Haste the Day has had to fight, for their entire career, to stay relevant in the world of Christian metal. With bands like Demon Hunter and As I Lay Dying drawing bigger crowds and selling more records, Haste the Day has almost always been overshadowed, despite being just as good as their contemporaries in the early days. Their first two albums, Burning Bridges and When Everything Falls, were viciously heavy, led by the unique vocals of former lead singer Jimmy Ryan. After his departure from the band, the band slightly shifted in style to better accommodate their new lead singer, Stephen Keech. Pressure the Hinges and Dreamer had more diverse compositions and a wider array of music styles, but lacked the all-out heaviness of the first two albums. Now, on their fifth album, Attack of the Wolf King, the band is forced to once again adjust their approach after more lineup changes. The result is still enjoyable, but it does not feel like the same band anymore.
The good parts of Attack of the Wolf King are when the band stays heavy and sticks with the metalcore approach that they’re known for. Keech may not have the same level of primacy that his predecessor had, but he’s still a great screamer with enough raw power in his voice to outdo many vocalists in the scene. One of the greatest moments on the album is the song “The Place Where Most Deny”, which features a pairing of Keech and Micah Kinard, vocalist of Oh, Sleeper. Kinard is an immensely talented young singer, and his vocals add a great deal of power to an already-captivating song. The musical performance on most of the songs retains the band’s style from their most recent albums, carrying a variety of influences from within the metal scene. This approach definitely works for the band, allowing them to show their entire skill set and appeal to the most fans.
However, Attack of the Wolf King will likely have most longtime Haste the Day fans feeling like something is missing. This feeling can be attributed to the absence of founding members Brennan and Devin Chaulk. Both left the band in 2009 to follow other callings in life. Their replacements, guitarist Scotty Whelan and drummer Giuseppe Capolupo, are certainly capable musicians with plenty of skill on their respective instruments. But the Chaulk brothers, along with bassist Mike Murphy, were also the primary clean vocalists for the band’s entire career until this album. Now with only Murphy providing the clean singing, a lot of these songs don’t feel like genuine Haste the Day material. This is a band that, for its first two albums, had instantly recognizable vocals in both singing and screaming. Now, five albums into their career, the vocals are much more difficult to distinguish from other, less talented metalcore bands.
The final verdict on Attack of the Wolf King is that it’s still a good record, but it won’t have the same level of appeal to Haste the Day’s older fans as it will to the newer ones. The evolution and change within the band was unavoidable, and they cannot be blamed for it. However, there are still a number of things that could have been adjusted or left out to give this album a more classic and recognizable feeling to the established fans. At its heart, though, Attack of the Wolf King gives Keech a chance to show off his skills, and though they may not be as unique as others, his vocals are now the driving force in Haste the Day.
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// Notes from the Road
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