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Final Countdown

Christian metal band Haste the Day goes out in style.

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To the culturally observant with listening habits that fall outside of Christian-oriented rock/metal and the (still) ultra-confusing, oversaturated world of emo/screamo/metalcore, Indiana's Haste the Day may have fallen through the cracks, a casualty of what seemed like a never-ending procession of terminally similar bands that reached critical mass around 2005.

Much to the chagrin of both the underground metal elite and blog-based indie tastemakers, this stuff never limped off with its tail between its legs. For instance, when Haste the Day announced this tour as their farewell run after 10 years and five proper albums, metalsucks.net (the self-proclaimed "New York Times of Metal") left no one guessing as to how it felt about the demise of this "verb-the-noun" band.

But, first of all, "haste" is not a verb. The phrase "haste the day" was taken from a hymn by the band's founding members, and centuries-old hymns should be immune to grammatical hair-splitting. And belying the rather benevolent feel of their moniker and frequent use of a honey-smooth delivery to counteract the screech-to-scream vocals dominating the band's discography, Haste the Day truck in a heavy (and harsh) amalgam of metal styles. Though Haste the Day is certainly not alone among their peers in the appropriation of melodic death metal and thrash-metal riff/lead work, they do manage an astonishingly well-written and catchy approach pushed along by a massive heaviness that has no doubt surprised a few naysayers over the last decade.

Unlike contemporaries Underoath, Haste the Day hasn't won a Grammy, moved 98,000 copies of an album within a week of its release, or debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200. But the band does have a sturdy following, and, like Underoath, the members of Haste the Day are openly Christian. The band has dealt with numerous lineup changes, and at the time of this farewell tour (which follows last summer's release of the fifth and final Haste the Day album, Attack of the Wolf King), only one original member remains. But while most bands with lineup turmoil chalk it up to creative differences, an insufferable tyrant in control of things, or drug and alcohol misbehavior, Haste the Day's members have mostly departed due to family obligations or mission work and other callings within the church. Because of this, little, if any, animosity exists between the Haste the Day family as a whole.

The band's five albums were released during a six-year period, beginning with the debut Burning Bridges in 2004. All five were on Solid State Records, the metal and hardcore-focused subsidiary of the long-running Christian indie-alternative imprint Tooth and Nail Records. Tooth and Nail has seen seven of its releases (or affiliated releases) achieve R.I.A.A. gold certification (sales of 500,000 or more), most notably Underoath's Define the Great Line, the previously mentioned title that debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts in 2006.

This is a very telling phenomenon in regard to the current state and future of the style of music favored by Haste the Day and their ilk. It's still a source of criticism and ridicule via some factions of the secular underground, but operating within the Christian metal and rock community is revealing itself to be a surprisingly fortuitous and comfortable position amidst the uncertainty felt by every other nook and cranny of the music business.

Christian metal and rock fans are generally far more supportive than their secular counterparts. And they are many. Once considered an outsider or novelty concern by most of the secular music world, Christian-based rock and metal is now an economically healthier alternative. It is one of the only factions of the business that can truly call itself a community and, as such, is practically self-sustaining. This is why Christian metalcore and hardcore bands are still around, while their secular counterparts either suffered creative bankruptcy or simply dissolved.

It should be understood that Haste the Day is not overtly Christian in creative content or message and that the band does not preach to its audience. The band's faith is internal and personal, and the song titles and lyrics are heavy with metaphor, while some seem to have nothing to do with religion at all. Still, Haste the Day has shown respectable integrity during its successful run, with band members leaving the ranks when they were questioning their own faith.

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