It's rare to come across a band that has been around for nearly two decades and still has the ability to put out an album that shows drastic progression from previous works and still sound great. However, this melodic hardcore/punk group that is set to release its fifth full length in February did put together an album that displays loads of progression. The band that I'm speaking of, one that has been around nearly as long as yours truly, is Shai Hulud. Because the band formed in 1995, it has been a major influence for countless bands in recent years, and after listening to the newest effort entitled Reach Beyond the Sun, it's clear how.
After a slew of lineup changes (the only original member is one of the guitarists, Matt Fox), Shai Hulud has finally found the perfect combination of members. Tony DelMonego is the other guitarist, while Matt Fletcher plays bass and Matt Covey pounds away on the kit. That leaves one thing: the vocals. If you weren't aware, Chad Gilbert – who provided the vocals on Shai Hulud's first full length entitled Hearts Once Nourished with Hope and Compassion, but is more widely known as the guitarist of pop punk band New Found Glory – did most of the vocals on Reach Beyond the Sun, as well as producing the album.
As previously mentioned, Chad Gilbert supplies the majority of the vocals heard on this release, but there are several guest appearances. The most notable guest appearances are heard on "If a Mountain Be My Obstacle" when Jonathan Vigil (The Ghost Inside) takes over and has several chances to shine and "Medicine to the Dead" – a song that features all of the officially recorded former vocalists of Shai Hulud: Matt Mazalli, Damien Moyal and Geert van der Velde. All of the vocals, whether they're provided by Chad or one of several guests, are top-notch because they sound exceptional and the lyrics (also a strong point) are very easy to make out.
Just when you thought it would be nearly impossible for Shai Hulud to impress you any more, you'll soon find out that Reach Beyond the Sun is one of the most melodic releases to come out in recent years. The majority of the album is extremely upbeat and melodic, but tracks like "To Suffer Fools" and "A Human Failing" show a darker side of Shai Hulud while still maintaining quite a bit melody. As expected, there is very little chugging on this release; but even when there is some, the spectacular melodies are dominant. "Reach Beyond the Sun," "Man Into Demon: And Their Faces Are Twisted With the Pain of Living" and "Monumental Graves" are three of the most beautiful songs on the album because of the masterful work done by both guitarists (and the rest of the band, of course). With that being said, my personal favourite is "I, Saturnine." With its devastating build-ups and goosebump-inducing gang chants, it comes off as a hardcore/punk anthem – one that will surely build anticipation, considering the fact it's only the second track you'll hear on your journey.
The thing that surprised and impressed me the most wasn't the plethora of melodic leads and crushing riffs; however, it was the abundance of changes in tempo and key, as well as several different time signatures. It seemed as if Shai Hulud was changing the main structure of any particular song at least once every 30 seconds, but still managed to make everything flow seamlessly. That – along with the spectacular vocals, jaw-dropping melodies and all-around excellent musicianship – is the reason why Reach Beyond the Sun is already a contender for my album of the year. If you've liked anything that Shai Hulud has released in the past, I'm positive that you'll feel the same way towards this album as I do.
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