Photo Credit: Ashley Osborn
When future music history books cover the current revival of pop-punk and pop-rock, the lion’s share of credit will likely go to artists like Machine Gun Kelly, Olivia Rodrigo, and Willow – all of whom have found surprising chart success with their respective forays into the genre this decade. But perhaps who really deserves credit are bands like Sleeping With Sirens who kept the genre going (along with post-hardcore and metalcore) throughout the early and mid-2010s when many others had written off the sound as an artifact of days gone by.
When the Florida band led by Kellin Quinn released their last album (How It Feels To Be Lost in 2019), the revival of pop-punk into the mainstream had begun in earnest, but Complete Collapse is their first album to be released since “Good 4 U” went number one, Tickets To My Downfall became Platinum certified and Gayle started dominating airwaves with “abcdefu.” This would seem like the perfect moment for Sleeping with Sirens to reach new levels of fame; to introduce themselves to millions of listeners newly accustomed to this style of music. Yet, here we are, a little over a month removed from the release of the band’s seventh studio album and the 41-minute LP seems to have barely made a ripple in the world of popular music; becoming their first album since their 2010 debut to not dent the Billboard 200.
Admittedly, the band’s failure to capitalize on the current moment can be partially attributed to the quirks of the quartet’s sound. Their music doesn’t fit comfortably among the scores of Travis Barker-produced/inspired pop-punk releases that dominate at the moment. Sleeping With Sirens have always had too much integrity to entirely let go of their emo influences and they continue to incorporate post-hardcore and metalcore into their releases. Yet a lack of conformity doesn’t seem like the most likely explanation for the relative failure of the band’s newest release. The songs of Complete Collapse largely adhere to traditional pop song structures and the music is far less abrasive than many metalcore standards.
Instead, the album’s biggest problem seems to be the relative lack of risks it’s willing to take. Quinn is a genuinely impressive vocalist, capable of unleashing one hell of a metal growl. He does as such again and again on Complete Collapse but is undermined by mixing which suppresses his voice relative to other elements, resulting in a listening experience that can never be described as truly bracing or hair-raising. Certainly, the band has developed a reliable formula for creating catchy pop-rock. But in dutifully employing said formula throughout their seventh album, a sense of stasis invariably sets in.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that nearly every song on Complete Collapse sounds the same – something which may frustrate even the most hardcore fans of the band. A litany of guest stars fails to diversify the album – even in the case of Royal & The Serpent, who proved to be an integral part of making “Eat Me” one of the best songs off Demi Lovato’s most recent LP. There’s nothing intrinsically awful about Complete Collapse (damning with faint praise, I know) but given the anarchy depicted by the album’s cover art – and given the piercing howl that opens up the album – it’s hard to feel anything other than disappointment about the collection of deeply middling songs we end up with.