Album Review: Hail the Sun- Secret Wars

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 venue 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 they’ve brought ever since.

The quartet of Chico California rockers gave us Secret Wars- an EP packed with such blistering intensity and such innovative emotional triggers that I will 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- Secret Wars.

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, it feels absurdly natural.. Hail the Sun pushes the extremes of their musical register to a vicious edge and a dizzying dolce, balanced perfectly. 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 come back to both the vocals and the set. Whether it’s at a roar or a whisper, Melero’s commands his craft. All the goodness that Hail the Sun’s 200 Beat Per Minute style brings has been surpassed by the licks in Secret Wars. I fail to find the words that describe how well Melero navigates the sweet spot between delicacy and insanity behind the set.

The instrumentation of Secret Wars takes the myriad of styles 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. Between jazz, finger picking, and signature breakneck riffs, there’s an abundance of emotional contrast that layers seamlessly with the bigger picture behind Secret Wars. These clean transitions between styles make for some serious after-the-storm beauty. Some of these outstanding riffs become calling cards for the album. They signal the beginnings, ends, and cues of Secret Wars’ biggest treasures. One such part, 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. Aesthetically, it goes toe-to-toe with the guitar wizards of Chon. By no means is that a small feat.

For most of Secret Wars, choruses don’t exist. Good riddance, I say.

Hail the Sun’s got bigger plans for the big moments. We’ll call these micro-behemoths “impact moments”. These impact moments take a listener by the heartstrings before they can ever see it coming. Without ruining the surprise, their goal is to prime the listener to manifest particular emotions. Then, they flip the listener head-over-heels, and springboard the listener into an even bigger wow moment. Somehow, Secret Wars manages to take that emotional knee-jerk to push each song’s 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.

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.” The lyrics are delicately-crafted poetry from beginning to end. Melero’s imagery and recounting have reached entirely new levels. Melero puts his internal unease at the full-throttle forefront of Spite. He turns “I despise myself” into a war cry to exorcise his inner demons. This brilliantly illustrates one half of the Secret Wars cataloging the album. I could write a dissertation with all the lyrics of this album one could read further into. I implore you to get into it, or check out Melero’s description of them here:

The other half of Secret Wars lies in the self-titled song, one of the best the band’s ever made.

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.” turns the headbanging intro riff into an anti-Capitalist platform. The blistering guitar solo between lines of punchy truth fits in perfectly into one of the most universally intense Hail the Sun songs yet. It demands to be spaced out with instrumentation that hits as hard as the lyrics do.

Secret Wars’ setlist has 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.

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