For Fans Of
Despite ‘super-group’ being one of those often touted and overused industry buzzwords, it’s more than appropriate when describing a trio like North American musical collective Hundred Suns. The group consists of vocalist/lyricist Cory Brandan (Norma Jean), drummer Ryan ‘Legs’ Leger (ex-Every Time I Die) and guitarist/songwriter Chris LeMasters (ex-Dead & Divine). Coming together in early 2016, LeMasters had already stockpiled various song ideas for a new project, before recruiting Brandan and Legers to complete his overall vision.
With the group’s crowdfunding campaign surpassing their goal, preview tracks like ‘Bedburner’ and ‘Fractional’ hinted at the kind of dark and moody atmospherics fans could expect on the band’s debut. With a line-up bolstered by a literal who’s-who of 2000’s metalcore talent, ‘The Prestaliis’ acts as a blank canvas for Hundred Suns to reinterpret their own selective discographies with broad strokes of prog, grunge, and post-rock influences.
Bookended by a split title track (parts I & II), the album starts with a twinkle of electronics and Brandan’s soft vocals, before erupting into a crunchy, bottom-heavy groove courtesy of LeMasters. With rhythmic cymbal crashes from Legers, Brandan leads an emphatic chant, crying “Burn us, burn us/We are the effigy.” The track listing swiftly changes gears as ‘Partner: Predator’ arrives with a cavalcade of drums propelled by waves of melodic licks, as Brandan floats between harmonized Deftones-esque verses and piercing screams. The whole track then descends into a rolling, alt-metal beat-down as Brandan ponders: “Do you feel alive?/Do you feel anything?”
Pre-release singles like ‘Bedburner’ and ‘Fractional’ re-appear on the record, getting a polish from their earlier demo stages, with catchy lead guitar and vocal phrasing, Brandan’s iconic croon and stomping nu-nu-metal (yep, that’s definitely a… thing) riffs. Production from vocal engineer/producer Jeremy Griffith (Norma Jean, Underoath) and producer/mixer/Saosin guitarist Beau Burchell (The Bled, Moose Blood, The Bronx) gives Hundred Suns plenty of polished sonic room to breathe, with frequent instrumental breaks, delicate melodic hooks and enough emotional punch for the heavier sections. Tracks like ‘Last Apology’ and ‘Reversal’ take the band’s banger template and run with it, with addictive grooves, rolling hi-hats, and subtle electronic warbles.
Those familiar with Brandan’s work across the Norma Jean back catalogue will know that it’s not always about dissonance and vein-popping screams, and ‘The Prestaliis’ has plenty of softer, slow-burn moments that showcase the more progressive, post-hardcore talents of Hundred Suns. ‘December’ is melodic post-hardcore in the vein of Thrice or Being As An Ocean, sporting spacey synth textures and powerful, melancholic vocal layering, with lyrics about dependency, drugs, and addiction. ‘Infinite Winter’ sounds like ‘Meridonial’-era Norma Jean, with a soaring chorus and outro, while ‘Hellelujah’ crawls through a djent-flavored intro before taking a sinister vocal turn in the bridge, straight into industrial territory.
Closer ‘Amaranthine’ is an easy album highlight, with a droney intro, cracking snare hits in the pre-chorus and one of Brandan’s best vocal performances. Lyrically, the track is dark, introspective look at the pain and misery caused by child trafficking, as the vocalist’s delivery expresses pain, resignation and ultimately defeat (“I’m not alive/I’ll never die/I’ve washed my hands with sharper knives”).
Let me close out this review by saying this: after some serious late-evening Googling, it’s still not entirely clear what exactly a ‘prestaliis’ is, or why it needs a double vowel. However, if our knowledge of said ‘prestaliis’ is to be predicated on the debut from Hundred Suns, then we can be sure of the following characteristics: one, it’s intrinsically catchy, thanks to an abundance of grooves; two, it’s propelled by ethereal and haunting melodies; and three, it’s most definitely crowdfunded.
On their debut album, Hundred Suns have a solid crack at exploring different sonic textures outside of their collective dissonant metalcore pasts. The end result is a thoroughly enjoyable album that’s sure to appeal to even the most peripheral fans of alternative music.