When you’re listening to the gold-plated back catalogue of Norma Jean, as you should be doing most weeks, their music is always such a massive headrush, that listeners can be forgiven for not taking in just how special a performer vocalist Cory Brandan is. With a voice as razor sharp and dissonant as the music itself, it’s a perfect addition to the chaotic wall of sound they throw at you.
But put into the context of more straightforward hard rock music, Brandan’s vocals have a much weightier presence, which always makes the melodic parts of NJ’s music stand out among their contemporaries. Thus the release of side-project Hundred Suns’ debut, ‘The Prestaliis’, is a chance to see Brandan stand out as a proper lead singer.
Teaming up with ex-Dead and Divine guitarist Chris Le Masters and ex-Every Time I Die drummer Ryan Leger, Brandan has made catchy and accessible hard rock songs performed with the combustive energy of a hardcore band. Opener ‘The Prestaliis I’ is simplistic and repetitive but feels expansive and elegant, thanks to the urgency of the band’s performance and Brandan’s gutsy refrains of “Burn us, burn us, we are the effigy.”
From here Hundred Suns continue to display their ability for writing giant alt-rock compositions. ‘Partner-Predator’ builds in tension before climaxing in lavish post-rock soundscaping akin to Deftones’ ‘Diamond Eyes’, while ‘Bedburner’ and ‘Fractional’ pack slabs of groovy hard rock riffs, which slam as hard as their creators metalcore works.
The most thrilling aspect of ‘The Prestaliis’ is that it feels greater than a side-project effort. ‘December’ and the enormous ‘Hellelujah’ could be hits across the US hard rock scene if they were pitched to the right radio stations. Trading the cacophony of Norma Jean for the expansive grandeur of Hundred Suns lets Cory Brandan be a more defined frontman, and on the evidence of this album, he fits the role perfectly.
‘The Prestaliis’ by Hundred Suns is out now on New Damage Records.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)