Hail The Sun- Divine Inner Tension (Album Review)

Aug. 9, 2023


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Since their formation in 2009, Hail The Sun has become one of the more prominent bands playing emotional and progressive leaning post hardcore.  Like some of the better-known artists in the genre, Hail The Sun has offered a similar amount of complex riffs and time signature changes mixed with strong hooks and more emotional vocals that were able to draw listeners in.  For their sixth album Divine Inner Tension, the group mentions their material coming from a different perspective than before rather than just pursuing the standard “tortured artist” ideas and this is reflected in the material.  It’s still just as heavy and constantly changing but compared to 2021’s New Age Filth there’s a noticeably brighter sheen and a bit more direct emphasis on the riffs themselves.  Although the material is a bit front-loaded and some of the second half doesn’t present quite as strong hooks, this is still another great effort from a band that has found their own space within the genre.

It feels funny to describe an album from a band called Hail The Sun as brighter, but given some of the darker tones and the drearier atmosphere and effects on New Age Filth that’s exactly the first impression Divine Inner Tension gives.  Opener “Tunnel Vision Alibi” kicks things off with a bouncier groove that gives way to a combination of faster riffing and a soaring chorus.  It’s a melting pot of everything the group has been known for in the past, offering sweeping melodies and some faster, technical parts with a heavy backbone that still hits quite hard.   “Mind Rider” continues this approach with high flying guitars that bring in a bit more of the progressive edge with constantly shifting riffs that have a more fluid and fun feel to them, but with dips into softer, reflective territory.  Hail The Sun has often been a very riff forward band, but New Age Filth had some added effects and layers that added a bit more atmosphere into the mix.  Divine Inner Tension pivots back towards the earlier approach with guitars that feel right in your face, no matter whether they’re going at high speeds or slowing things down for a softer, nuanced tone.  The material here is at its best when it strikes that perfect balance between showmanship and hooks, providing some faster, unpredictable riffing with familiar warm melodies that will draw listeners in.  And the run from “Tunnel Vision Alibi” to “The Story Writes Itself” does just that, providing some infectious hooks and the right balance of heaviness and sappier melodies.  Admittedly the second half isn’t quite as consistent, as while “Tithe” impresses with a much heavier, aggressive approach the remainder runs together a bit over repeat listens and before I know it I’ve looped back to the beginning.  There’s nothing outright bad or out of place, but some patterns do emerge, and it does feel like the most memorable passages come early in the album.

Vocalist Donovan Melero has sounded extremely close to Anthony Green since the band’s inception, inviting quite a few comparisons to Circa Survive.  There’s still plenty of Melero’s airier singing that is a dead ringer for Anthony Green throughout Divine Inner Tension, but you also get plenty of screaming that’s more reminiscent of early Saosin.  But even with the extremely similar pitch, the cadence of the performance and other nuances do differentiate Hail The Sun.  Melero can seamlessly move from softer, emotive singing that seems to hover over the recording to much more abrasive screams without losing any intensity or going off pitch, which is best demonstrated on songs like “Maladapted” and “Tithe”.  Despite the brighter overall sheen to the album and the lyrics looking at things from multiple points of view instead of just doom and gloom, there are some a few more abrasive passages than I expected. 

Almost a decade and a half into their career, Hail The Sun continues to tweak their approach while still offering a combination of interesting, progressive leaning riffs and accessible hooks.  They’ve struck a more delicate balance between more aggressive, heavier passages and softer, reflective ones this time around, and while the second half doesn’t quite grab me as much as the first there are still plenty of specific moments that will keep me coming back in the coming months.  If you’re a fan of post hardcore and its more spastic, proggy leaning directions that bands like The Fall of Troy have to offer and haven’t yet given Hail The Sun a chance, this seems like a great place to start.  Divine Inner Tension is available from Equal Vision Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg