Gig Review: While She Sleeps at Hard Luck Bar, Toronto

March 17, 2016
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While She Sleeps at Hard Luck, Toronto - photo Robyn Bond, Music Vice

Who: While She Sleeps
Where: Hard Luck estar, Toronto
When: 12 March 2016
In one word: Gripping

At Warped Tour this past summer I fought my way up to the barricade at the Monster Energy Stage. The Amity Affliction, a long time favorite band of mine, was going on after a group called While She Sleeps. The girl standing beside my best friend and I turned to us and asked,

“Have you ever seen them live before?”
“No”
“They’re insane.”
“It’s a rock music festival, aren’t all the bands insane?”
“Just you wait. They’re f**king crazy good.”

I had never heard of While She Sleeps before then, but after that set it’s a name I could not forget. The performance left me in disbelief. I didn’t think they could possibly get any better. But on March 12th at the Hard Luck Bar, While She Sleeps blew my mind once again.

In A Cannon opened the show with a raw and emotional performance. The contrast within songs added a lot depth. Vocals effortlessly switched between intimate clean vocals in softer verses and brutal screams amid pounding breakdowns. The multi-talented guitarists were also constantly trading vocals back and forth with the lead vocalist. Complex and technically astounding drum segments gave their performance a unique twist. I was lucky enough to see them live before they call it quits. They are playing two final shows, and if you live in the GTA, you should do your best to make it to one. For show information check out their Facebook page.

Next, While She Sleeps took the stage. Seconds after vocalist Lawrence Taylor hopped into the spotlight, the band burst into their opening song – the fast paced title track off their new album Brainwashed. Any audience members not thrown into action at the beginning of the song were swallowed by an appropriately vicious burst of movement that hit with the breakdown. The final breakdown in that song is a work of art in itself, and seeing it live is nothing short of invigorating. Their set consisted mainly of songs from This Is The Six, and a lot from their latest release Brainwashed. Amongst others, they played New World Torture, Trophies of Violence, Seven Hills, Four Walls, and finished the show off with their classic Crows off The North Stands For Nothing.

From their gripping stage energy to the nature of their music, the show was completely captivating. They continually break the genre mold by abandoning the structure of formulaic metalcore/hardcore. Their songs are riddled with anthemic chants and choruses, aggressive bass-heavy breakdowns and unique lead guitar riff layering. Vocals were consistently powerful, whether they were screams, cleans, or growls. Lawrence frequently addressed the audience in between songs. He’s a talented musician and entertainer and showed a good mix of comedy and sincerity. Among many genuine thanks to the audience throughout the night, he jokingly asked things like, “Are you all drunk enough yet?” Needless to say, the audience was all smiles.

Sadly, Lawrence wasn’t able to hang off the ceiling by his feet like he did at Warped Tour. However, he still made it to the roof by crawling on top the crowd while singing without falter. I would have snapped a photo but there are some things you have to be present for. Shortly after his crowd surf, Lawrence brought a dream of mine to life when he lent me the mic to scream a few incomprehensible lyrics during Four Walls. Definitely one of my favorite live show experiences of all time.

Seeing as this was their last North American Brainwashed tour stop, I asked guitarist Mat Welsh a few questions about the tour and album before their set.

I was curious to see if he noticed any differences between Canadian and American audiences. “Canada seems more opened eared” he replied. “America is tough because there are so many bands. A lot of bands there regurgitate other bands sounds rather than trying to be themselves.” Next, I asked him about the differences in the writing and recording processes between This Is The Six and Brainwashed. “Brainwashed was weird to record because we had a huge gap in between recording.” The six-month gap he’s talking about was a result of Lawrence’s throat surgery. They recorded half the album, and then were forced to take a break. Mat said that album “wouldn’t be what it is now” if they hadn’t had that gap. It gave them an opportunity to perfect it, not to mention many of the songs/lyrics were inspired by Lawrence’s battle through surgery. I guess it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, especially for us listeners who get to enjoy the masterpiece.

Mat listed his favorite songs to play live as “Brainwashed and New World Torture.” His tour must-have is “a note pad for lyrics and drawings. I get a new notebook each record. By the end, it’s like the bible of the album.” Very good idea for any fellow musicians who might be reading! Mat says there’s more to look forward to; they have already written the new album and will spend two months recording after this tour.

It takes a truly special group of people to bring to the stage what While She Sleeps does. Their North American crowds aren’t huge (yet), but they illicit an audience response perhaps more energetic and honest than anything I’ve seen before at a live show. This was especially evident at the Toronto show, especially considering it was put together last minute after the previously scheduled show at Sneaky Dee’s was cancelled. The venue was packed with a thankful audience and tons of ecstatic energy. Now, the boys are headed home to the UK where they will take one day off and then start a two week run in the UK to wrap up the Brainwashed tour. Metal fans and live music appreciators alike, keep your eyes on this band. And if they come to your town, DO NOT miss the show.

Please visit us again soon Lawrence, Adam, Mat, Sean, and Aaran. After all, This Is The Six.

 

© Robyn Bond, Music Vice

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