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HAVEN - Your Dying Day

The Return Of Haven’s Metal

2017 has been a busy year for CD and vinyl reissues around the planet and few have been busier than Matt Hunt (Retroactive/Bombworks). He is dedicated to getting some of the cutting edge classics from those early days in Christian metal back in circulation on CD and vinyl (some for the first time ever on vinyl). The reissues of Haven’s first two albums on vinyl definitely caught my attention, although with mixed feelings. While these releases were coveted back in the early 90’s, I always remember having some hesitations about Haven because some of the songs on the debut were absolutely killer with their big classic metal crunch and speed (the title track, “Below the Grave,” “The Calling” and “America”) while others were a bit too “middle of the road” melodic metal radio friendly (“Deliver Me,” “Help Me Follow” and “I Found Love.” It was like they couldn’t decide which direction to go musically. The lyrics were solid, the guitars great, but the production was a bit thin in the sense that the bass guitar and kick drum were always buried in the mix, which was a shame because those two guys were really good. Still, Haven was definitely one of the better bands in those days in our scene and although they didn’t make the impact of Barren Cross, Bloodgood, Stryper, Deliverance, etc., I definitely wanted to check these out, especially with the added life that vinyl can provide.

Not having listened to these songs in the better part of the last decade, spinning Your Dying Day on vinyl was almost a “virgin” listening experience. I will be the first to confess that I was probably overly harsh with my initial impressions back in the day – this music is much better than I remember, especially the heavier tunes which have held up well over time. One thing that got my attention was the drumming of Tim Benton and the pace some of these songs carried – much faster than some of the metal of the late 80’s – a nice balance between power metal and melodic metal, kind of like what Queensryche did on their first two albums before they got more “progressive.” And yes, Kevin Ayers does have a harsh voice in the upper register but I love the lower tones which are best exhibited on the haunting “Murder” – a pretty progressive tune back then for a Christian band and a song I had completely forgotten about to my discredit. And this many years later, songs like “The Calling” and “America” sound vital with great lyrics we are well to heed.

But what about this vinyl reissue? First off, the cover artwork has been modified slightly (check out the album title font). It is a single sleeve jacket (medium weight) with single lyric sheet and one LP – side A with the first 5 songs and side B with the second 5 songs. I have the red disc (black=200, red=100). One of the coolest aspects here though would be the lyric sheet insert. It has the lyrics on one side and the original feature/interview and review from Doug Van Pelt/Heaven’s Metal on the other side. This is a nice touch that gives this release an extra nostalgic quality and value. The only thing missing is the band line-up and credits. The LP itself comes in a paper sleeve (I ditched this in place of the better quality aftermarket Mo-fi static free sleeves I use that help prevent scratching). I think the jackets Retroactive and Roxx Productions use are a bit tight so it can be a bit tricky to get everything back in the jacket without crunching corners. My preorder came with the band picture and poster (of the cover) as well. Once again, Matt Hunt has done a nice job with these extras, making it fun to once again collect vinyl like it was when I was a pre-adolescent/teen.

Objectively speaking, this isn’t the best quality vinyl pressing I hear (despite a good cleaning with my Record Doctor I am still hearing a fair amount of surface noise in some areas), but when you consider the era when this was recorded and the limited budget of the original masters, it definitely sounds good. Not to mention, it has that old school feel, like the early Metallica years, where the sound is a bit abrasive and more “metal.” I will say, though, that I prefer this to the CD versions from years back, I just would have liked more low-end punch. For those who really want to collect vinyl, especially from those releases from the earlier years in the Christian metal uprising when a lot of this was on tape, Your Dying Day is worth obtaining. The music is much better than I remembered and the vinyl just too sweet to resist. [Retroactive]

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