It has been a while since Haste The Day has released any music, and for all intents and purposes the band had broken up in 2011. They were ranked up there with Underoath as being the pioneers of Christian metalcore, and the entire metalcore genre as a whole. They consistently delivered music that was laden with churning aggression and driven by a soaring sense of melody. It was a sad day when they announced that they would be breaking up, as up to that point – they had been dominating my musical tastes and had promptly opened my ears to a wide range of metal bands that further helped to shape my musical tastes.
However, with a five year gap, the length of high school in South Africa, between Attack on the Wolf King, and their latest offering Coward a lot has changed. I am no longer the rosy-cheeked 13 year-old Christian that I was back then, but rather an abrasive and hardened atheist, and the nature of the metalcore has changed a lot over the past five years. It saw the rise of bands like Pierce The Veil and Bring of the Horizon, bands that completely redefined how metalcore should sound, and the fanbase associated with the scene.
Re-enter Haste The Day, and a line-up consisting of the original line-up and the line-up from the years of Attack on the Wolf King. The first thing that becomes apparent from the opening song of Coward is that the band has paid no-mind to the ever fluctuating nature of metalcore. They launch straight into the sound that first placed them on the map, and that led to them defining an entire genre. Coward starts with the pummelling break-down of “Begin”, and it is from this point onward that you know that Haste The Day will not be holding back with their new album. Coward quickly becomes 11 tracks of seething aggression tempered by a chugging sense of melody and serene moments of sincere beauty as orchestral elements slip in-between the blasts of double-bass and snarling guitar riffs.
It is evident that the fusion of the two line-ups has produced an interesting hybrid with regards to Haste The Day’s sound. Their earlier work was rooted in much more distinctive melody, while their later albums draw on a much harsher sound punctuated by moments of soaring melody. Coward finds itself at a crossroads between the harsh sound that characterized their later albums, and the chugging melody that drove their first couple of albums. This comes from the vocal trade-offs between Jimmy Ryan and Stephen Keech, as their vocal styles so strongly contrast one another. Couple this with a jarring juxtaposition of snarling hardcore styled guitar riffs, and cleaner melodic guitar riffs, and you have a musical style that is the epitome of everything brilliant about metalcore.
The part that I always loved about Haste The Day were their lyrics, and it was also the part that I was the most wary about with regards to Coward. Unlike many Christian bands, Haste The Day is not one for ambiguity within their lyrics and it is difficult for one to not acknowledge that Coward is a Christian record. Yes, Coward is the metal equivalent of praise and worship, and there is no escaping the obvious religious references. However, there is enough breathing room for one to twist the lyrics to become secular, and as usual it becomes an album about love, hope, recovery, and just generally making the world a better place and the journey to becoming a better person.
Haste The Day dominated the metal scene for a decade, and then left a lasting legacy despite breaking up. They were the less popular Underoath, but had as massive of an effect on the nature of the modern metal scene. Coward may be their first album in a while, and it may be a very jam-packed line-up filled with musicians that have clearly aged a bit since they last released music. That aside, Coward is a brilliant album and a massive effort considering that it was entirely crowd-funded. The high point of the album is quite possibly the female vocals that are slipped into the mid-point of the album on “Shadows”. They come out of nowhere between guttural screams and pummeling breakdowns, and it is that moment that embodies Haste The Day: serene beauty in moments of harsh desolation.