Release Date: Sep 16, 2014
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Emo-Pop, Industrial Metal
The debut from ex-Underoath frontman Spencer Chamberlain's new project with longtime friend and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Bowman, Broken Compass flirts with the breakdown-laden minefield that served as the theater of war for his former group, while introducing a significant amount of '90s industrial metal into the mix that suggests a post-breakup binge on bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Filter, and especially Nine Inch Nails -- Chamberlain sounds like he's exorcizing some demons with Sleepwave, and he's doing so in the style that comforts him the most. Underoath fans needn't worry though, as the band never really yields to the narcotic-induced capacity that its moniker would suggest, due in large part to Chamberlain's powerful voice and penchant for shoehorning in frequent bouts of neck-snapping brutality amidst all of the explosive and anthemic choruses and sweeping keyboard-driven vistas. Still, Sleepwave is a far more modern rock radio-ready beast than its predecessor, and songs like the soaring "Hold Up My Head," the evocative "Through the Looking Glass" and like-minded title cut, and the meaty, fist-pumping single "Paper Planes" harbor as many commercial aspirations as they do resentments -- Chamberlain was admittedly rocked by his former band's breakup -- but despite their retro-industrial trappings, they retain a great deal of the emotional heft that made Underoath so accessible.
Underoath were one of the biggest names to come out of the post-hardcore explosion of the early 2000s; since the band called it quits last year, the former members have split off into divergent projects, Sleepwave being the newest from vocalist Spencer Chamberlain. The group’s accessible, alternative-influenced tunes (“The Wolf,” “Through the Looking Glass”) should be right up mainstream radio’s alley, but for the average metalhead, Sleepwave’s sound comes across a tad too trendy and its callbacks to late-era Thrice ring of a little too much worship. Despite Chamberlain’s strong pipes and pedigree, 'Broken Compass' lacks the umph and innovation to be something truly exceptional.
Last year, Spencer Chamberlain promised that Sleepwave, his new musical vehicle with multi-instrumentalist/programmer Stephen Bowman, was going to snatch rock music away from the codified auspices of businessmen and bring back the unvarnished honesty he felt the first time he heard bands like Nirvana and Alice In Chains. To that end, the duo (along with producer David Bendeth) have made an album that transcends the radio-rock wasteland, as well as the furious menace Chamberlain was a part of during his stint in Underoath. There’s a certain kind of chrome-plated nostalgia at play on Broken Compass, one that hearkens back to the glory days of Alternative Nation, where bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails and Filter held court and garnered mass acclaim, but not at the expense of extracting their personalities from their art.