The fairytale-like story of While She Sleeps’ You Are We was already endearing from the start – a band breaking free of industry politics and conventions to build their own studio and record what would be their best album to date – but more than a year on, to see the band still at the very top of their game and buoyed by genuine widespread adulation is a testament to their work ethic and how much they put into the process. As such, this special edition of You Are We feels like something extra for those who have been so imperative in this era of While She Sleeps, packaging together various odds and ends that would’ve previously been consigned to the cutting room floor.
For posterity’s sake, this review will only be focusing on the new stuff, partly because it constitutes the bulk of this release’s fresh appeal, and partly because everyone knows how great the original You Are We was and still is, one of the best albums of last year and perhaps the most consistently fierce and compelling album to come out in metal’s more mainstream half. The same unfortunately can’t be said about this bonus material, at it really only reinforces this package as something for the most dedicated of While She Sleeps completionists; it’s not the sort of thing you’d regularly listen to, serving more as a curio of details surrounding the album than anything that adds to it. That’s not to say there’s nothing of quality or interest here, because there definitely is, particularly in the three reworkings recorded live at London’s St Pancras Old Church. It’s here where While She Sleeps’ pliability is highlighted more than anywhere else, with Feel, Silence Speaks and Hurricane reinterpreted with softer, more languid tones, and both Loz Taylor and Mat Welsh totally excelling with their weary, increasingly sombre vocal that lends so many extra layers of depth to pile onto what was already there. There’s a convincing case here for While She Sleeps to do an entire album in this way; it sounds genuinely fantastic.
Moving on to everything else is where it gets a bit shaky though, as it’s difficult to evaluate the quality behind demos and outtakes without putting them in that context. No one is going to opt for demo versions of Feel and Civil Isolation over their fully mastered counterparts (especially when they’re as unrefined and oddly quiet as they are here), but it’s still interesting to trace back these ideas to see how they started out. Similarly, Lost Ideas is pretty unlistenable in its own right, an eight-minute collage of seconds-long snippets that would go on to morph into proper songs, but it’s pretty much as close to the outright recording process as any band is likely to disclose, and done so in a more unique way that a simple studio documentary. For as shoddy as these pieces may be, there’s clearly been effort put into them as collectors’ items, and for this sort of release, there’s worth to be seen in that.
Above all, it feels like a suitable bookend to a truly remarkable album, and one that goes a far in-depth as really anyone could want. Having said that, unless you’re a While She Sleeps devotee, there’s really no reason to own this over the original, but for anyone who does fall into that camp, this fleshes out an already extremely detailed album with some fascinating insight that definitely won’t go overlooked. It’s still tough to recommend, but superfans will have an absolute field day here.
For (diehard) fans of: While She Sleeps
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘You Are We: Special Edition’ is released on 20th July on Sleeps Brothers.