There comes a time in pretty much every band’s career when they have to make the decision.
Bigger than their look. Bigger than album artwork and song titles or which record label to go with (if they even want one).
They have to decide whether to continue with what’s working, or to strike out in search of something more. To stick or twist. And with ‘Gossip’, Sleeping With Sirens are most definitely twisting.
2015’s ‘Madness’ did well commercially and critically; it was a glossy, breakneck combination of everything we’ve come to know and love about the Florida quintet.
They travelled the world, got a whole lot bigger and pretty much dominated last summer’s Warped Tour off the back of it. With their fifth album, they’re not just shooting for something bigger, but for something entirely new.
That’s never more evident than on the title track and album opener. Handclaps and sleazy instrumentals that are minimal on guitar but big on drama and melody rule, while Kellin Quinn croons “Don’t believe the lies you heard about me” – the band’s first major sidestep away from the scene they grew up in.
‘Empire To Ashes’ sizzles with electronics and chunky riffs and features the heaviest moment of the album – a truly chaotic breakdown – while lyrics like, “You can call it cynical, maybe I’m just miserable / But there’s no way I’m giving in” feel like a pre-emptive response to the backlash this album may well face.
‘The Chase’ features heavy ‘Riot!’-era Paramore vibes – most likely courtesy of producer David Bendeth – while on ‘One Man Army’, a stripped-back verse soars into an uplifting, epic chorus that shows off Kellin’s vocal range.
Elsewhere, ‘I Need To Know’ combines PVRIS-esque guitar with a moving, arms-in-the-air ballad that’s built for late nights, outdoor venues and phone lights.
Remember what Fall Out Boy did with their ‘Save Rock And Roll’ reinvention? This feels like the post-hardcore version of that moment. The fuzz-filled ‘Cheers’ swaggers along with a cry of “Let’s cheers to us / We’re gonna be victorious / Doesn’t matter what they say because we march to a beat of a different drum,” while ‘Hole In My Heart’ features Kellin’s most impressive vocal performance to date and carries a revealing insight into his psyche in the form of lines like “Look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see / Don’t like the person staring right back at me,” and suggests the band aren’t changing because they want to, they’re changing because they need to.
Will fans like it? Well, the jury is out for now. ‘Gossip’ feels a lot like one of those bold curveballs that’s initially dismissed by hardcore fans, but in a year or so people turn around and say, ‘Actually, this is pretty sick.’ We’ve all done it.
Can it work? It’s impossible not to admire the scale and ambition of what Sleeping With Sirens are trying to achieve here, so don’t be too surprised if they’re swapping Warped Tour for arenas before too long.
Will they become legends? If this doesn’t make that happen, nothing will.
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