Wake is the debut full-length album from post-hardcore act Hail the Sun. Musically, the album builds from the band’s 2012 EP, Elephantitis, fusing together complex drumming and intricate guitar work. This is accentuated by vocals reminiscent of Circa Survive’s Anthony Green. In their approach to writing a full-length album, not only have Hail the Sun worked on creating twice the amount of songs as the EP, they’ve also doubled the intensity of anything they’ve done in the past. Wake demonstrates a focused maturation of the band’s sound, where the heavy elements have gained more weight and the complex instrumentation has become more elaborate and dynamic.
The drumming is powerful, technical and constantly evolving, which lays a frantic foundation for Wake’s twelve tracks. The guitars weave in and out of consciousness, not averse to floating away on intricate pathways, before snapping back in perfect synchronisation with the drums to add volume and power to the heavier parts. The vocals cut through the intense instrumentation well, as Donavon Melero’s high-register vocals offer a perfect contrast to the dark music. Melero adds a plethora of emotion and melody with his vocals throughout the album, a feat made even more impressive by him also being the band’s drummer.
There are enough ideas on Wake to satisfy most bands for three or four albums, yet Hail the Sun refuse to get tied to any one of them for longer than four bars. It’s the song-writing equivalent of an inebriated person taking a sobriety test along a straight, white line. Each song only manages to take a couple of steps in one direction before swaying and pivoting the opposite way; always unstable and never certain where it will go next. Rather than detracting from the music though, the effect is intoxicating, making the journey through the album one of constant discovery and surprise. It takes several listens of the album to appreciate the many nuances within the music, which offers the listener a reason to go back for more and gives Wake a long shelf life.
This turbulence of mood, emotion and tone matches the subject matter of loss and death that runs like a vein throughout the album. Elephantitis showed the potential in Melero’s lyrical ability and on this album it is fully realised, as one of the album’s stand-out tracks “Disappearing Syndrome” demonstrates. The song is based on the story of Elisa Lam, a 21 year-old girl who was found dead inside a water tank on the roof of Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. The story is full of intrigue due to the suspicious nature of her death and the fact that the hotel has two serial killers and three documented suicides among its previous occupants. The staggered, staccato nature of the music compliments Elisa Lam’s supposed bipolar disorder, brought chillingly to life as Melero yells “she’s there, flowing through the water-pipes!” The story is woven through the music well and Melero’s take on the story is intriguing and wonderfully written.
The consistency of the subject matter provides the glue that holds the album together, adding cohesion to offset the sporadic music. Josh Benton’s production is excellent, providing dark tones that match the album’s subject, while balancing this with a level of clarity that allows each instrument to shine. All of these elements are finely tuned to give a rounded album that not only excites and inspires, but ties together into a perfect package. Melero closes the album by whispering “while you may be gone now you are always in my head,” a fitting sentiment for an album that demands repeated listens and the attention of all post-hardcore fans.