California emo revival starts to run dry
Hail the Sun is back after two years with their first full length Wake, although it seems they have little to bring to the table.
This Tuesday, Sacramento post-hardcore outfit Hail the Sun released their debut full-length Wake on Blue Swan records.
Their first self-released EP POW! Right in the Kisser! is at the very least a playful romp, while their second, Elephantitis, cleaned up their act with better production and more precise musicianship and songwriting.
This step forward pointed the group towards the mainstream precedent set by groups like Saonis and Circa Survive. Even on an album as attention-grabbing as Elephantitis, without the lo-fi charm, Hail the Sun’s spicy kick is lost in a conventional translation.
Normally the group’s open song structures bring an element of unpredictability to a musical style that desperately needs it, but on Wake the tracks tend to gravitate towards delayed refrains and starkly uncatchy choruses.
There’s pleasure to be gained from the frequent beat changes and dynamic range, all seeming to be geared towards keeping the listener at the edge of their seat. Every song fluctuates rapidly between crooning and screaming, fast and slow, loud and soft, but every extreme resonates with the same angsty emo vibe.
The formula is still fairly consistent: dueling guitars and sprinting blast beats accelerate the album’s saccharine emo flavor, provided primarily by Donovan Melero’s teeny pop punk vocal style.
At times he uses it skillfully, particularly while riding the climax of “Human Target Practice” or towards the middle of “Mourning Sickness” when he strives to emulate more refined peers such as Stolas or A Lot Like Birds.
Regardless, his voice is a worthy asset, particularly on the dramatic numbers like “Falling on Deaf Ears,” which boasts some swooning spotlight moments.
For the average listener, all the shredding guitar work is likely to blend together, but this is supposed to be contrasted by the album’s built-in breathers, like the track “Relax/Divide,” for example. Cheesy hardcore of this caliber is overwhelming when layered and produced so decadently.
However, the unpredictability factor isn’t entirely faded on Wake, in fact it’s prevalent on tracks like “Missed Injections,” which continuously yanks back and forth between pounding riffs and tranquil, fluttering chords.
The track “Jane Doe” is an unexpected but welcome change of pace, and “Anti Eulogy (I Hope You Stayed Dead)” is an ending that’s bound to win over the fence sitters who manage to get to it.
Overall, the vocals sound watered down, cleaner and somewhat weaker, when compared to POW! Right in the Kisser! and continue to tarnish the group’s sound with an unoriginal glare.
There are some rewarding moments on this album but instrumentally, the band hasn’t developed any of the ideas they presented on Elephantitis, as if they’re still looking for where they left off. The production on Wake is certainly more crisp but far harsher, which would satisfy if the music could do the talking.