I think I might be listening to the wrong album, because all of the reviews that I've seen so far have cited 'Madness' as Sleeping With Sirens best album, and this was just a massive pile of disappointment to me. It hurts to write that, because I am a massive Sleeping With Sirens fan - I pre-ordered the album the day that it came out and I have been eagerly anticipating it, but I now wish I hadn't.
Kick starting things with 'Kick Me', the song that Sleeping With Sirens released in the middle of 2014, I was automatically struck by how over-produced the track seemed. A song that talks about kicking someone when they're down should be visceral and violent, gripped in the midst of emotion, but the production on this track takes away all of the soul. After seeing it live at Reading festival I was beyond impressed with the fury and the explosive attitude that filled the song, but all of the life was seeped out of it in the recorded version.
Sadly, this theme just continues throughout. Whereas I really enjoy Sleeping With Sirens faster songs, the majority of this album is slow and dreary. During multiple songs (most noticeably 'Save Me A Spark' and 'November') I just felt like giving up and going to sleep, because the effusive energy that radiated throughout the whole of the 'Feel' album has dissipated somewhere along the way.
I can understand why people are impressed by this album: it's more mature, lyrically and musically, and vocalist Kellin Quinn has tamed his voice giving them the opportunity to appeal to the people who wrote them off automatically due to his vocal tone.
There are a few songs that are stand out tracks, the main two being 'Fly' and closing track 'Don't Say Anything'. 'Fly' sounds more like the Sleeping With Sirens of old, but not in a repetitive way - you can hear that they've taken a step forward, but it's not so far forward that it loses everything that made them special. Similarly, 'Don't Say Anything' manages to get a mixture between fast and slow so that it really stands out, instead of becoming another dreary almost-ballad. It's just a shame that the closing track is also one of the most brilliant; it would have been a much better album if Sleeping With Sirens had chosen that as the starting point. But they didn't, meaning that throughout the entire rest of the album, all the songs start to blur together.
However, as well as the majority of the songs being similar due to their timing and structure, most of them also sound like other songs. The riff featured in the middle of 'Go Go Go' sounds like a direct pull from Busted's 'Crash and Burn' (while, funnily enough, 'Crash and Burn' is repeated through the lyrics multiple times... Coincidence?), the 'Ooh, ooh, ooh' at the end of 'Save Me A Spark' is exactly the same as the structured ooh-ing in 'Magic' by Coldplay, and the speedy, kick you in the teeth 'We Like It Loud' sounds scarily similar to You Me At Six's 'Underdog'. Yes, some of these might be coincidences, but all of them? Seems like too much to me...
And while the other songs on the album don't necessarily sound as though they've pulled directly from other artists, they all sound similar to songs that are already out there, meaning that this isn't a revolutionary - or even that exciting - album. 'The Strays' shows an acoustic mixture with the heavier music that is already being done better by other bands, 'Better Off Dead' sounds just like 'Face Down' by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus sped up a notch or two and 'Gold' sounds like it wouldn't be out of place as a new All Time Low song.
I can't imagine this album winning over any new Sleeping With Sirens fans. I enjoyed it, because I already really care about the band, but if I was new to the band and this was my starting point I definitely wouldn't continue. Instead of featuring their unique sound, it just sounds as though all of the mainstream radio rock bands have been combined into one album - more like a compilation of covers than something that can stand out on its own as a brilliant collection of tunes.