79. Haste the Day: When Everything Falls

(Solid State, 2005)
(Solid State, 2005)

Haste the Day is one of those bands that has always “done it for me.” And what I mean to say by that is whenever I listen to them, they never disappoint. Oh sure, it’s typical metalcore. But unlike, say, As I Lay Dying or August Burns Red, they often play it with the edges smoothed off. In fact, if there was a smooth jazz version of metalcore, this would be it.

Okay, that’s probably overstating it. But what I do like about Haste the Day is how incredible the harmonies are. The music rocks hard and you get that growling screamo “singing” style combined with super-clean vocals, and the contrast works incredibly well. For those who hate screamed lyrics it’s the perfect compromise– and at least you’ll like the chorus.

While I haven’t consumed Haste the Day’s first record, Burning Bridges, as frequently their sophomore release When Everything Falls, American Love off the band’s debut is probably as good as it gets. The song has all the best elements of what the band brings to the table. But I think Haste the Day upped the ante, or took another step toward perfecting its sound, on When Everything Falls. For sure, there was little drop off on subsequent releases (Pressure the Hinges, Dreamer and Attack of the Wolf King). But When Everything Falls was quality from the get-go.

The first side of the album begins with a solid a string of quality tunes. Fallen kicks the record off with a galloping beat and the song reaches a crescendo about two-thirds of the way through before drawing to a close. Perfect Night begins with a great snare roll and some killer double-kick work early on. Walk On features a typical metalcore breakdown, but Haste the Day seamlessly transitions back into the chorus – and the sum of the song’s parts is real good. Four tracks in and Haste the Day absolutely nails it with the title track that’s highlighted by a super catchy chorus. This time around, the band comes out of another solid breakdown into a delicately constructed bridge that takes us back to the chorus.

And so the album goes, all while singer Jimmy Ryan sounds like he’s being strangled at times. One of the standouts track on the backside of the record is Bleed Alone, which moves along at an absolutely blistering pace and forgoes the breakdown formula. It’s flat out one of the best songs on the record and is Ramones-like short. The inclusion of a cover of Goo Goo Doll’s Long Way Down as the album closer is a curious move, but it’s actually a great cover. I’ve never been a huge fan of the song, but with Haste the Day doing it, it sounds good.

In retrospect, When Everything Falls is a good, but not great, album. It suffers the fate that many artists often succumb to: making records that sound too much the same all the way through. Still, Haste the Day is one of the better bands to come out of the metalcore genre, and When Everything Falls firmly cemented the now disbanded group’s reputation as one of the best.

TRACK LISTING:

1. Fallen
2. The Perfect Night
3. Walk On
4. When Everything Falls
5. If I Could See
6. Walls and Fear
7. For a Lifetime
8. This Time It’s Real
9. Bleed Alone
10. InstruMETAL
11. All I Have
12. Long Way Down (Goo Goo Dolls Cover)

LISTEN HERE:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/When+Everything+Falls/107580

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83. As I Lay Dying: An Ocean Between Us

(Metal Blade, 2007)
(Metal Blade, 2007)

Sometimes it amazes me how far Christian music has come. In the early days in the Christian music industry, while artists that played it straight were able to land recording contracts with the major CCM labels, those on the fringes playing less commercially viable music often released records that were plagued by poor production and distribution.

Boy have things changed. Today’s Christian bands that play hard, heavy music have never sounded better. Sure, the lines between genres have been blurred. But for those who prefer the driving sounds of say, metalcore, there exists a wealth of bands and quality recordings. (You sure can’t say that about Christian metal in the ’80s).

And one band that has been doing the genre proud for the past decade is As I Lay Dying, a band with six studio records to prove it. And while I’m no expert, An Ocean Between Us has to be one of the band’s best. Musically, it’s typical metalcore with driving double-kick beats, an abrasive/clean variation of vocals and loads of speedy guitar riffs. There are subtle differences in As I Lay Dying’s sound from earlier work, such as on 2003’s  Frail Words Collapse, which yielded such AILD standards as 94 Hours and Forever. It’s good record, but four years later the band sounds even better on An Ocean Between Us.

Take Forsaken, arguably the best song on An Ocean that brings all the best of As I Lay Dying to the forefront. There’s some great harmonies in the chorus, which give the song its memorable hook, all within the context of an abrasive and fast metalcore sound.

At times, As I Lay Dying sounds a lot like August Burns Red, another hard-driving band at the top of the Christian metalcore scene. You can hear that ABR sound in beginning of the title track, An Ocean Between Us, which uses clean vocals in the chorus (which sounds like Haste the Day or The Devil Wears Prada. Take your pick.).

For sure, front man Tim Lambesis has the voice for metalcore, whether his vocals are shouted, screamed or growled. On Comfort Betrays, Lambesis’ voice spits out the lyrics in brutal fashion on a track that is easily the heaviest on the record. I really like the arrangement of This is Who We Are, a song with another superbly constructed and memorable chorus, which moves along at a break-neck pace and finishes with nice, quiet piano.

When it comes to guitar riffs, there is none better than the one on The Sound of Separation, another standout track that rivals Forsaken as the best cut on the record. With 12 tracks, there is a lot of music on An Ocean Between Us, an album of typical but well-made metalcore that rivals the best the genre has to offer.

TRACK LISTING:

1. Separation
2. Nothing Left
3. An Ocean Between Us
4. Within Destruction
5. Forsaken
6. Comfort Betrays
7. I Never Wanted
8. Bury Us All
9. The Sound of Truth
10. Departed
11. Wrath Upon Ourselves
12. This is Who We Are

LISTEN HERE:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/An+Ocean+Between+Us/236635

98. The Devil Wears Prada: With Roots Above and Branches Below

(Ferrett, 2009)

When I first heard The Devil Wears Prada I was dumfounded. It was while jumping from video to video on YouTube, and when this song called “Hey John, What’s Your Name Again” came screaming out of the computer speakers…I was blown away. To this day, I still think Hey John is one of the greatest songs ever to come out of the screamo genre. It had a killer video to boot.

Now I kind of really liked Plagues, TDWP’s sophomore release that brought “Hey John” into the world. And Dear Love: A Beautiful Discord was a solid debut (Dogs Can Wear Bears All Over. Wow. Oh so good.) But With Roots Above and Branches Below, the band seemed to perfect their sound, even if musically it was not a whole lot different than Plagues (Plagues II as some critics have dubbed it).

Certainly, there was the same pattern of scream/clean vocals, with expected breakdowns.

With Roots, there was a turn, albeit slight, for a darker and more aggressive sound. It also spawned some classics, Assistant to the Regional Manager, I Hate Buffering and Ben Had a Kid come to mind. They even broke away from screamo pattern with Louder Than Thunder, a song which was anything but, that showed while TDWP was really a one trick pony, they could successfully break away from the tried and true with favorable results.

One potentially damning piece of evidence was once again the extensive use the keyboards, but somehow it blends nicely into the sound. As the album ends with the last refrains of Lord Xenu, it does so with keyboard. And it doesn’t sound cheesy one bit.

Certainly, the post-With Roots release the Zombie EP was kind of cool, and Dead Throne was a solid, if not spectacular, full-length follow up. Hard to say if the band peaked on this record, but one thing’s for sure: they know how to make great records from start to finish.

TRACK LISTING

1. Sassafras
2. I Hate Buffering
3. Assistant to the Regional Manager
4. Dez Moines
5. Big Wiggly Style
6. Danger: Wildman
7. Ben Has A Kid
8. Wapakalypse
9. Gimme Half
10. Louder Than Thunder
11. Lord Xenu