Pop music in the modern age gets a bad time for being vacuous, meaningless, and stupid. This is missing the point a bit; pop is described as such because pop was always what sold above other styles, and that today means boy-bands and indie chaff. With bands like Periphery perfectly comfortable using generous amounts of melody and Black Veil Brides siphoning big guitars and solos into the mainstream, perhaps it’s time to admit that the wall between some heavy styles and the charts isn’t all that thick. For those of you who like a bit of both, here’s the debut album from Sacramento’s Sages.

Built on a foundation of hard-pop vocals and big guitars, Sleepwalkers is neither a metal record nor a chart-busting pop effort, but again, there’s nothing wrong with that. Opening with tiddly ambiance and the cocking of a gun – really chaps – What The Hell? is nearly 6 minutes of waiting-room wallpaper over toothless meat substitute. Having trudged through the whole record I keep the ‘woah-ho’s of Face The World in my mind and remember that the point of this surely isn’t to be heavy, but to provide quality singalong material for people who might like to enjoy their nights out.

Anyone listening to the title track might be a bit confused, as the lyrical content is pure chart fare, even if the guitars are staccato enough to have come from the world of djent. Produced by Dino Vidovich with emphasis on the guitars, there’s an odd disconnection between the main body of the album and the last two tracks, which were produced by Sages as a whole. Songs like the waltz-tinged On My Way and the metalcore- as-self-help of Save Yourself are laden with admirable sentiment, and for this Sages should be applauded, but the drastic difference between the sound of these and the significantly more polished final two songs puts the band in an odd light.

There’s piles of quality drumming, capable soloing, big choruses and the rest of it, but this has been done to death in recent years, and I found myself drawn into the last two songs more than the rest of the record. The lyrically horrifying Free might have made me want to leave the house and catch a train to escape it’s word content but at least it sounds like the band are comfortable. These two tracks ride a weird line between straight up heavy-pop and what feels like hard chart-country, and sound like this is really what Sages want to do. If that’s the case, why not go for it?

Up To The Sky carries a different feel again, with a grit-ridden stomp propelling a piece of solid, interesting writing along, although with a vocalist who can reach some serious heights the screaming feels a bit uncalled for. If there was more harsh vocal throughout it would be warranted, but here it feels like trying, and it takes away from the material.

It sounds very much like I wasn’t into this, and truth be told there are bands operating in this style who are much more capable, but a few tracks mark Sages out as having something else to offer. Whether they want those things is up for debate, but an acknowledgement of where their strengths lie and the removal of the played-out samples will make for a grand old follow up. Recent single Matter Of Time is miles ahead, a proper fat-free rock song with hooks and no filler, firmly establishing that they’re more than capable.

The next one will be better, of that I’m certain.

Get your hands on Sleepwalker HERE!