The Sleeping - What It Takes
Record Label: Victory Records
Release Date: February 17, 2009
The first month of my freshman year of college, I dragged a bud to a crappy little venue in a not-so-hot neighborhood to see a few bands I had never heard of, one of them being The Sleeping. This was before they penned with Victory and were DIY-style touring (hence the no stage and bottom line sound set-up) off of Believe What We Tell You, their first full length. They were enthusiastic to play for us, a small bunch of maybe 20 and earnestly cared about playing this crappy little venue on a weeknight in Pittsburgh, PA.
The band then signed to Victory Records. They released Questions & Answers, which played through with a prominent note of progression and controlled rage. Believe What We Tell You did what it could with the debut jitters, awkward footing and a direction that went every which way, but Q&A took the band’s post-hardcore sound, buffed it up and powered through with catchy but technically efficient standouts in songs like “Don’t Hold Back”. Doug Robinson, the man with the mic, was focused and on point for every gruff punch, every calculated growl and every shift in mood.
What It Takes, the band’s third full-length, follows in the same regard, sort of. It’s a digestible post-hardcore band making another digestible post-hardcore album, but relative to Q&A, The Sleeping try new things like jazzy bits and fresh guitar and keyboard sounds. Guitarist Cameron Keym left the band before they hit the studio (with producer Brian Mcternan, a fine, fine fit), and with new dude Paul Cadena joining the team, the guitar flair is more piercing and haunting - just the right letter of development that takes The Sleeping down a darker, more gutting path. On keys is Chris Evans adding an energetic dose of organ effects that also beef up the shadows. Between the two, The Sleeping sound invigorated. It’s immediately obvious from album opener “You’ll Be a Corpse Before Your Time” to single “Bomb The World” to entirely badass “Refusive Relationship”.
The Sleeping’s hard-edged attack goes from a charge forward to calm restraint and then back again across the whole album, a technique of balance and believable zeal that allows What It Takes an extra layer of passion and intrigue. Yeah, it’s the trick of one pony, but this album has a different context of sound and flavor, so I don’t mind. Same with Robinson: his stern but open intensity is right in vein of the last album, but since we’re set in a different scene, What It Takes isn’t just a thoughtless sequel. And nowadays, that deserves at least a gold star or two.
The album, however, is minimally motivating. Despite the fire-cracking guitar work and passes of might, the fist-pumping melodies are hardly ready to stand the test of time. It’s an unfortunate fate for the album’s lasting power, and even though the texture of the keys do well to keep it all fluent and “Bomb the World” is a front-runner standout, let’s be honest here - What It Takes' prime is in the moment.