Review Summary: And may this album stand as a testament to Haste the Day both past and present when everything falls away.
There are few things as frustratingly abrupt and depressing as, say, the sudden (but in retrospect inevitable) break-up of a beloved band in Haste the Day or the maddeningly inconclusive end of Inception. Whereas Inception left the audience hanging with an unnecessary Shymalam-a-ding-dong twist ending from film industry favorite Christopher Nolan, metal industry underdog Haste the Day chose to be the bigger man and release one final musical endeavor from the halls of their catalog before bidding adieu to a generally faithful fanbase.
This is where the live album Battle Royale: Haste the Day vs. Haste the Day comes into play. Released in 2011 after the band announced their break-up in 2010, the album is a recording of the album release show for the band’s final full-length studio LP Attack of the Wolf King (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and was a uniquely billed show featuring literally every member of the band from its inception over 10 years ago until the date of the show.
Yes, friends. This means the live album represents the best and worst of every Haste the Day album with original frontman Jimmy Ryan (of Burning Bridges and When Everything Falls fame) and his sidekicks Devin Chaulk and estranged guitar players Jason Barnes and Brennan Chaulk playing older songs alongside the more recent lineup consisting of Stephen Keech, former Once Nothing drummer Giuseppe Capolupo, and a host of other musicians including the only remaining original member Mike Murphy.
Notably, the show and album appear to have very little of a draining effect on bassist and sometimes vocalist Mike Murphy who was the only member to stick with the band throughout its lifetime and therefore appears on almost every song performed; his vocals on the track “Substance” here are somehow more intense live towards the end of their set then they ever were on album.
The band starts things off tellingly with an audio clip from the Roland Emmerich masturbatory-special-effects-mansplosion Independence Day before jumping straight into the song “68” (off their generally worst-received album Dreamer).
Things progress rather predictably across the length of the album. Anyone who purchased this is likely a fan of the band already and would be pleased with the track listing on the CD (though some songs appear exclusively on the DVD included in the physical release). The band is generally spot on regardless of line-up. The main differences are noticeable in the stylistic differences between the two drummers with the consistent yet somewhat non-experimental style of Devin Chaulk (who also contributes his serviceable vocals to the band’s performance of “Blue 42”) as compared with the fill crazy and solo-tastic drumming of Giuseppe Capolupo.
The real treat on this album is hearing the interplay between the two vocalists as they switch back and forth between line-ups. The humbled Stephen Keech and Jimmy Ryan joke with each other accordingly throughout the set and speak of their experiences in the band almost as if they knew this would serve as the emotional nail in the coffin for many of their fans just a few months down the road. The personalities of the two vocalists are both on display with their different approaches to stage performance. With Keech taking the more expected metal vocalist persona by encouraging the audience with, “I want to see this room explode,” and Ryan almost hilariously using banter uncharacteristic of the genre, “I want to see you guys shake your booties to this part.”
The album falls prey to the expected trappings of any live album. The drums are characteristically over-powering with the vocals fading in-and-out as the two vocalists engage the audience. And any live album is going to fall into a rather specialized category: fans of the band will dig it. If you're unfamiliar with Haste the Day, then this isn't for you. But anyone who enjoys this band (even more casual fans) may find the live sound welcome, particularly if they never got the chance to see them live.
Both of the band's lead vocalists sound on par with their best studio work, and Jimmy Ryan's vocals and stage presence beg the question whether his new band Trenches has been doing Haste the Day covers at rehearsals. His voice sounds just as poisonous now live as it did during his heyday with the band. Contrasting with the more traditional but more crowd friendly vocal work of Stephen Keech.
At the close of the album, the two vocalists work together for the band’s final, and fittingly so, song during the set, “When Everything Falls.” As the somehow rejuvenated band powerfully works through songs from each of their album (including a touching rendition of the acoustic track “Autumn” from both the band’s EP That They May Know You and the full-length Dreamer), everything culminates with this final blast of vitriol.
And may this album stand as a testament to Haste the Day both past and present when everything falls away.