In Slumber – While We Sleep Review

While We Sleep’s cover art is creepy but striking. Even in its edited monochromatic form, this 1890s painting piqued my interest. Looking at the shadowy whispering figure with billowing hair and the wide-eyed woman, shrouded in darkness but with her face glowing, I expected While We Sleep to sound evocative and mysterious. This was largely wrong. Austria’s In Slumber plays “direct melodic death metal” (their words, not mine), the least mysterious of genres. But while melodeath can be tiresome and repetitive, it can also be thrilling in its own way. As it turns out, While We Sleep is a bit of both.

In Slumber starts with a familiar melodeath formula and adds some twists. While We Sleep is the band’s first album since 2009, and much of it boils down to riffs that are simple but energetic, borrowing from vintage Gothenburg influences. Guitarist Wolfgang Rothbauer changes his pacing throughout, sometimes slowing to a crawl (“Subconscious Scars”) and sometimes unleashing frenetic death metal wizardry that escapes its melodeath shackles (“Stillborn,” “A Moral of Strain”). But the album’s greatest source of variety is its blackened edge, with soaring leads that evoke Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane (“Stillborn”) and The Somberlain (“The Lake of Visions”). Although While We Sleep is a somewhat straightforward record, these blackened sections often steal the show and help In Slumber avoid being just another melodeath band.

In Slumber knows how to wield riffs like nobody’s business. Even some of the simplest standard-fare sections of the album are irresistibly fun in a way that only melodeath can be (“Parasomnia”). But While We Sleep hits even harder when it cranks its energy up to 11, occasionally channeling old-school death metal (“A Moral of Strain”). When In Slumber infuses this death metal base with fist-pumping meloblack, the results are stunning, like the Hyperion-esque leads on “Stillborn” and “Manacle of Dogma.” On these gems, In Slumber excels at not merely juxtaposing1 different styles but melding them, with seamless transitions that do justice to all of the elements at play. A consistent highlight is Flo Musil’s solid and varied drumming, which alternates between providing a rhythmic backbone and going utterly ballistic, refusing to sit lazily in place. Despite its relative simplicity, While We Sleep is guaranteed to grab your attention posthaste.

While We Sleep’s repetitiveness makes it difficult to love in full. The biggest culprit is In Slumber’s rote reuse of technical elements, like their overuse of harmonized leads and riffs (“The Lake of Visions,” “Sleep Paralysis”) and the glaring similarity of melodeath riffs across songs (“Stillborn,” “The Lake of Visions,” “Manacle of Dogma”). These are not pedantic nitpicks; rather, While We Sleep’s repetition causes its ideas to sound stale as it progresses, making the album more of a slog to get all the way through. This feeling is exacerbated by the toothless riffs that pop up in songs like “The Lake of Visions” and “Subconscious Scars,” which follow melodeath clichés without matching the vigor of the album’s high points. The strokes of black add some much-needed variety; more unique ideas like these would help While We Sleep stay fresh throughout its runtime and across multiple listens.

In Slumber’s latest outing is a good record filled with great ideas. While We Sleep exhibits both the greatest strengths and the biggest pitfalls of melodic death metal, laying down powerful riffs but failing to make them sound distinct. The album’s forays into other genres, most notably its black metal influences, provide a welcome respite. Further creative variety would improve While We Sleep’s replay value and help it stand out in a genre that often sounds formulaic. Still, if you like your death metal with a heavy dose of melody and a dash of blackness, While We Sleep’s crushing riffs are a solid place to turn.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: War Anthem Records
Releases Worldwide: July 1st, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Report to HR. – Steel
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