In an era when seemingly every once-dissolved band has staged a valiant comeback, perhaps nobody has done so in quite the way metalcore legends Haste The Day have. While most bands only have to bring back one lineup, Haste the Day has essentially reformed two completely different bands into one: the vicious onslaught of the Jimmy Ryan era and the more technically-minded Stephen Keech version combine in the band's brand-new release, Coward. Unfortunately, the results are as mixed as the band itself.
Foundationally, Coward is as solid as you would expect from a veteran band. The riffing is strong, the lyrics are compelling, and the musicianship is commendable across the board. Unfortunately, the songwriting is a bit of an uneven mishmash. Perhaps this is because Coward represents an attempt to reconcile the two very different musical approaches the band has taken in the past. A great example of this is the track "Take." The majority of the harsh vocals in the song are delivered by Jimmy, and his raw, vicious approach is both fun and effective. But the aggression of the song is squandered in the chorus, with a clean-singing gang vocal melody that is far too simple and really clashes with the atmosphere set in the verses. It's great one moment, then lackluster the next.
In a way, the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen approach taken by the band successfully covers all the bases of their varied past without really excelling at any of them. The clean melodies are nowhere near as strong as they were in Attack of the Wolf King, but the raw, more "core" than "metal" aggression of the Jimmy Ryan era doesn't surface enough to make up for it. The technical level is high, but again not as good as previous efforts. Additionally, there are too many tracks that just wander around musically without really making a statement. The worst is "Reconcile," where half the track is devoted to one of metalcore's most frustrating cliches: the pointless instrumental.
That being said, there are still some great moments. The breakout in the beginning of "World" is spot-on, and "Accept" showcases what is probably the best use of Jimmy's vocals on the whole album. It's fast-paced and frantic, and the clean chorus stands up to the mood of the rest of the song. It's also a great reminder of how nice it is to have original clean vocalist Brennan Chaulk back in the band. The opening track, "Begin," is another firebrand rocker with particularly strong riffing, although it also suffers from the same mediocre clean melodies as many of the other tracks.
It would be unfair to call Coward a disappointment. When a band as loved and missed as Haste the Day decides to make a comeback, it's a pleasure to hear a new album from them even if it isn't their best work. Perhaps a more accurate word to describe Coward would be "decent." It's not a walk-off home run, like Living Sacrifice hit when they staged a comeback with The Infinite Order, but it's still a pretty good album. At ts worst, it's an uninspiring case of songwriting that isn't tight enough, but at its best, it's just a really fun metalcore album from a band that's good at making them.- Review date: 5/17/15, written by Timothy Estabrooks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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