As a reviewer I try to find a well-balanced diet between recognizable/digestible and new/intense genres in music and the past few issues I have given you more of the first.
Today I have something for you on the heavier side of music, post-hardcore. Specifically, I am discussing the most recent record by Chico, Calif., natives: Hail the Sun.
I have been a fan of Hail the Sun since 2012 with their “Elephantitis” EP, which was filled with heavy riffs, abrasive vocals and oddly jazzy melodies.
Hail the Sun was producing a new form of post-hardcore music by taking heavy influence from the free-form jazz scene of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
Since then they have come out with their sophomore record “Wake,” an intense and jagged look at death from intricate and new angles that most listeners have not thought about, while keeping with their hardcore and experimental roots.
Their third record, “Culture Scars,” dealt with several life dilemmas that normal humans run into. However, it saw the band take more influence from progressive rock and less from post-hardcore.
Going into their most recent release I was not sure what direction they would go in. I mean how do you top such a dense and fabulous set of records and EPs?
Well, “Mental Knife” in some ways is above and beyond the rest of Hail the Sun’s discography and in other ways misses the bar by a few inches.
Sonically this album encompasses every sound that they have ever produced by creating some of the heaviest and most intricate tracks (“A Lesson in Lust,” “Suffocating Syndrome” and “Feel It When Convenient”) and some of their most melodic and jazzy sounding tracks (“Glass: Half Empty,” “On Existence” and “Devotion Cuts”) all while keeping to their post-hardcore roots.
Compositionally, track after track is filled with perfect instrumentation and progressive rockstyle vocals. The guitar rides a sonic rollercoaster that keeps your mind following the strings. The drum beats keep your foot tapping and head bobbing. The vocals keep you grooving back and forth.
What makes the record miss the mark are the cracks that run underneath these compositions. Specifically lead singer Donovan discusses all his struggles in life that he has tackled as well as other struggles that his band members have had.
This is not the most lyrically pretty album and it shows because Donovan wanted to get out there how he felt about certain topics.
In general, this is a transitional period for Hail the Sun. If “Wake” is protest and “Culture Scars” is vocal apprehension, then “Mental Knife” is personal execution. Donovan is portraying both the lyrics and musical compositions with blunt intentions.
There is a new form of sound and intentions that the band wants to show, and this is the group testing the waters.
Overall, I find this album extremely profound and intensely crooked, in a good way. But there are definitely a few cracks that show in the flow and construction of the record. However, I feel they will be fully ready for their next record and I look forward to hearing what they do.
Happy Listening, Gannon University!