Hail The Sun

Wake

Written by: TL on 29/09/2014 17:36:09

With the progressive post-hardcore scene solidifying in recent years around the "Sac Town" (Sacramento) pioneers Dance Gavin Dance and A Lot Like Birds, and particularly around the former's guitarist Will Swans' Blue Swan label, it seems that suddenly there are a flurry of similarly facemelting bands vying for your attention. It's come to the point where the main challenge for a band starting out in the style is to stand out from those as well as from Stolas and Sianvar. One band trying to do just so is the Chico-based quartet Hail The Sun, who turned heads already in 2012 with their "Elephantitis" EP, and whose main distinction off the bat is that they don't feature a designated screaming vocalist, relying solely on the clean vocals of singer Donovan Melero (who does indeed sing for Sianvar as well).

While the comparison arguably gets thrown around too much, Melero's raspy, quasi-child-like clean singing is delightfully similar to the style genre-legend Anthony Green applies in Circa Survive, and in Hail The Sun these vocals are locked in exchange with guitarists Aric Garcia and Shane Gann, who look towards The Mars Volta and The Fall Of Troy for inspiration. Frantically changing rhythms and blazing up and down note scales, their's is the expected batch of stuff that makes you feel like air guitaring while shaking your head furiously with mad eyes and your tongue further out than Gene Simmons.

What really makes Hail The Sun stand out once you scratch the surface of their debut album "Wake" however, is that it isn't quite as acid-trip bonkers as some of its contemporary records. The movements from spacy, thoughtful passages to brainmelting riff-o-rama are a lot more sensibly timed than to suggest chaos reigns in place of order, and the simple dynamic established when Melero either sings or not sings actually ends up drawing focus to the guitars in many a moment where they are particularly excellent. The back and forth between singing and riffing does flow freely past notions of normal verse-chorus structure, but always maintaining an engaging ebb and flow of energy, and persistently circling back to repeat parts you could consider as central refrains.

Even more refreshingly, the lyrics aren't the cryptic mess many bands in the genre fall back upon. "Human Target Practice" for instance, is pretty clearly anti-authorities while "Falling On Deaf Ears" poses critical questions towards religion, and to Melero and the band's credit, they don't really preach as much as they do just that - ask questions - although their own positions are still clear. Incidentally, the two mentioned songs are also among the best on the album alongside "Black Serotonin", "Cosmic Narcissism" and "Disappearing Syndrome". The guitar scale that takes over after a furious screech/sing exchange in the beginning of "Black Serotonin" simply strokes the soul, and the riff echoed by the bass before the song title is belted out dead in the middle of the track is an awesome flourish as well. Meanwhile, it takes little more than one listen to make note when Melero challenges God head on in "Falling On Deaf Ears"; "God! Are you listening? All your careful people call for what they need! What if you're not real? And we're wasting - all the precious time we had - for worship when we're getting nothing back?"

Having sung the album's praises, it's only prudent that I also remark that it is after all not a perfect record, and that it lacks a bit when measured against for instance Dance Gavin Dance's "Acceptance Speech" or A Lot Like Birds' "No Place", both of which are finished and well-rounded in ways that show the experience gap between those bands and Hail The Sun, for whom this is the first full length. The maiden voyage here is anchored by common consistency issues, as particularly the resolution of the ideas on the last third of the album hasn't turned into highlights of the same striking quality as those found earlier on. That plus the drumming are the record's main drawbacks - however minor - as the percussion has a regretable, flat sound to its recording. Especially considering that it's also Melero playing the drums (yeah, I saved that nugget for now, just to see if your jaw would drop like mine did when I realised it), the composition of the beats are quite excellent, but something about the sound makes me wonder if there have been some budget-related decisions taken when picking a room and mic'ing up the kit for the recording session. In any case, the drum sound is sadly somewhat more earthly than the cutting edge guitar recording.

That said, any band that even sets out to create this kind of record is setting itself up with quite a technical challenge, yet "Wake" has managed to surprise me positively, showing that Hail The Sun are not only further ahead than I had hoped, but that they're also making an encouraging mark by applying some elegant reigns of structure and directness on a genre that is often labyrinthine to the point of losing track of itself. Had the production been better than solid, I would say Hail The Sun had pulled ahead in the genre, passing this year's frontrunner up to now, Artifex Pereo's "Time In Place", but for now, both those records remain excellent bids for your end of year lists. The only interesting bonus-question is how either holds up when competition arrives in two weeks time in form of Stolas' impending "Allomaternal".

8

Download: Falling On Deaf Ears, Human Target Practice, Black Serotonin, Cosmic Narcissism
For The Fans Of: Circa Survive, The Mars Volta, A Lot Like Birds, The Fall Of Troy, Dance Gavin Dance
Listen: facebook.com/hailthesun

Release date 23.09.2014
Blue Swan Records

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