Hundred Suns - The Prestaliis
Less than a year ago, Cory Brandan of Norma Jean announced his new side project Hundred Suns, along with its IndieGoGo for The Prestaliis. The band was lucky enough to exceed their goal by a few thousand after some other promising acts down even meet theirs. If I had to credit the success of their campaign to something other than Brandan’s legacy, I’d say it was the premier of “Fractional” that propelled them past their goal of twenty thousand dollars. It’s essentially the perfect single for a semi-progressive post-hardcore act. The song slowly grows from this foundational beat and riff, joined by Brandan’s undeniably infectious clean vocal work, and explodes into a soaring chorus. Brandan is at the limit of his register, teetering into screaming territory, creating a euphoric experience. The song drops you back into a head-nodding verse and you’re ready for that ride again. I was beyond convinced that this was going to be another home run for Brandan, and almost went in for a package myself. Now hearing the whole album, it looks like they might have just had the one good song.
The album is bookended with the two-part title track, starting with a eerie acoustic guitar playing under Brandan’s whispers, and abruptly kicks into an overlong section that plays till the end. The djenty tone of the strings bending with almost every other chord is cool, but it's overpowered by some really unfitting vocals. I couldn’t help but think of a lesser Uneven Structure, another band with subpar cleans but a far more cohesive sound. It's harder listen when Brandan dwells on the boring line “Burn us, burn us, we are the effigies.” “Partner / Predator” is a song that doesn’t ever find a proper flow, switching between large, brooding chorus moments, the closest thing you’ll get to a true metal breakdown, and some weird ethereal transitions. At least “Bedburnder” is similar to “Fractional,” giving me some hope moving forward. It has one of the most exciting progressions of any song on the album, and its riffage feels a lot like one of the mid-paced B-sides of Wrongdoers like “Sword in Mouth, Fire Eyes.” What comes next is just outright dull. “Last Apology” tries to be radio-friendly, but in reality, it's not adventurous and barely memorable. Then we get a really slow song, which I mistook as a ballad. I’m not entirely sure why, but “December” is solid. The reverb and echo on the guitars are pleasant, and with Cory’s actual attempt at singing, the song is kind of beautiful, but at the end of the day, it's nothing special outside of the album and predictable. At least “Fractional” is next. Skipping ahead is “Hellelujah,” which is just annoying--not only does it bring more ill-fitting vocals, but it sees Brandan taking a moment to speak about the political climate. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, and his political affiliations don’t really come through, but the fact he thought it was a good idea to voice his politics on record is just an invitation for people to hate him, and hate him louder. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.
To be honest, I could go through the rest of the album, but I’d be repeating myself. It's not fun to write or read.
I was really looking forward to this. I may not have enjoyed Polar Similar, but I was hoping this would be different. The Prestaliis may be just that, but that doesn’t save it from being dull or incohesive. Some people will probably see this differently. I’ve disagreed with public opinion before, and I’m used to it, but I just can’t find much enjoyment beyond “Fractional” and “Bedburner,” which I still find confusing after three complete listens. Maybe it's the Norma Jean sound leaking through those two songs, or maybe it’s just that they were written first to be released alongside the album campaign, but it seems like Hundred Suns put their best foot forward too soon, and what came next wasn’t worth the wait.
- Alex B.