The Prestaliis by Hundred SunsRelease date: August 11, 2017
Label: New Damage Records
Hundred Suns are going to be one of those bands that no-one can start talking about without talking about their members’ ‘day jobs’, which is kind of a shame, really, as they are more than capable of standing on their own two feet. The band features Cory Brandan from Norma Jean, Chris LeMasters (ex-Dead and Divine) and Ryan ‘Legs’ Leger (ex-Every Time I Die) and despite the huge shadow cast by these bands, Hundred Suns still manage to carve out their own niche with the nattily titled The Prestaliis.
We might as well confront the elephant in the room head on – Hundred Suns are reminiscent of their constituent band members prior efforts; Cory has a pretty unmistakable voice, and although there is more polish on both his performance and the production on this record than is usually associated with Norma Jean, his phrasing, tone and his ear for quotable lines and vocal hooks shines through and acts as a melodic holding point for the band, in much the same way that he does for the cleaner parts of the recent Norma Jean catalogue, but there are hints at wider influences, specifically including Deftones in terms of some of the phrasing, such as on the chorus for ‘Bedburner’. This is probably one of the best performances in terms of sheer delivery of his that I’ve heard though; his voice is fantastic throughout.
In response, Chris has upped his game; Dead and Divine were a band I always enjoyed, I bought their records and saw them live a couple of times, but they always felt a little like they struggled for their own identity, and were always reminiscent of Norma Jean, so to an extent it’s really good to see Chris accept that and shamelessly deploy some riffs that echo the NJ template – see the chorus riff in ‘Fractional’ for example – but also sneak in some other cheeky influences; the subtle flavours of A Perfect Circle in the middle eight and latter half of ‘Partner-Predator’ is a very welcome progression, for example. The percussion is uniformly excellent throughout, Ryan bringing the groove that he was known for in Every Time I Die, but demonstrating a higher level of sensitivity to the tone of the song, tempering his playing to the mood, moving between complex, technical and aggressive rhythms to open and spacious parts to accentuate the movement of the songs. It’s the restraint in the latter that is so impressive and really makes some of the sections pop – the Deftones-ish chorus on ‘Partner-Predator’ features a pared back drum part that contributes to the epic feel of the section.
I’ll be honest, it took a couple of listens before I got past my own preconceptions on this one and I’m glad I did, because there is a depth to this album that I was not expecting, and it actually quite engaging. It’s at the edges that The Prestaliis shines. The core of it feels familiar, especially as fan of Norma Jean, and especially latter (post-The AntiMother) era Norma Jean; it’s a big melodic beast topped with Cory’s signature vocal line, but there is more melody and more intelligent use of texture and progressive tendencies on the periphery which elevates this above the obvious influences. The record is lighter in touch and deft in its use of nuance than any of the constituent members’ other projects which feels almost progressive and aligned to at least the music of early A Perfect Circle and Northlane.
There are some cracking tunes too – ‘Reversal’ is a rollicking post-hardcore tune with a rolling, writhing chorus riff and hook laden vocal line. ‘December’ starts with a pretty, almost ambient section, underpinned by growling bass; it feels like the most melodic song on the record, with a lovely synth drenched outro section that feels both surprising and comforting. ‘Hallelujah’ has a cracking central riff that feels a little like it should have been on the last Periphery record, with a slightly off kilter sensibility that the percussion accentuates perfectly, and a soaring vocal line that anchors it perfectly. It comes across as clever but not smug, a distinction most ‘tech’ bands miss by a mile. A yelled middle eight vocal line is full of impact on this song too. ‘Amarinthine’ is one of the highlights of the album, blending the big, melodic progressive elements perfectly with some of the big riffy sections and creating an absolute beast of a song that is bristling with dynamics – this is aided by the thick, lush production that really accentuates the big sound, without masking some of the smaller touches, like a pretty lead line that is intentionally kept nestled in the mix over the second half of the song. Topping and tailing the album are ‘The Prestaliis parts I and II’; part I setting out the stall of the album and part II reprising and revisiting. Part I is triumphant and strident, almost challenging; Part II feels beaten and battered but still fighting. The repeated vocal line “Burn us / We are the effigy” rings in the album over a huge Deftones-ish riff, and rings it out over a disintegrating structure in a wonderful symmetry. It works really well, and raises the hairs on the back of my neck every time I hear it.
Overall, The Prestaliis is a great record that I’d recommend picking up, especially if you have a passing interest in Norma Jean or The Deftones. The more progressive tendencies and the lush production mean that it will likely bring in some love from fans of Northlane and latter day Periphery as well. It took me some work to see past my love of Norma Jean and see some of the other influences there, and I’m very glad I did. This is a lovingly and carefully put together melting pot of progressive post-hardcore, with little tech influences here and there that are very welcome. It’s big, brash and melodic, and most importantly it is crammed with great songs and melodic earworm-style hooks that will stay with you long after the last strains of the album have rung out.