Review: Sons Of Alpha Centauri ‘Pull’

In the twenty-plus years of their existence, Kent based post-hardcore rockers Sons Of Alpha Centauri have undergone a number of musical evolutions that have seen them amass an enviable body of work.

It might be the star-studded collaborations with the likes of Gary Arce and Mario Lalli (Yawning Sons), Will Mecum (Treasure Cat), James Plotkin and Justin Broadrick that have grabbed the spotlight, but the band have solid gold songwriting credibility through their eponymous instrumental debut, second album Continuum and most recently 2021’s most dramatic offering Push.

Sons Of Alpha Centauri 'Pull' Artwork
Sons Of Alpha Centauri ‘Pull’ Artwork

This previous outing marked a radical departure for the band that saw them bring in the high profile duo of Jonah Mantranga, best known for his work in Far, one of the most underrated and shining lights of the ‘90s Sacramento scene, and Mitch Wheeler of the equally influential, but brutally heavy Will Haven.

Along with Wheeler’s hard-hitting style (sharing duties behind the kit with SOAC’s Stevie B) Mantranga’s emotive voice gave the band an additional dimension on a project that may have started as a love letter to the sound and scene that SOAC’s bassist Nick Hannon was drawn to, but created an entity that was definitive in its own right. Sharing the same affinity to the time period and bands involved, Push scored big on my end of year top ten.

To great joy, the announcement of a new Sons Of Alpha Centauri album also brought news that the follow up would see a continuation of that relationship, albeit slimmed down to founding members Hannon, Marlon King (guitars) and their US cohorts. The previously one-off project struck such a chord with the quartet that it inspired them to continue developing the dynamics and ideas further.

Where Push succeeded in defying expectations and dragged the band into unknown territories, focusing on global, edgy paranoia, crafting a new sound focusing on distress and separation articulated by Mantraga’s soulful delivery, Pull sees the band upping the ante.

Settling comfortably into their roles, the band have further solidified their chemistry, opening up their musical progression to create an even more dynamic set of tunes, taking the original sound of the band, entwined with the influences of the post-hardcore movement into a more forward looking direction.

Ephemeral (lasting for a short time) starts the album with Hannon’s grinding bass before being joined by the heavy thump of Wheeler’s drums. King’s scything riffs set the tone for Mantragnga’s tense vocals. Immediately heavy, the band teases the melody with a moody tension before they finally break out into a luscious chorus with soaring, tender and fatalistic lyrics. The choppy middle section gets you grooving before the plaintive beauty of the vocal leads into the climax while the guitar work is up there with the best material the band have produced.

Once again, the dexterous bass work lays the foundation for Ease as the band smash into a riff that calls back to ‘classic’ SOAC material with its commanding, assertive crunch. As they power into a track as heavy as anything that they have delivered, the band have a swagger that combines a hazy, dream-like back and forth, the pummelling abrasion playing off the still moments of soulful pleading within the words, to the stop/start dynamics of the crashing rhythm section.

The chance for this special lineup to grow and further their songwriting is an absolute treat…

The title track sees the band go for the jugular with an up-tempo groove that reeks of defiance as Jonah spits ‘fuck this labyrinth’ and once more opens up in a series of escalating runs as they build towards the anthemic chorus. Rather than the sometimes-claustrophobic atmosphere of the previous album, there is an air of confidence and triumphant endurance to Pull that is born of the band growing together, having the ability to build on the groundwork of Push and challenging themselves to raise the bar.

This is evident on The Ways We Were, Mantranga, a huge influence on the emerging ‘90s emo scene who, in my opinion, never gets his flowers, pours his heart and soul into some of, if not, his best work after a teasing intro showcasing the skills of the other members of this trans-Atlantic collective. The swooping lead bends add flavour to the chord progressions as the impassioned singing mixes hope and searching questions.

Tetanus Blades and Doomed slow the pace with back-to-back ballads, the former droning and ringing with sombre beauty, awash with crackling effects while the latter sees more shimmering guitar runs with biting lyrics on the future of humanity that is the most downbeat commentary so far.

The slow-burning Weakening Pulse cranks the atmospherics, the meandering lead of King setting the scene for the half-sung, half-spoken vocal delivery before Final Voyage feels like a sequel to the Continuum era material with a solid riff that transports the listener on a harder edged journey, topped off by a huge nagging earworm of a chorus as catchy as Dark Night from Push.

As they finish with the epic drama of Unspeakable Majesty, it is easy to overlook the range of emotions they have thrown at you in just thirty-eight minutes, however, the climatic ending shows their ability to balance raw enduring heaviness and ethereal celebration like no other.

Recorded by Lance Jackman (Deftones) and Joe Johnson in Sacramento and engineered/mixed by Dan Lucas and Nick Zampiello (Cave In, Converge, Pelican, ISIS), Pull sounds fantastic, every ringing note, every cymbal crash is accentuated making the album pop from start to finish.

Given the Sons Of Alpha Centauri continual need for evolution, I was surprised and overjoyed to see the announcement that Pull would exist in the manner it does. The chance for this special lineup to grow and further their songwriting is an absolute treat, paying homage to the scene that formed an important part of my musical upbringing, whilst keeping one eye firmly on the future. Simply beautiful.

Label: Exile On Mainstream Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden