Californian outfit Hail The Sun are no strangers to change. Residing in the more eclectic corners of the sweeping post-hardcore genre, the group—consisting of Donovan Melero (vocals/drums), Aric Garcia (guitar), John Stirrat (bass) and Shane Gann (guitar)—have consistently displayed a knack for pairing technical skill with innovative songwriting.
As an artistic collective, the quartet refuse to stay static, constantly cycling through instrumental moods and personal lyrical themes in search of creative vitality and enthusiasm. The pitch for New Age Filth, the band’s fifth full-length, makes this case with the usual PR tells: it’s their most “collaborative and diverse album yet,” with the “catchiest hooks they’ve ever created,” allowing them to push “creative boundaries.”
And if all of that sounds like a meme, well, that’s because it is. But just because scene tropes exist, and are oft-repeated ad nauseam, this doesn’t mean that they can’t be acted on and faithfully executed with the utmost sincerity.
Much like their previous full-length, 2018’s Mental Knife, the band waste little time in cutting open deep, emotional wounds on their latest LP. Opener “Domino” flutters with cascading drum fills and bright melodies, as Melero exposes his destructive tendencies and crippling self-doubt with surgical precision: “I’m the noose in the nook/ I’m the bad ending book/ I’m the one that you wish got away before you bit the hook.”
As a recent interview with Loudwire suggests, Hail The Sun have consistently pulled from a diverse slate of influences across their twelve-year career. Across its succinct ten-track run, New Age Filth is the first record in their back catalogue that fully embraces the musical melting pot approach with compelling results.
All the heavy hitter sonic signifiers—At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta, Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, The Fall of Troy—are present and accounted for on progressive cuts like “Slander” and “Hysteriantics,” forming the bedrock of each spiralling chorus melody, angular guitar line, and scattershot tempo shift.
But it’s the outliers in the mix—Weezer, Queen, Glassjaw—that are likely to raise a few eyebrows. “Misfire” allows Melero’s indomitable pipes to slide up suggestively against a sultry instrumental, occasionally erupting in synchronous fits. The track proves the talented frontman can hold his own not only against contemporaries like Tilian Pearson and Anthony Green but also the great chameleons of rock and pop, Rivers Cuomo and Freddie Mercury included.
There’s also a particular kinetic thrill that follows mid-section monsters like “Slipped My Mind” and album standout “Parasitic Cleanse.” Harmonised guitar licks, pummelling double kick volleys, and screeching scream freak-outs allow the band to fold in recognizably abrasive textures, adding nostalgic grit to the emotional spectrum of New Age Filth. (Think less Circa Survive, more Taken, and you’re on the right track.)
In the album’s headier moments, shorter cuts like the pre-release single “Mark Your Mark” and the spacey “Devaluation” are littered with spatio-temporal ruminations that skew philosophical. The former finds Melero forever marked by love as place, reliving aimless drives through Echo Park, night views in Chelsea, and “black city cabs on the bridge”; while the latter gazes outward to ponder a sense of celestial ephemerality, throwing a “conniption fit” at the bigger picture beyond eternal “carbon fissure.”
While it would be fair to say that New Age Filth doesn’t sound overly distinct or ground-breaking for Hail The Sun, or the post-hardcore genre more broadly, it’s hard to argue against the band’s obvious convictions. Listening to upbeat bangers like “Solipsism” or raucous album closer “Punch Drunk,” it’s clear that being comfortable doesn’t exclude Hail The Sun from embracing conflict, harnessing it, and generating new ideas.
By design, New Age Filth is for the devoted fans, but it’s also engaging enough to suggest that outsiders are more than welcome to get dirty too.
Purchase and stream New Age Filth here.