Review Summary: Haste the Day returns with a career spanning 9-member lineup to create the album to end all albums of their tenure as a band, a final hurrah, and what a glorious hurrah it is.
After a brief hiatus and an immensely successful crowdfunding campaign, metalcore legends Haste the Day have returned with a nine-member lineup comprising of members from every era of the band, most notably the harsh-vocal duo of original vocalist Jimmy Ryan and replacement Stephen Keech being showcased for the first time on a studio album. The original guitarists, the Chaulk brothers, have also stepped back to augment the lineup on this last magnificent hurrah of an album. After months of anxious waiting, the fruits of the band’s labor have come to reality in the form of Coward, and holy hell does it live up to the hype.
From the opening seconds of the pummeling “Begin,” it is clear that HTD is back and is not messing around. Keech commands the song with his screams, and the track is a raging indicator of what is to come: Heavy and hard-hitting metalcore riffing with a prevalent sludge influence, absolutely monstrous harsh vocals, and a feeling of nostalgia than any fan of the band back in the day will immediately feel.
As the album lurches headfirst throughout its intense track list, fans of any era of the band should find themselves at home. “Take” is a short and sweet metalcore romp that showcases Ryan’s triumphant return to vocals, and it’s like he never took a day off from rehearsing with the group. The gang shouts that rule the chorus will become embedded in your head and I’m sure into their live setlist for as long as this reunion lasts.
“World” is the first instance of true melody, with Brennan Chaulk taking over singing duties in the chorus. his voice is notably weary, but let’s be honest, he was never the driving force behind the band’s sound to begin with, and with Ryan and Keech pulling double duty on singing and screaming, the sub-par cleans from Chaulk do little to hinder the album’s appeal.
Album highlights come numerously and quickly, the decimating breakdown in the title track led by the dueling vocal assault of the two veterans will pummel you into submission, “Reconcile” starts instrumentally as a relaxed post metal titan, then evolves over its runtime to one of the most satisfying climaxes on the disc.
“Shadow,” the indisputable highlight of the album, veers into more experimental territory for HTD. Initially domineered by Ryan’s gritty screams, the sludgy riffs and grating screams give way about a minute or so in to the albums single most mesmerizing moment- an ethereal bridge that sees the band dabbling in shoegaze with layered guitars, heavenly atmospherics, and tranquil female vocals that provide one of the album’s few moments of breathing room.
When “Accept” came on for the first time, I thought Coward had ended and iTunes had looped me back to the band’s earlier days on either of their first two LP’s. That’s how much this track sounds like a throwback to the band’s metalcore roots on “When Everything Falls” and “Burning Bridges” days, and it’s a hell of a sweet romp through the band’s early sound juxtaposed with the proficiency at their instruments that the original lineup has gained since that heyday.
Closing on the fittingly epic “Gnaw,” another standout, the album fades away into a haze of tentatively struck piano keys after one of the most monumental dueling-vocal moments from Ryan and Keech. Haste the Day chose to make their new album for the fans, and by what the fans wanted. I don’t think I’m alone when I speak for much of their fanbase when I say that all I wanted from Coward was a heart filled effort full of riffs and sick-nasty screaming, and the band has delivered in spades.
Whether it’s an amalgamation of the band’s various sounds over the years (“Begin, Take, World), titanic post metal dirges that recall Ryan’s band Trenches (Coward, Shadow) or blatantly going back in time to lift inspiration from the very first incarnation of the band’s lineup (Accept,) the band caters to what the fans have been clamoring for since their disbandment 5 or so years ago, or maybe even a decade or so ago when Jimmy Ryan left the band for the first time.
Either way, Coward stands as a massive triumph for Haste the Day as a musical unit and their fans that raised the massive amount of money that brought this album to be. Throw this on and get lost in the nostalgic memories, and I hope you’ll have half as much fun with this album as I did.