Pray for Sleep are a newish band from Columbus, Ohio, playing a very modern/contemporary style of harder alternative with influences from nu metal, emo, post-hardcore and metalcore. Members of the band are all in their early 20’s and have assembled an impressive debut album with excellent production (courtesy of Will Carlson). What’s even more astounding is that the album was self-released without the support of a record label.
One thing astute listeners will notice is a lyrical emphasis on mental and behavioral health, which is clearly intentional. Even the band’s name is a reference to people who might struggle with a combination of depression, anxiety, and/or insomnia and therefore ‘pray for sleep.’ Let’s dive into this!
The album leads off with “Ask Us” a mid-tempo track that fusing emo vocal stylings with nu metal riffs and song structures. In fact, it almost reminds me of a non-rap Linkin Park. “Outpatient” has a deep, heavy groove that hints at a metallic version of Twenty-One Pilots. Perhaps there’s something in the water in Columbus?
“Pretty Boy Swing Dance” is much heavier. I’m getting a slight Project 86 or even Narcissus vibe (remember them? Interestingly enough, they were another Ohio band). At times the track approaches metalcore heaviness, but features cleaner production and more polished sound that resembles some of Eighteen Visions’ later material.
“Off Track” is a clear choice for a radio single. Its poppier approach, though still heavy, features an almost pop-punk chorus. This track would fit well on most modern rock/hard rock radio stations. And while catchy, the lyrics show how heavy they can be in regard to struggles with mental health:
Cause I’m off track
Not who I used to be
And I can’t look back
So far from the start
Do I care for myself or just everyone else
When will you reach out for me and
Save me from this misery
The track also hints at the band’s faith, which is present but never preachy. (On that note, the band are made up of believers, but do not consider PFS a Christian band in the strict sense.)
“Nimiety” is very riff-heavy and a bit faster, but then lowers the feel for the mellower, sung verses. It’s a satisfyingly complex tune. By track 6, “Scream Back,” I’m definitely starting to catch the Pray for Sleep formula: mixing poppy/melodic singing with occasional screams, and really heavy, crunchy riffs and top-notch, clean production.
While many of the songs feature vocal harmonies, they are featured most prominently on “Blood is Not Blue.” The track hits the hardest lyrically, describing in first person someone who is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or even suicide. Definitely not for the faint of heart!
My personal favorite is probably “Stars and Flowers” with its anthemic quality. Again we hear some emo-ish and pop-punk vocal stylings juxtaposed with metalcore screaming on the bridge. While this description may seem unusual, it works well in the music.
The album finishes with the catchy riffs of “You Can’t Make Me,” and the somber closer “Dear Death.” The song is written as a letter to Death. The author has been struggling with the excruciating pains of depression and anxiety, and is facing the fear and despair of death.
I saw the devil grinning in my mirror
he said death is not bitter— delicate my dear
he tried to tell me I’ll be helpless either way
cause I don’t wanna go but he knows i don’t
there I stood I looked the devil in the face
as he told me that I’m meant to be erased
I know I don’t wanna let this go to waste
even if that means I’ll never be okay
There is a subtle message of hope there that should not be lost on the listener. While everything in this world, and indeed our spiritual enemy tries to get us to despair, there is a determination to carry on, to not let opportunities to go to waste, even when we’re not okay.
This obviously isn’t traditional heavy metal by any means, but it’s metal in the broader sense. This should appeal to fans of modern metal/alternative fusion outfits like Breaking Benjamin, (a much heavier) Twenty-One Pilots, Pierce the Veil and Water Parks. (indie) 3.5 Out of 5 Stars