Dear 2005, this is 2010. We are sorry to inform you that Haste the Day is dead. In their place has formed a new and completely different band called Haste the Day. Though this band's line up includes former Haste the Day bassist Michael Murphey, I assure you, there are no similarities between said bands.
If the Haste the Day that you know and love has Jimmy Ryan for a vocalist, you are stuck in the past. With the introduction of Stephen Keech as vocalist in 2006, HtD's whole musical regime has been warped. Changes were made: some good, some bad, but the old HtD was gone forever. With 2008 came the departure of two more members, lead guitarist Jason Barnes and drummer Devin Chaulk, replaced by Dave Krysl and Giuseppe Capolupo, respectively. With the band's fourth album, Dreamer, they were still struggling to pin down their new sound, and then a loss by way of guitarist Brennan Chaulk left bassist Michael Murphey as the only original member. As such a drastic line-up change, this has had a profound impact on HtD's overall sound, which is why Attack of the Wolf King is undoubtedly the farthest thing from classic HtD that has yet been composed.
The gap between Dreamer and HtD's new album is nearly as dramatic as that of When Everything Falls and Pressure the Hinges. But with much toil and a boat load of new ideas, they have finally found a post-Jimmy sound that works quite well. To be quite honest, I was disappointed when I first heard new tracks from the album on HtD's Myspace page about a month ago, but hearing "Wake Up The Sun" filled me with unmistakable intrigue. The chugging drums and guitar, and Keech's newly gruffed-up screams showcases the new level of weight that they have employed, and Krysl's electric guitar squiggles with a completely unheard of voice for HtD.
With the first track already voyaging into all new waters and building hype most effectively, the eerie and ominous "Dog Like Vultures" takes center stage and surprised me even more. The harmonized chorus singing of old has been swatted away to bring forth an overhauled set up for clean vocals. New rhythm guitarist Scotty Whelan now joins Murphey in singing. New voices bring a new pitch, a much higher pitch. Occasional excursions into breakdown badlands are so far sparse, but "The Quiet, Deadly Ticking" bumps up the energy a few notches with a verse of hardcore beats and swings through a contagious clean chorus before igniting a hot box of breakdown and slithering guitar to warm up your bones.
If you weren't yet convinced that classic Haste the Day is gone, "Travesty" wipes away any lingering delusions. But the sullen, haunting tones and winding guitars numb the pain of loss. It's high time HtD is considered a separate band than the one you listened to five years ago. That's nothing to antagonize the new HtD, only to press a point.
I dare say Dave Krysl's guitar style has me chasing thoughts of Oh, Sleeper at several points throughout the album, the way his blistering fingering wraps and decorates the double kick and vocals in a sparkly gleam. In "Merit For Sadness," I begin to see the value of recent drummer Giuseppe Capolupo. He revisits some of HtD's old ways of building breakdowns with patterns that are oddly timed and hard to read, and then he adds his own persona to the cocktail with fluttery, snare-heavy fills. Keech's vocals peak in "Un-Manifest." The weak and flowery singing that he attempted in Pressure the Hinges is now dead and gone, and his skills at mid and low screams have improved even since the last album, becoming an entirely new level of menacing.
"The Place That Most Deny" seems to be a place of bent chords, bass drops, and gnarly breakdowns. The transitions to singing are perfect. They flow so comfortably from the villainous verses, as if the focus is turning from anger to truth. Guest vocals from Micah Kinard match with the new guitar tones impeccably as well, pleading to the listener with a sudden urgency. "White As Snow" is the resident ballad. Musically, the track is hard to listen to all the way through. Low chords dominate, but clashing vocals echo through and lay down an odd effect. The track never gets very interesting, and drags on for too long. "Crush Resistance" bursts onto the scene none too soon. This is a fast, barrel-chested track. After it has slipped under your feet, it impresses with force where the innovative gang vocals in the chorus could have done the same with creativity. And traces of a build up are whispered through most of the track's second half before the great hands of a dark, sluggish breakdown thrust you directly into "Walk With A Crooked Spine." The transition is completely unnoticeable.
The chords implore you to continue listening, and they do a great job. If I wasn't enjoying the album so much, I would have recognized "My Name Is Darkness" as the final track. And as it opens slowly and ends early, Attack of the Wolf King is over as quickly as it began. Fortunately, the finale is fairly epic (immersed in gang vocals screaming the track title), and ends appropriately. You were probably hoping for more after this, but unless you want to hear a terrible Black Eyed Peas cover in the deluxe edition, you're out of luck.
With such a unique name as Attack of the Wolf King, it is no surprise to learn that it is a concept album. It tells of a herd of sheep protected from a pack of wolves by righteous lions. To open with "Wake Up The Sun," a group of individuals (the sheep) are running from an unnamed threat, but feel that their "hearts are empty." "We've tried to run, but it's no use and all this time we've reached the point of desperation." With "Dog Like Vultures" comes the arrival of the lions. "Our eyes are upon you and we will protect you, be assured no fang will breach your fleece." This story can be taken as a basic analogy of our weakness, and Jesus' willingness to protect us. In "Travesty," the sheep proclaim their praise to the lions, as we to our Savior, "With love that the blindest eyes will see, you cover the darkest part of me."
The Christian metal scene has known few bands as resilient as Haste the Day. Since the departure of Jimmy, they have taken a rough ride that most bands would not survive, but they marched on. Even when they struggled to find their sound, they kept the faith. The significance of Attack of the Wolf King is tantamount to the quality of the album, and though the sound that Haste the Day was conceived in has gone, the persona has stayed the same. Further still, by warping the different styles that their previous two albums have presented and adding in quite a few new features that come naturally with new personnel, Attack of the Wolf King is without a doubt a new high for Haste the Day and a potential Solid State album of the year.
- Review date: 6/28/10, written by Wayne Reimer of Jesusfreakhideout.com