Oct 29, 2008 at 12:00 am

Few things can make a band's future as uncertain as the loss of its lead singer. Whatever the reason for departure, with very few exceptions, the band can almost never again reproduce its original distinctive sound. But Stephen Keech, Haste the Day's replacement for Jimmy Ryan (who left the band to spend more time at home), has at least tempered the storm of Ryan's harsher and biting vocal savagery on the band's fourth album. This is the Indianapolis combo's second album with Keech as frontman, and it's now apparent that a new, darker tone — in addition to that more accessible vocal style — has been incorporated into the Christian-inspired metalcore quartet's sound.

Despite the more mainstream vocals, however, the new album is notably even more explosive than the band's last effort, Pressure the Hinges. But with a more emotional and cathartic sound come more brooding lyrics, and the themes here are much more melancholic, even if a majority of the thematic inspiration is still rooted in the band's Christian beliefs.

Dreamer does find Keech's voice rawer and more similar to the Ryan's on this release; it almost sounds as though he started chain-smoking as soon as their last effort wrapped. The album even showcases Keech's wide range by winding down with a trio of sullen tracks that lack any real hardcore flavor following a bombardment of fury on earlier songs. But although the effort provides a wider range and some nice vocal flair, the band still needs to break away from its generic instrumental sound, especially the guitar work. Metalcore's a genre that frequently regurgitates sounds over and over again. Dreamer continues Haste's tradition of meshing hardcore breakdowns with melodic choruses, providing a beautiful contrast for the casual, uninitiated listener. Nevertheless, it's less inspired and even less memorable in the riffs department than the group's previous efforts.

Haste the Day plays Saturday, Nov. 1, as part of the Solid State Tour (with Norma Jean, the Showdowns, My Children My Bride and Oh, Sleeper) at Clutch Cargos, 65 E. Huron St., Pontiac; 248-333-2362.

Scott O'Neil reviews music for Metro Times. Contact [email protected].