On September 30, 2022, While She Sleeps were supporting Parkway Drive at Alexandra Palace and announced, onstage, they’d return in a year’s time to headline the same venue. It seemed like an ambitious gambit for a band who’d never topped a bill somewhere this massive, yet their confidence proved well-placed when tonight sold out. And, happily, the vast majority of those 10,000 ticket-buyers are already here when POLARIS open the show.
The Australians have weathered both professional highs and the most crushing personal lows in recent weeks. Although this month’s Fatalism rocketed to number one on the album chart down under, the band and their fans continue to mourn the death of guitarist Ryan Siew during the summer. There’s none of that bittersweetness tonight, however. Frontman Jamie Halls briefly honours Ryan onstage, but spends infinitely more time trying to get Ally Pally bouncing along to the band’s sturdy metalcore.
The departure of founding guitarist Jason Cameron from BURY TOMORROW rocked the Southampton band but, after expanding to a six-piece lineup in the fallout, they look perfectly at home on a stage this huge. Anthem Black Flame rocks up early to put all of Ally Pally in frontman Dani Winter-Bates’ palm, and the gauntlet of songs from this year’s hyper-heavy The Seventh Sun ensures that all 10,000 of us stay there. After 45 minutes of nonstop singing and pitting, everyone would agree this lot deserve to pull a WHILE SHE SLEEPS and return as a headliner ASAP.
For tonight’s Yorkshire-born main event, this evening is everything. From starting in the Sheffield metal scene in 2006 to switching to arena-baiting electronicore in the 2020s, this is the culmination of the whole journey. And the band fucking know it.
The stage is decked out with multi-tier scaffolding, while a massive, metal SLEEPS sign stands in front of a three-storey-high video screen depicting buildings in flames. The pulsing electronics that introduce Sleeps Society call Ally Pally to arms, and the legions abruptly go apeshit with that first hefty riff. As the frenzy continues through You Are All You Need and The Guilty Party, almost every band member races to every inch of the set that they can. It’s an explosion of energy that – spoiler alert – doesn’t dissipate until the show’s finished.
The setlist is a truly all-considering affair. Although the glitching sound of latest album Sleeps Society naturally dominates, Sleeps cast their eyes back as far as debut This Is The Six with Seven Hills and Our Courage, Our Cancer. Four Walls, from Brainwashed, has lost none of its power as a clarion call since coming out in 2015, with singer Loz Taylor demanding people get up on shoulders and hold phone torches aloft. Then, Dani from Bury Tomorrow does an excellent job standing in for Oli Sykes on the snarling and humming Silence Speaks.
Tonight also plots the course for Sleeps’ future: Self Hell, the title track of the band’s upcoming album, gets its live debut. The single was met with a mixed response when released last week but, in the live arena, that nu metal riff is already a bona fide boot-stomper.
With these 90 minutes also being laden with pyrotechnics galore, Sleeps clearly did everything in their power to make their biggest show a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. As 10,000 rally behind their rabid tunes – not to mention those of the opening bands – it truly feels like the British metalcore scene has never been a more beloved, successful and vital place. The scene is snowballing, and the Sleeps Society are clearly at the centre of it.
While She Sleeps setlist – Alexandra Palace, London, September 23
You Are All You Need
The Guilty Party
I’ve Seen It All
Eye To Eye
You Are We
Our Courage, Our Cancer
Know Your Worth (Somebody)
Silence Speaks (feat. Dani Winter-Bates)