It seems like everything Sleeping with Sirens does is a departure from their debut album, 2010’s With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear—if you believe they’ve “sold out,” it would be hard to pinpoint exactly when they did. After making an album that firmly cemented them as a post–hardcore band, their sound has been inching towards a more pop–influenced rock style.
Some leaps have been bigger than others. The precursor to this year’s major label debut Gossip, 2015’s Madness was a fully realized, diverse and cohesive album. The band successfully incorporated pop sensibilities into hard–hitting rock. Its follow–up, Gossip, which still echoes the style of Madness, does not do as much or do it as well. The band has gone in a slightly different direction, but hasn't gone far enough.
Gossip is split between riff-heavy, Royal Blood-esque rock–and–roll songs and a set of acoustic–driven radio ballads. There's not a single screamed vocal on the album, although the bridge of “Chase” comes close. The louder rock songs, including, “Trouble,” “Cheers” and “Empire to Ashes” are the highlights of the album. “Trouble” is the most ambitious and experimental song—and it works, it shocks, it wins you over. On “Trouble,” the band seamlessly integrates pulsing percussion with a smooth, groove-heavy melody. The best song on Gossip is arguably the confident, dynamic and energetic “Empire to Ashes.” This is the most political the band have ever been, and the lyrical imagery is more sophisticated than in previous songs.
The slower set of songs doesn’t deliver in the same way or on the same promises that “Empire to Ashes” does—they don’t have the same boldness, power or heart. The metaphors feel vague and empty, while the music feels predictable, safe and static. “I Need to Know” is hampered by its cliché; like the relationship it describes, it was doomed from the start.
Some of the stronger songs on the album sound derivative. “I Need to Know” starts with a riff reminiscent of PVRIS. Album closer “War” sounds like Imagine Dragon’s “Demons.” “Legends” echoes Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries,” to such an extent that the two songs even have a line in common. Some of the songs feel like they could have been swapped for a track on Madness.
Sleeping with Sirens is talented enough that any songs they record sound compelling. Gossip is bolstered by its strong instrumental backbone, punctuated by solid guitar riffs and drumming. Frontman Kellin Quinn’s vocals are as impressive and well–executed as always, although the songs don’t play as much to his strengths as previous material did. The album does succeed in being both lyrically and sonically mature, but it’s a growth that’s far from finished.
If this album is an indication of where Sleeping with Sirens is going stylistically, their future is exciting. If they pursue songs like the out–of–left–field opener “Gossip” and “Trouble”, they could develop a new sound entirely their own and bring something unique to the rock and alternative scene. Unfortunately, it still remains to be seen. If Gossip is Sleeping with Sirens developing a new sound or taking on a new style, it hasn’t fully taken shape yet. Gossip contains adventurous, ambitious tracks, but stops short of being fully realized.
Highlights: Trouble, Empire to Ashes