Eclectic, catchy as hell and deeply personal, Chelsea Park After Dark, the debut solo album from Hail The Sun frontman Donovan Melero is a stunning, cinematic release that perfectly showcases his versatility and musical expertise. Throughout the album’s eleven songs, Donovan – alongside Joe Occhiuti (a partner of Donovan’s at kill iconic records and bass player for Ice Nine Kills) and Allen Casillas (kill iconic recording artist and touring drummer of Hail The Sun) – explores countless genres and sounds, pushing himself to new heights while simultaneously delivering emotionally vulnerable songs that fans will easily relate to. Expanding on feelings of love, longing, loss and healing, Chelsea Park After Dark is filled to the brim with bittersweet yet incredibly hopeful tracks that mark some of Donovan’s best work yet.
Kicking things off is the album’s title track, which perfectly sets the tone for the songs to come, and Donovan wastes no time getting straight to it. “Hated Seeing You Cry”, the poppy, upbeat second track touches on a toxic relationship that he can’t seem to get away from, while the massive, “The Color Of Growth” finds him letting someone go despite his lingering feelings for them, proclaiming, “Forever was never enough.” Clocking in at just under five minutes long, “The Color Of Growth” is a great example of Donovan’s spectacular songwriting abilities, as the song grows and grows until it finally explodes in an epic finale.
Following “The Color Of Growth” is the sensual “Toxin,” which swaps large choruses and explosive guitars with a simplistic drumbeat and intimate lyrics. Only further driving home the album’s themes of moving on and letting go is “That City,” which finds Donovan facing the sacrifices that he has made to pursue music rather than a romantic relationship. It’s a bittersweet, stunning piano ballad, and the songs that follow find him struggling with the decision to either hold on or let go and move on.
Sonically, Chelsea Park After Dark is an incredibly refreshing release as well. Songs like the haunting “Closet Box” sit easily alongside the sweet, somewhat jazzy “Room 207”, while the massive “Timepiece” flows easily into the acoustic “Static Mirages”. Tying each song together are Donovan Melero’s iconic vocals and vulnerable lyrics.
Bringing things to an epic, cinematic conclusion is the album’s final track, “Better For The Next”, which really drives the album’s themes of longing and healing home in lines like, “The tattoos that we share are never gonna fade / But the way that we felt when we got them will go away.” While bittersweet, it feels like the perfect ending to the emotional collection of songs, coming to a close with a message of hope and proving yet again why Donovan Melero is easily one of the best vocalists and songwriters in the scene.