Since 2009, Californian quartet Hail The Sun have been combining the energy and intensity of post-hardcore with the polish, technicality, and compositional complexity of prog and math rock.
With ‘Mental Knife’, the band’s fourth full-length release, they’ve masterfully wedded these two realms of influence resulting in an exciting and genuinely unique sounding record that packs a smorgasbord of musical ideas into its relatively short runtime.
After a bombastic and bass-heavy intro, we’re thrusted into the album proper with eponymous track ‘Mental Knife’. Lead guitar melodies are front and centre, and with good reason; Shane Gann‘s musicianship in this department is exemplary and far more well-developed than many of his peers – clearly prog-influenced, but with a nitrous injection of pace and urgency.
What’s equally impressive are the vocals of Donovan Melero. Sounding fragile, and almost feminine on calmer moments, he’s able to launch into a banshee screech at seemingly a moment’s notice, encompassing a wide spectrum of emotion within his considerable vocal range.
With this taken into account, it’s astonishing to learn that he’s also responsible for the excellent drum work. The proggier moments of the album, namely ‘A Lesson In Lust’ and ‘Feel It When Convenient’, are characterised by his implementation of irregular beats and time signatures that he, along with Aric Garcia and John Stirrat on rhythm and bass guitar respectively, is equally capable of locking into a chugging groove when the situation demands it.
Whilst these key aspects are practically omnipresent, the band still manages to inject something unique into almost every track. From the reverb-laden vocals set over heavily muted guitar in ‘Suffocation Solution’ to the joyful menace of the vocal delivery in revenge fantasy ‘Arcane Justice’, and all the way to the triumphant chorus of the penultimate ‘Glass: Half Empty’, this album is never content to remain static.
What’s more is that none of the ideas overstay their welcome. Many of the tracks feel as if they were written to be prog but without the tendency for self-indulgence, and with a healthy of speed and aggression to boot. As a result, the three and four minute songs that constitute the bulk of the record are bursting at the seams. Whilst their pace, melody, and often anthemic choruses give them an immediate impact, it’s clear that multiple listens are required on account of their density.
Successfully combining the immediacy and ferocity of hardcore music with the seemingly incongruous nature of prog and math is an ambitious goal, but ‘Mental Knife’ passes with flying colours, uniting the best aspects of all of its influences resulting in a great record that is far more than the sum of its parts.