After teasing a few songs from the release in early 2021, transcontinental straight edge group Sunfall released their debut 7-song LP, Reflections Beyond the Sun in the fall of 2021.
Toeing the line between familiar expressions and the warmth of nostalgia, the record begins with the hum of a volume swell that brings the song "Break the Light," in with a crescendo of glory. This song sets the stage for components present throughout the record—mighty group vocals, melodic guitar leads, and anthemic choruses that can truly be felt in the hearts of the listener.
The second song of the LP, "Growing Pains," begins with a bouncing bass line, providing the foundation for the song’s call to action of staying drug free. As the first single, this was the band’s first opportunity to make an impression.
Unlike many straight edge anthems of yesteryear, this track calls out sobriety as a form of personal growth and offers a helping hand in living one’s best life, in a non-judgemental way. One might argue that holding this mindset, as opposed to a traditional gatekeeping point of view that comes with the lifestyle, may break the stigma that all straight edge bands/people are “drug shamers” or proponents of US-based programs like D.A.R.E. that seek to further criminalize substance abuse by brainwashing youth into siding with law enforcement.
The outlook taken in this song is historically one of a road less traveled--that to be straight edge is to be an ambassador of support and not a harbinger of enmity. A perfect song in under two minutes, the fast paced verse/chorus combo is sandwiched in between two powerful 2-step parts rounding out the song in a to-the-point fashion.
The next song, "Go the Distance," further explores nuances of straight edge often left unexplored. What begins as a declaration of self, transitions into a narrative familiar to many who have chosen the lifestyle in opposition to the trauma felt by loved ones lost to addiction. What really stands out here is co-vocalist David’s expression of his multiple identities--father, husband, brother, son.
So many times, we hear straight edge pride being rooted in the scene or a crew one is involved in, but for David to bring it home in a way that is personal and pensive marks the evolution and longevity of straight edge, which is traditionally rooted in sophomoric clichés that no longer feel relatable to elder practitioners of straight edge.
For those in that category, this is a welcome refresh on something that can mean something different from the spirit of youth. This is the steadfast energy of maturity. The crushing guitar tone that opens up the song establishes a forward trajectory and steady pace that persists from start to finish in a way that would cause hands to form into fists and fingers to point with a classic precision.
"Unaltered" is everything I want to hear in a melodic youth crew jam. It’s fast, it’s got rhythmic precision, and it fakes you out just when you think you’re getting the payoff after a build up. The song dissipates into midtempo before giving you what you want to hear—a mosh part into an outro.
Continuing a lyrical tradition of advocating for and using brain power ("Wise Up" by BOLD and "Armed With a Mind" by Have Heart, off the top of my head), this song contains possibly the most memorable lines of the record: “Knowledge is a weapon, I’ll arm myself to the teeth. With a mind as sharp as the edge of a sword, I intend to cut deep.”
Reflections Beyond the Sun arrives at its emotional focal point by the fifth track, "Reach Out." A universally relatable narrative on mental health and the need to slow down the pace of life, the song ties in nicely to the subject matter of the first song, "Break the Light," as both express a recognition of the struggles of others and the collective desire to experience relief and freedom from the social structures and rat race that we all fall victim to in order to participate in society.
From this point, the record eases out into its final 2 tracks, "Born of Cynics" (lyrics to this one are by co-vocalist Daan) and "Open Book." These songs juxtapose two types of people—those who become more jaded and look back angrily on their experiences as time goes on and others like David who is mindful of those who helped him achieve his goals and offers a helping hand to others so that they might achieve their own.
To this author, an admirable quality of any lyricist is the ability to hide context clues by referencing the writing or lyrics of others. Two lines in "Open Book" that stood out to me were: “The dreams in which we’re laughing are the best that I’ll ever have” and “We’ll always have our say”.
While Sunfall have yet to play their first show and their distance across the globe will work against them to make that happen, Reflections Beyond the Sun is sure to leave a lasting impression on those who lend their ears to the record. I think I can speak for all of us listeners when I say that we are anxiously awaiting the day we get to see them strum their first chords, hit their first beat, and scream the words that we can only imagine for now.
- Dedication Records (CD (pre-order))
- Modern Illusion Records (Cassette (pre-order))
- SP Discos (Vinyl, CD, Cassette (pre-order coming soon))