Review Summary: “Too Many Others Are Complacent”
Hail the Sun has managed to do something that’s great over the course of their career. People can’t seem to agree on whether “Wake,” “POW,” or “Elephantitis” is the pinnacle of their discography. That in and of itself showcases how diverse Hail the Sun is and how they have something for every fan of the progressive rock or post-hardcore persuasion. “Culture Scars” proves to be another example of how this band has something for everyone. This is why no one ever agrees on Hail the Sun.
“Culture Scars” takes a direction that we don’t see as prevalently as other items in their discography… The message. The lyrical composition of this album is the major focus of the release. Every song’s lyrics means something to the band and it’s very clear that these songs are meant to display a message. “Entertainment Lies” dives deep into concepts of sexual perception and the resulting effect on women from the ‘entertainment’ industry. Songs like “Ministry of Truth” and “The People That Protect Us” highlight the social ramifications of our current political structure and the consequential results (- if they are to be summarized into one sentence). They also show personal messages like the clear tribute to parental relationships in “Words of Gratitude.” This isn’t to say that there wasn’t poetic lyricism in their other work. It is just clearly a larger focus on this album.
Donovan Melero’s vocal melodies absolutely carry the progressive nature of the band while emerging as a primary focus over his drum kit. There has been discussion regarding this album as ‘watered down’ or ‘bland’ in comparisons to their previous releases (particularly “Elephantitis”) but ultimately “Culture Scars” doesn’t lack in any department in comparison to their previous releases; it is a progressive rock/post-hardcore album resplendent with a greater focus on the band’s vocal development, lyrically and musically. This makes sense when you realize that the album was produced by Mike Watts. Watts has produced three album with Casey Crescenzo (The Dear Hunter), one of the most (if not the most) developed voices and lyricists in music today. With that said, “Culture Scars” still has the instrumental complexity that distinguishes Hail the Sun as the unique act that they are.
The album leads off right where “Wake” left off with “Paranoia,” which thrives off of the instrumental and vocal complexities that has always been an underlying definition of the band’s core sound. The ‘Hail the Sun standard’ tempo changes and off beat accents riddle the song making it one of the more high energy tracks on the album. Tracks like “Body Damage,” “The ‘Fun’ in Dysfunction,” “Ministry of Truth,” and “Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results” will make anyone paying attention fan themselves in awe from the hooks alone. The guitar riffs on these tracks, particularly on “Body Damage” epitomize the complexity of underlying instrumentation throughout the album that is hard to notice on the first or second (or even third) listen.
The moral of the story is that this album is different and same. It was never going to be something they've already done. It builds on what the band does. It shows that Hail the Sun is maturing as a band while remaining true to its roots and that’s a hard feat to accomplish while still delivering quality material. Like every band, they can’t release “Elephantitis” or “Wake” every two years. Is this the best that Hail the Sun has done? “Wake” may still be a bit more convincing but that doesn’t discredit this album (or anything else Hail the Sun has done). As a standalone album, “Culture Scar” delivers the proper follow up to their 2014 release. Agree or disagree with the assessment, “Culture Scars” is another example of how Hail the Sun has something for everyone.
Words of Gratitude
The Fun in Dysfunction
Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results