Back in 2014, Sleeping With Sirens announced they would be parting ways with their label Rise Records. Initial claims were made that the following album would be recorded independently, but instead the band ended up signing with Epitaph Records. As their first album on a different label, the question is whether Madness would be as big a change as their last album Feel.
From the moment the album starts with Kick Me, the change in sound is already noticeable. The song is a mixture of pop punk thrown in with sections hearkening back to their post-hardcore days, including screaming vocals. While there’s something obviously different here, by the time the album gets to Gold and Save Me a Spark, the changes go from subtle to extreme. These songs signal the big change in direction for the album, with the main genre of the album being alternative rock. The noisy post-hardcore production of their previous albums is replaced with something much more general and clean, though there are a few songs that still go in this direction, such as the We Like It Loud and the previously mentioned Kick Me.
Perhaps the most drastic evolution on the album comes with The Strays, a song full of bouncy guitar strumming, orchestral string arrangements and even a xylophone for the verses before moving into the rock chorus. Similar elements are used in the title track Madness, which strips back even the rock section and presents itself as a sincere mid-tempo production that sits somewhere between a ballad and a pop song. It works so well, especially with the vocals of Kellin Quinn, that it might even be their best song.
The only weak links on the album prove to be the post-hardcore influenced songs, which will at least please fans of their previous albums but stick out noticeably in comparison to the cleaner songs on the album. Otherwise, the evolution in sound makes Madness much more enjoyable than their previous albums. The new sounds explored on the album suit Kellin’s higher pitched vocals better than their previous ventures, with the retained focus on clean vocals instead of screaming being especially appreciated, and the skills of the fellow band members are truly on show here.
Madness came as quite a shock. While the band warned us of a change with this album, it wasn’t quite what was expected, and may drive some older fans off. At the same time, it exceeded any expectations that came with the announcement. The album feels more substantial, varied and enjoyable than those that came before. Between the mid-tempos like November and the title track to the alternative rock of Left Alone and Save Me a Spark, Sleeping With Sirens have managed to deliver their best album to date with Madness.