had in droves. New drummer Danny Grossarth has filled Kenneth Schalk’s considerable shoes admirably, keeping groove in his pocket at all times and matching guitarists John LaMacchia and newcomer Julio Arias turn-for-turn as they, along with bassist Michael MacIvor, navigate through twisty riffs and melodic jazz interludes. Coma’s rapping and sick metal growls (last heard on… an Iron Maiden cover? Really!) are replaced with mostly clean singing and a mid-range hardcore bark. Also, many of you will scoff at “Forgotten,” which comes dangerously close to arena rock territory, especially when taken out of context.

Now that the first crowd got what they came here for, let’s explore the last five words of the previous paragraph because, within or without the context of the album, “Forgotten” is a great song. The chorus is rousing, the message of not throwing away your dreams is meaningful, and the gang chorus at the end brings the emotional gravitas of the song to a perfect end. In fact, While They Were Sleeping, front-to-back, is easily among Candiria‘s strongest albums, and it’s due in no small part to Coma’s performance and lyrics. The middle of “Mereya” sees the band branching out to smoother jazz territory, with Coma flexing his scat-singing skills before flowing into one impressively long scream, and engaging his personal beast mode to end things. “Opaque,” the band’s first attempt at a ballad, touches with a somber bass and guitar melody, and some of Coma’s best singing to date.

Candiria Band 2016
The Tom Tierny and Alex Mead-Fox production at Spaceman Sound feels organic and robust. The horns and flute pop (especially on “Wandering Light”), the bass throbs with richness and depth, and the guitars sound great distorted or clean. If there are any complaints to be had, it does feel like the band is reined in a bit. I appreciate the chances taken, and they payed off. I just wished for even more.1 Also, the album, while lacking bad tracks, feels front-loaded, with the strongest songs leading off the album. That said, rarely does an album enthrall from beginning to end like While They Were Sleeping does, with every member playing exceptionally well. And in the hands of a lesser lyricist, songs about personal demons (“Forgotten”), betrayal (“One of You Will Betray Me”), comeuppance (“With Broken Bones”) and finally revenge (the awesome closer “Servitude”) would sound trite. Kudos to Coma for bringing it both vocally and lyrically.

Yes, the first group I mentioned will continue to lament the changes made by Candiria over the years, and may come away feeling disappointed with While They Were Sleeping. I get that, I really do. But what of the second group? That group is made up of people who welcome their return with open arms, with hopes that the time off, coupled with their growth and maturity, would craft a work of art. That group will be handsomely rewarded, as Candiria crafted the best hardcore concept album since Life of Agony‘s River Runs Red. Free your mind and take this album in. I promise you’ll walk away impressed.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 7th, 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. However, I don’t want this at the expense of the flow of the song. Bells and whistles are great, but they’re a detriment if they overshadow the writing beneath them. In other words, flash or not, this album is captivating.
  • Reese Burns

    Lots of 4.0 reviews lately! Just like last year, October is shaping up to be great!

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      8 days in and still no signs of the September RotM! AMG is running smoothly as per usual, and all is good in the world!

      • Oddly comforting, isn’t it?

      • Reese Burns

        Ah, it’s nice to have a routine..

  • Candiria crafted the best hardcore concept album since Life of Agony‘s River Runs Red.

    Oh, really? I am intrigued. I love R^3. Lucky enough to see it live in its entirety before the band…errr…changed…for the sake of brevity.

    • DrChocolate

      Yeah, this is the line that totally caught me too. I was somewhat interested in this through the reading the review, then that line hit and my interest totally piqued. RRR, and Ugly, were a pretty significant part of my wishing-I-had-more-angst-and-ennui-then-I-really-did teenage years.

      …although, to be fair, how many hardcore concept albums are there…?

      • lennymccall

        Here too I was triggered. Although Ugly will always be my go to for LoA. I could care less what “changes” they made I just really hope the new record stands up.
        Not super pumped on this but I’ll give it a spin.

  • Midlife Chris

    I can still remember the first time i heard this band on my local college station (seton hall…). I was like “Jazz in metal? Wtf?”. It was the first truly different style of metal i had heard. Looking forward to hearing this fo sho.

    • Hulksteraus

      Jazz has always been in metal. The best drummers are Jazz based and there are other Jazz influences when you look deeper.

      • Jeff Kent

        The first time I interviewed Ken I asked him something about the current (2001?) state of hardcore. He just shook his head and told me he only listened to Jazz. Being a Jazz guy myself, we spent the rest of the interview talking about Blue Note albums.

      • GWW

        Dubious. There is very little Jazz in Metal. Even jazz loving drummers seldom play any jazz. Schalk would swing on occasion. The little bits i hear are Sax is Aeneon, Yakuza…but metal doesn’t swing unless you’re talking about a few Trepalium tunes and Schalk. It’s a complete;y different pulse and beat.

    • Dagoth_RAC

      My teen years were spent listening to WSOU. I rarely listen these days because I am old and cranky and don’t like most of what the kids are listening to these days. But it had a big influence on me back in the late 80s/early 90s.

  • The Unicorn

    Grymm, Im a huge Candiria fan and grew up playing Coney Island High. The Invaders track they did had me so fired up, and Spylacopa’s new one was incredible art. But this “new” post-Schalk Candiria is just not the same band. I respect your 4.0 and perhaps this will grow on me, but for now its a 2.0 at least for me. Horns up brother. Cheers.

    • Grymm

      I respect that as well. As someone who also enjoyed earlier Candiria (Surrealistic Madness on forward), I wasn’t expecting much. It is a grower, but I can see why some won’t take to WTWS. Definitely a matter of taste.

      And cheers and horns back at ya.

  • Diego Molero

    I never knew this band existed until now. I checked the cover of Maiden before the embedded track and I hate it… But I really liked the song on the review, so I’ll make sure I listen to the whole album.

  • Jeff Kent

    Such a great band and one of the few who have progressed without losing integrity. Carly’s clean singing is excellent, in fact I prefer it over the alternative. Though I can appreciate his early vocals in context. 300% Denity is the most appropriate album title ever. Ken is missed, but he has given his blessings to the new guy.

  • brklyner

    I used to see these guys play a lot in NY during their heyday and loved those earlier albums. But if they released a new record that sounded like Process of Self Development today I probably wouldn’t really be interested. So I’m really glad to see that they are still continuing to progress and experiment and are not playing it safe. The embedded track sounds awesome, really quite unlike anything else out there.

  • GWW

    NO SCHALK!?? WTF…he was the best part of this band!

  • Gaynebula

    Considering it’s a divisive record and a stylistic deviation, this is an interesting record for my first introduction to Candiria.

    Safe to say they’ve found a new fan. This satisfies an itch I’ve had for a while now.