For Fans Of
I absolutely loved Hail The Sun’s 2016 album, ‘Culture Scars‘. It was one of my favourite releases of that year and it still hasn’t really left rotation for me since release, honestly. The very same can be said for the ‘Secret Wars‘ EP that came out last year. Naturally, I was very eager to hear just where this talented band would go next. Enter ‘Mental Knife‘, the latest chapter in the story of Hail The Sun.
Album opener ‘Gouge & Uproot’ lures you into a false sense of security before the one-two punch of ‘Mental Knife’ and ‘Suffocating Syndrome’ kick you square in the teeth. The progressive/technical musicianship is there as you would expect from the band, but the focus really is on the performances of vocalist Donovan Molero. The album is just chocked full of soaring guitar and vocal melodies and some truly incredible hooks, most notably the title track, ‘The Stranger In Our Pictures’ and ‘Glass: Half Empty’.
Dynamically, ‘Mental Knife‘ flows beautifully. One moment you are bombarded with absolute chaos (in the best way possible), but the next moment you get hit with blissful vulnerability. For instance, the floating guitar-vocal-only interlude ‘Risk/Reward’ operates as the perfect palette cleanser between both halves of the record. Leading right into the utter angular insanity of hard-hitting tracks like ‘Feel It When Convenient’ and ‘Arcane Justice’. Final track ‘On Existence’ puts the album to bed on a very calm and pensive note, which quite honestly only made me want to listen to it all over again. Hail The Sun has absolutely mastered the art of tension and release this time around, and ‘Mental Knife‘ is the better for it.
I cannot stress enough just how good Molero’s performances on ‘Mental Knife‘ are. Both vocally and lyrically, he is stellar, captivating and incredibly relatable. On top of that, his drumming is also super inspired. He plays for the song, in a very Mars Volta/Fall of Troy way: technical, yet very tasteful. I also have to extend a huge amount of praise to both of the band’s guitarists, Shane Gann and Aric Garcia. The guitar interplay showcased between the pair throughout ‘Mental Knife‘ is quite simply astounding. Most importantly, whilst so much of their jagged, riffy playing is intricate and precise, it never feels overly wanky. It feels just right for the songs.
I think there’s a lot to be said about when a band finds that perfect producer for their sound. Whilst I was a fan of the production on their previous records, I must say that working with Beau Burchell (Saosin, Taken, Senses Fail) has really taken Hail The Sun to a whole new level. Each and every performance on ‘Mental Knife‘ has so much energy; the album strikes the perfect blend of clean precision and utter chaos. This has been true of many Hail The Sun releases, but Burchell has really brought it out of the group more so than ever before here, and that’s a big part of why this album works so well.
‘Mental Knife’ immediately feels the next logical step for Hail The Sun. The same frenetic energy and experimentation is there, but now the band has really refined their sound here. Rather than being spasmodic and technical simply for the sheer sake of it, every part has a specific purpose and it all flows together perfectly so. If you’ve listened to previous Hail The Sun records, then you’re in for much of the same with this LP. However, the real benefit being that the band has such a unique and exciting sound, that it still sounds fresh; it’s still engaging, it’s still fun. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
- Gouge & Uproot
- Mental Knife
- Suffocating Syndrome
- Devotion Cuts
- The Stranger In Our Pictures
- A Lesson In Lust
- Feel It When Convenient
- Arcane Justice
- Glass: Half Empty
- On Existence
‘Mental Knife’ is out now! Check out Alex’s interview with Donovan right here.