Hail The Sun – ‘Divine Inner Tension’

By Ian Kenworthy

Hail The Sun took their music and set a flame beneath their creativity; they sweated in the back of a van, boiled away the liquid and let their ideas ferment. Over the course of five albums, their sound has become potent and pure, and they’ve bottled it as ‘Divine Inner Tension’.

Right from the opening line “I guess that we started right where we left off…”, they’re telling you exactly what to expect from this twelve-song set and if you’ve been following their career, you’ll recognise their distinctive sound. Falling about half-way between The Fall Of Troy and Pierce The Veil, it features dual lead guitars weaving around each other and it’s rare you’ll hear chords, let alone any chugging. These intertwined guitar lines make a spiderweb that supports vocalist Donovan Melero as he explores the recesses of his mind in a high singing style, occasionally screaming for emphasis. The difference here is that the songs here have a tighter weave, their colours are more intense, the melodies shine brighter and there’s a subtleness that gets under your skin. This makes songs like ‘Mind Rider’ or ‘Maladapted’ feel fast and fluid, bringing to mind a band like Protest The Hero in the rapid criss-cross of notes.

Of course, there’s far more here than just high-speed riffing and ‘Little Song’ extrudes itself into interesting shapes, helped by a guitar tone that’s uncomfortable but just that little bit exciting. Indeed, the album is given drift and drive by these tonal choices.  However it’s the use of effects and a phaser-like shimmer on ‘The Story Writes Itself‘ that creates an otherworldy atmosphere. Other, smaller, details also impress like the doo-wop feel that sneaks into ‘Chunker’ making for an unusual but striking interlude.

Compared to the band’s 2021 album ‘New Age Filth’ it’s a relatively small change, incremental even, but the tone is very different. It’s not as hyperactive as their previous work but trades the unpredictability for an easy listenability, and there’s an understated complexity that gives the songs surprising depth. You can hear it in the way the guitars wrap around each other, but it’s the backbone provided by bassist John Stirrat and Melero’s drums that means no matter how fast or frantic Shane Gann and Aric Garcia’s guitars are, the songs are held together and have a solid base.

Certainty flows through the album, right from the opening line, extending as far as the title. A push and pull – tension if you will – is felt throughout, and by never being too tightly wound or loose, creates an ethereal mix. This gives the songs an assuredness and consistency, and there’s a thought and care here that makes the whole experience that bit more compelling. Note how ‘The Story Writes Itself’ hammocks the band’s rawest sounds between delicate interludes, including a vocal back-and-forth that saws its way into your consciousness. In contrast, the simple flow of ‘Feeble Words’ makes it one of the most beautiful songs they’ve committed to record. However, contrast is the real strength and a real highlight is when the ugly heaviness of ‘Tithe’ elbows its way into the running order, grinning at its own audacity and making for a track listing that is both challenging and ruthlessly effective.

The band’s previous album was an admission and apology. Vocalist Donovan Milero looked at himself and his behaviour, and used it as fuel for songs that were pleading, sorrowful and honest. This album works as a milestone, checking in and evaluating his progress. This is fascinating in itself, but especially in the context of music that is so clearly branching out. While it’s not like calling a song ‘Maladapted’ is subtle or hiding what it’s about, both ‘Chunker’ and ’60-Minute Session Blocks’ address his behaviour directly. Using the refrain “I am my imperfections”, it’s the most direct confrontation with his inner self while still being relatable for the listener. By threading metaphors through personal details, he opens his heart without getting lost in sentimentality or obscurity.

While Melereo hasn’t changed his singing style, he has reshaped the presentation. It’s often delicate or graceful, however the way his voice flows, powering in and out of phrases, makes every line catchy or memorable in its own way. As his voice has matured, he has toned down his singing’s harshness just a notch, meaning he sounds less aggressively angsty but more melodic as a result; you might even call it aggressively melodic. What this means in practice is the overall sound skirts the edge of hysteria but never collapses into it. This creates a beautiful sadness rather than the ugly, angry sadness he often used. While the singing on songs like ‘Tithe’ has a harsh raspier quality, the softer tone allows the words to glide, to catch your ear and to satisfy. This works particularly well on the short ‘In My Dream’ where his voice intermingles intensely with the throbbing background and soft tapping drums. However, once the guitars appear, it becomes a stressful bridge into ‘I Saw You Hanging’ which powers through the choruses like a pop song, and that’s the album’s key; it’s unafraid to be catchy as hell.

Finally ‘Under The Floor’ closes out the album in the most fascinating way. It’s a straightforward song, but this only highlights how the band’s songwriting skills have grown. Thus, it’s surefooted, catchy and slick, a delightful end to a record while also hinting to what comes next. Following this album’s trajectory, it’s a launchpad for something bigger.

As its title suggests ‘Divine Inner Tension’ strains gently in different directions, making for a tight distillation of Hail The Sun’s sound. Put simply, they’ve made their most forward-thinking, engaging and compelling album, again.


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