Well, there’s no use in ignoring the fact that Brainwashed sounds like an obvious mixture of Darkest Hour and As I Lay Dying, the former more so than the latter most of the time. That presence is felt almost immediately following the introductory track “The Divide”, which is basically fifty-two seconds of a group of people talking and getting louder in an enclosed area. It’s a painfully unimpressive and failed atmospheric start that seems to attempt establishing a live venue audience waiting for the band to take the stage, pushed further by the group chants that hit during “New World Torture” at the same lifeless octave. The rest of that performance mixes together some groove-heavy hardcore riffs with various metallic tinges felt in some of the melodic leads in certain bridges, as well as the enthusiastic chorus with a heavy emphasis on cleaner vocal harmonizations with layering as necessary, complete with an uplifting atmosphere through the guitars. While only just over four-and-a-half minutes, it seems to take forever, especially if you’ve been a long time listener of the two aforementioned styles, as there’s little new territory explored, only well executed material that mirrors what the legends of the field pioneered.
Of course there’s “Your Evolution”, which treads a little more into attitude driven groove metal terrain along the lines of early Pantera and, oddly enough, even some industrial-less Spineshank. What saves this track is the softer, cleaner segments, such as around a minute-and-a-half in that issue a little more emotion that isn’t the expected hostility that usually comes with this specific sound, an infectious (if still not wholly original sounding) chorus, and a little more complexity in the guitar work to keep the listener engaged enough to move his/her head along to the rhythm involuntarily. And then there’s “Four Walls”. This one has a decent metal edge to it, though much of the performance sticks to more of a punk vibe along the line of Dropkick Murphys and similar bands, throwing in enough groove-enriched riffs in certain bridges and a similar-themed brotherhood environment through additional chanting over the slower paced passages that channel “When the Saints Go Marching In”, though not afraid to throw some tribal drumming into the mix, as well as some alternative rock riffs as you approach four minutes in.
“Life in Tension”, however, is an interesting specimen and, really, one of the few to actually stick out as a truly unique creation. The introductory post-metal riffs are as infectious as they are short lived, rarely ever performed again as well or as powerful as they are at the gripping start. Thankfully the punk-heavy performance sheds itself from the expectations set up by the other tracks, hammering forward with some tightly wound riffs that drip with energy and rebellion until the pace slows by the two minute mark, hammering the listener with anthemic leads and lyrics about the power of music and how it will be used to help overcome. The same kind of empowering tone is felt on “No Sides, No Enemies”, not to mention some additional post-metal leads that are a little more emotionally charged within the segments that channel a combination of As I Lay Dying with Arch Enemy. While it has plenty in common with the previously mentioned track, there’s too much that treads familiar ground once again to keep the listener’s attention not too long in.
While She Sleeps continues to stand as the United Kingdom’s literal answer to Darkest Hour in almost every respect. While this isn’t always such a bad thing, Brainwashed seems as though it tries to have just enough going for it to keep its head above the water as an entity independent from the influential host. Sometimes it does, and can lead to memorable performances once in a while., but, for the most part, it just comes off a mixture of extremely familiar territory that has existed long before this new collection hit the scene. Judging from the energy captured in the studio, however, there’s no doubt that these tracks will absolutely kill and whip the pit into an unabashed feeding frenzy, which is more than likely where While She Sleeps excels as a unit. If you’re a newcomer to the style, Brainwashed will definitely tickle your fancy for what it is. However, long time fans of any bands mentioned above will find a good deal of this release fairly boring, even over produced at times, leaving you longing to be listening to the classic albums that clearly inspired the songs on this far from original follow-up full-length.