Review: Sleeping with Sirens – Madness

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This should have been the album where it all came together. After making waves with their sophomore breakthrough Let’s Cheers to This in 2011, Florida rock act Sleeping with Sirens began taking their first steps away from scene-core with their follow-up, Feel – an album that debuted at no. 3 on the Billboard 200. With the infusion of newly found pop rock influences, you could quite literally feel the tides turning.

Why, then, does the band’s latest release, Madness, sound like a band still trying to find its identity? After news recently broke in an Alt Press interview with the band that they had scrapped an entire no-holds-barred rock album produced by Nick Raskulinecz in favor of a less raw, more polished direction with John Feldmann, you would expect this effort to materialize as a crossover extravaganza. Not so fast.

Let’s be clear – there are songs included on Madness that are poppier and catchier than anything the band has ever written. There are also screamo-fest growlers that find the band proclaiming their love for “that rock and roll sound” and resounding with clarity that they have no intention of selling out. If you find yourself confused, you’re not alone.

First, the good news: Some of the aforementioned pop numbers are spectacular. Vocalist Kellin Quinn’s voice has always lent itself to this kind of music, and he uses it to his greatest advantage on Madness. The clear frontrunner is “Fly”, a danceable track that feels primed for summer radio. The song starts gently, leading to its huge chorus of, “I wanna fly / I’m ready to burn down all the walls that I’ve been building up inside / I wanna fly and put back all the pieces of this broken heart tonight”.

This sentiment of renewal and resolve is one that pervades many of the glossier tracks on the record, making it that much more awkward when the band transitions back to angry rockers, but I digress. “Save Me a Spark” is another shining radio pop anthem with a huge chorus. The band pulls this sound off so seamlessly, it’s easy to wonder why they haven’t been doing this all along.

Sleeping with Sirens quiet things down further with “The Strays”, an acoustic number with gang whistling. Yes, you read that correctly. The title track follows its lead while “Go Go Go” introduces a touch of power pop into the mix with another bouncy chorus.

So what’s the problem? Frustration arises from track to track during Madness when the band refuses to choose a side of the fence. “Kick Me” is a screamo smash that fits perfectly into the band’s Let’s Cheers to This sound, but is blatantly out of place here. “We Like it Loud”, in sentiment alone, flies in the face of the band’s new direction on Madness and serves as an awkward lead into the ballad-y “Heroine”.

Even on seriously solid tracks like “Better Off Dead”, which showcases a heavy pop punk vibe akin to A Day to Remember, it’s hard to know what the band is going for. There aren’t many “bad” tracks on Madness, but the conglomeration of sounds is too much to be considered anywhere close to cohesive. The talent in this band is clear – and the official addition of guitarist Nick Martin is a huge win – but the direction is murky at best.

Regardless of any of this, Madness will still blow up the charts. With a rabid fanbase and a handful of catchy new songs, Sleeping with Sirens are sure to strike it big once again. It won’t be long though, before fans will expect the band to choose an identity before things are watered down too far. Sleeping with Sirens have now released four full-length albums and we’re still not quite sure who they are. Time is of the essence.

3/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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