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Hail the Sun EP review: “Secret Wars”

The songs from “Secret Wars” have all the potential in the world to make for the most insane live shows yet.

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(Jordan Allen/Amherst Wire)

(Jordan Allen/Amherst Wire)

(Jordan Allen/Amherst Wire)

Fitzgerald Pucci, Contributor

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This piece is also appears in a blog on soundfiction.net. 

There are few lucky people who get to listen to a band that defines them as much as Hail the Sun does for me. Hail the Sun’s blistering mosh power and tender lyrical truth has brought me to live loudly and speak as close to my heart as I could. Ever since they turned the upstairs of the Worcester Palladium into a sea of churning moshers in 2012, I’ve been smitten. I’ve been hungry and in love with the eloquent, contagious ferocity that they’ve brought to the table ever since.

The four Chico, California rockers gave us “Secret Wars” — an EP packed with such blistering intensity and innovative emotional triggers that I refuse look at post-hardcore the same. After the first listen, a covert battle raging in me surfaced, and I knew there was no going back.

Every cathartic low and hysterical high Hail the Sun brought me has been cranked up to eleven in “Secret Wars.” The intensity is pushed to levels flirting with old Bring Me the Horizon, and the song’s narratives have gotten more vulnerable than ever.

Hail the Sun picked the right name for this little miracle. There is a slew of these “Secret Wars” in the new Hail the Sun EP. Whether it’s a deep-seated emotional memory or a maximum-octane battle-cry, Hail the Sun pushes the extremes of their musical register, perfectly balancing a vicious edge and a dizzying dolce. The double-edged musical tenacity that Donovan Melero, John Stirrat, Aric Garcia and Shane Gann redefined a genre with are sharper, sweeter and more deliberate than ever.

The percussion in “Secret Wars” is so obscenely expressive, it comes off like a wind instrument. It shook me to the core to see Melero’s blinding talent come back to both the vocals and the set. Whether it’s a roar or a whisper, Melero becomes the gatekeeper that holds the pretty and heavy together. All the goodness that Hail the Sun’s 200 beats per minute insanity could bring has been surpassed by the percussion work of “Secret Wars.” I fail to find the words to describe how this set contributes to the sweet spot between delicacy and insanity that Melero falls into.

The instrumentation of “Secret Wars” takes the myriad of styles seen previously to whole new heights. Guitarists Garcia and Gann pluck an emotional manifestation into their parts that take a listener by the hand down their hard-rocking narrative. The resulting contrasts between parts offer some serious after-the-storm beauty. Some of these outstanding riffs become calling cards that signal the beginnings, ends and cues of “Secret Wars’” biggest treasures. The crystalline guitar part at the end of the self-titled track is arguably the sweetest lick I’ve ever heard from Hail the Sun. It goes toe to toe in sweetness with the guitar wizards of Chon, which is no small feat.

For most of “Secret Wars,” choruses don’t exist. Hail the Sun has bigger plans for the big moments. We’ll call these ‘impact moments.’ These impact moments take a listener by the heartstrings before they can ever see it coming.

Without ruining the surprise, the band’s goal is to prime the listener to manifest particular emotions. Then, the band flips the listener head-over-heels and springboards them into an even bigger ‘wow’ moment. Somehow, “Secret Wars” manages to take that emotional knee-jerk to push the narrative even further.

“Spite” has got to be the perfect example of how Secret Wars does this. There’s a delay that hits like a hypnic jerk, when you feel like you’re falling out of the sky in the middle of a dream. The new circle-mosh moment we get turns on a dime into a forceful hush, forcing a listener to contain their ballistic excitement for an even deeper release. I’m telling you, “Secret Wars” tugs a listener’s strings in ways I didn’t know could exist. It’s a heat-seeking masterpiece of emotional direction.

But it’s not just the songwriting on “Secret Wars” that leaves me breathless. Singer Donovan Melero comes back with a voice that’s stronger than ever, playing the role of chaotic centerpiece with aplomb. His signature lyrical cadence has grown even nimbler, showcasing the former limits to his range which he has formally obliterated. Melero switches effortlessly between vocal colors — pensive sweetness, feral ferocity, sinister croons, and more. This is his most poetic writing yet.

“Secret Wars” contains some of Hail the Sun’s deepest hitting lyrics to date. Discussing memories of a former home, Melero puts his perspectives out like an open-heart surgery: “I lived in a house whose porch collected cigarettes,” he sings in “1109.” Melero puts his internal unease at the full-throttle forefront of “Spite,” turning “I despise myself” into a war cry to exercise the inner demons illustrating one half of the “Secret Wars.”

The other half of “Secret Wars” exists almost entirely in the self-titled track. I’d argue that the self-titled track is one of the most influential songs ever released by the band. It becomes a rallying cry against the invisible societal forces pushing exploitation, a rallying cry I’ve been waiting for years to hear. The lyrics go full-on whistleblower, delivering such spicy revelations about these “Secret Wars” that the song needs to tag out for other ‘wow’ moments. “Learn it. Love it. Own it. Sell it. Shop less,” turns the headbanging intro riff into an anti-capitalist platform. The blistering guitar solo between lines of punchy truth fits perfectly into one of the most universally intense Hail the Sun songs yet.

The songs from “Secret Wars” have all the potential in the world to make for the most insane live shows yet. The door for what Hail the Sun is capable of has been blasted clean off with “Secret Wars,” and I shudder with excitement to think of what’s to come.

Email Fitzgerald at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @DrMessBDSD.

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The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department
Hail the Sun EP review: “Secret Wars”