I feel that with the growing genre of post-hardcore, a good number of artists get thrown around as a conversation piece. “Oh, I listen to so and so…” turns into “Well, it’s been a while since I have listened to them, but my favorite song would have to be [insert artist’s most popular song here].” Granted, that may be the elitist talking in me, and there’s nothing wrong with liking an artist’s most popular song (it’s popular for a reason), but the point I am trying to make is that the lack of diversity within the genre, despite growth over the past five or so years, makes it difficult for a band to truly stand out. One of those bands for myself was Sacramento, California four-piece Hail the Sun.
Hail the Sun has been spectacularly consistent throughout their whole career. Wake is a quintessential post-hardcore album and often revered as one of the best. Culture Scars, while a departure from typical tendencies in the genre, gave the band a more pop-centric discography in the band’s discography. Mental Knife was as sharp as ever (ha) and contained some of the band’s best work to date. Secret Wars and “Devastate and Recalibrate”, and EP and a single, respectively, offered some tide-over music while we waited for the juicy full-lengths. Despite their seemingly stellar work, they often get overlooked when thinking of post-hardcore as a whole. I can’t fathom why; Donovan Melero is one of the best vocalists the genre has to offer, and the guitarwork from Aric Garcia and Shane Gann is up there with the rest of the heavyweights. With New Age Filth, the band must have realized that the best way to the forefront of their genre is to smash down the walls that kept them in.
“Domino” kicks off the record with infectious verses and lyrics from Melero regarding his own character flaws. The first scream delivered – “If you love me… then love me to death” – is delivered with such intensity that you will be screaming alongside Melero himself. With a more traditional song structure than some of the entries seceding this track, “Domino” acts as a perfect introduction to New Age Filth, and really Hail the Sun in a microcosm. “Slander” contains some urgent drumming behind intensity-changing guitars, and delves into musical chaos more than once with off-kilter drumming and warbled, megaphone-style shouting. The verses are the highlights of this song, as the melody employed takes a bit of an unpredictable turn with some notes, making it fun to sing along to. “Solipsism” starts with an awesome intro-solo-type guitar riff and maintains intensity while delivering some impressive screams that back up a strong chorus. A tempo change and mood shifter takes place in the back half of this song that showcases Melero’s drumming abilities.
“Misfire” is opened by an extended outro from the previous track and starts off much less bombastic than the first three songs on NAF. Sultry and belted notes really give the song an identity as the range allows the different sections of the song to shine, making for a really fun listening experience. “Made Your Mark” is a considerably tame song, leaning towards a softer side of Hail the Sun’s instrumentals. A traditional song structure of verse-chorus-verse-chorus is honestly a change of pace from most of their music (save Culture Scars) and I found it fresh compared to bands who try to give every track they write the same structure. “Slipped My Mind” has some more of the tonal shifts that HTS is known for; being able to switch between soft sections and uber-intense passages is a key of theirs, and while this song does not really stand out in terms of originality, it is still an exciting twist to move so fast between soft and fast instrumentals.
“Parasitic Cleanse” is my favorite song on the record, even though it was a single. This song just kicks major ass and I have no idea how to expand on that other than it contains everything I look for in a post-hardcore song. Starting with the intense, off-balance screaming intro led into the most wall-of-sound chorus on the record, “Parasitic Cleanse” is *chef’s kiss* magnificent. “Hysteriantics” feels more like a Dance Gavin Dance song than a Hail the Sun song, and before I get lambasted for that comparison (they’re both swancore), the song feels like there were clear sections for a screamer (a la Jon Mess) and a singer (a la Tilian Pearson) rather than one vocalist than can seamlessly mix into both screaming and singer. Some of the shouting sections and the guitar itself is toned to sound like it came right off of Afterburner. “Devaluation” is the shortest song on the record at two and a half minutes, and acts as more of a lead into the final track of the record. There is no drumming for the first half of the song; only a strong vocal performance and a looping guitar riff resonate into another grand cacophony of sounds when every instrument kicks in for a short amount of time. “Punch Drunk” serves as the album closer, and delivers the signature qualities of any Hail the Sun songs you have heard before; chugging guitars and an epic chorus followed by some intense screaming passages brings New Age Filth to a close.
Like I said at the beginning of this review, Hail the Sun seems to be overlooked by most fans of the post-hardcore genre but gets praise regardless. With the release of New Age Filth, the continuous rise of this band will be inevitable; the band has created their best work since Wake and rivals any of their previous albums. Hopefully the artistic accomplishment will bleed over into critical accomplishment and put the Sacramento post-hardcore band’s name in many more conversations to come.
I give New Age Filth by Hail the Sun a 9 out of 10.
Songs to check out include “Parasitic Cleanse”, “Punch Drunk”, and “Slipped My Mind”.
- “Made Your Mark”
- “Slipped My Mind”
- “Parasitic Cleanse”
- “Punch Drunk”