I absolutely love this band. They were actually one of the first heavy acts I ever saw live. I believe it was on one of their earlier tours when they were playing with Norma Jean. I wanted to review this record right as it came out, but I decided to wait. I had seen that Oh, Sleeper would be coming through Phoenix supporting Emery and Hawthorne Heights, and had decided to wait until I saw the record live to do a full review. I am very glad I took that route.
Firstly, Oh, Sleeper commands a crushing force of from their stage; something more than just their presence, and style. At this point, each band member has been touring to some capacity in one band or another since the late 90’s, and you can really feel that experienced energy they give off as a group. Micah Kinard’s vocals rip through the crowd like a chainsaw. Throughout the show, I caught quite a few “wow” looks from the crowd, specifically during the middle of “Vices Like Vipers” (if you know the track you know the part I’m talking about). I don’t think I’ve seen a more consistent or better sounding vocalist in the metalcore scene. In my opinion, Kinard should be heralded as one of the best metal voices of our time.
Zac Mayfield’s holds everything down, from the crushingly heavy breakdowns, to the technical movements. Not only is he an impressive drummer, but he’s just as fun to watch play as any of the other members.
Of course we can’t continue on without mentioning Shane Blay. He’s a well accomplished guitarist who has also been a part of the band Between The Buried And Me since 2005. It’s always more fun to see guitarists like this play at smaller clubs; you can watch just how intricate the parts are, and zoom in on their play style. Watching him shred through songs like “Endseekers” was truly impressive.
Finally, Seth Webster, the band’s current touring bassist, is by far one of the most energetic bass players I’ve seen live. I remember saying to myself at quite a few instances, “damn, that guy’s having a good time!”
The band themselves were great, and the set was awesome. They played a perfect mix of new and old songs which I think was the best way for them to do this tour. Being able to hear tracks from “Bloodied / Unbowed” juxtaposed with songs off of their earlier records is what really solidified my feelings about their newest release.
Metalcore has had its ups and downs in recent years. The genre as a whole is certainly not as popular as it was a decade ago, and the biggest names in the scene have taken plenty of missteps. The Devil Wears Prada announced a few years ago that they wouldn’t be playing anything from their early records in a live setting anymore, which was effectively a slap in the face to anyone like myself who hold that material as some of their best work. Underoath’s newest release dropped to mixed reviews, and a lot of confusion, Bring Me The Horizon’s most recent records show them distancing themselves from their original sound. Effectively, things have been fairly inconsistent in this scene, and there are few acts anymore that fans of the genre can really count on for persistent, true to form releases. Oh, Sleeper has always been one of those bands.
“Bloodied / Unbowed” feels like the perfect next step for Oh, Sleeper. It’s been quite a while since their last record, but this new one feels so true to their other works, it’s like they never left. The band has always had a very specific flavor to their music; a certain theme that distinguishes them from the rest.
Each record they’ve put out feels like a new take on the same thematic elements. Therefore, each new release sounds familiar, and yet also completely new. You can really hear this theme come forward during the lead line in the beginning of “Endseekers” as well as though the chaotic riffing in “We Are The Archers”. More importantly to me though, you can also hear this theme right up front in new tracks like “Decimation & Burial”, “The Island”, and “Of Bane & Disease”.
This record is not at all a departure from their signature sound, but at the same time, it doesn’t suffer from the repetitiveness that plagues so many other bands. The songwriting across the whole of “Bloodied / Unbowed” feels experienced, artistic, and downright smart. There were plenty of moments throughout that surprised me, like I was being lead to expect a certain cliche was approaching, only for that expectation to be crushed with some brilliantly written, and totally unpredictable movement.
“Bloodied / Unbowed” is all together a monster of a record, one of the best metalcore outings I’ve listened to in quite some time. It shows that the guys in Oh, Sleeper are far from being done, and very far from being out of ideas.
This band is absolutely one of the best in the metalcore business, their wealth of experience runs very deep, and it shows. Their dedication to their craft is commendable, and they have the musical skill to match their ambition. I’m very happy to see these guys at it again, and I’m already anxious to hear what’s next for them.