Roll back to 1997 and the acclaimed UK music publication Kerrang Magazine featured a CD sampler on its front cover with that week’s recommendations. Sandwiched between Sepultura and Judas Priest was the track “I’ve Seen My Fate” by a rapidly emerging underground band named Will Haven. Originating from Sacramento, CA, the thriving local music scene saw them hanging out with the likes of Deftones and Far which brought much interest from both industry and fans alike. By the time their debut record El Diablo hit record stores, it was clear the group had a unique sound unlike anything of its time.
Over the period of 2001-2003, Will Haven went on to release two seminal and influential albums in WHVN and Carpe Diem which led to headline reviews, shows and festival appearances throughout the world, until what was to be their last-ever performance which played out somewhat prematurely in January 2003. It wasn’t until the end of 2005 that the band officially regrouped, and over a period of ten years released several further albums keeping them at the forefront of the extreme metal scene. It was then, following the release of 2015’s Open Mind To Discomfort EP, that the guys began breathing an entirely new life into their sound to sculpt their latest effort, Muerte.
With Joe Johnson engineering and co-producing alongside guitarist and founding member Jeff Irwin, the band secretly recorded throughout 2017 at Pus Cavern Studios, CA for what is Will Haven’s sixth full-length album which, according to Irwin himself, “...felt like a rebirth. It sounds like a whole new band. There’s a chemistry that only the four of us can achieve.” Kicking off with “Hewed with the Brand” you immediately know what Irwin is referring to. This record clearly takes things back to basics with the unique sound that defined them all those years ago whilst incorporating modern tones to create a chaotic, haunting auditory attack. Heavy, aggressive, downtuned noise punctuated by singer Grady Avenell’s powerful voice cutting through the musical chaos brilliantly.
The doom-laden “Winds of Change” maintains all those corrosive but cohesive elements alongside more noticeable electronics, with the addition of underlying atmospheric soundscapes which provide welcome relief from Irwin’s dissonant and angular guitar riffs. Tracks like “Kinny” and “The Sun” highlight perfectly the ability of the band to write simple but crushingly heavy sequences which sit seamlessly alongside periods of calm clean melody. Fans of the US doom metal trio YOB will no doubt enjoy the sludge-laden vibes of “No Escape” featuring the Deep Purple-esque guest vocals of Mike Schmidt. It’s what follows, however, which is the standout (for me) on this record. The riff heavy groove of “Unit K” transitioning into “Ladwig No. 949” and then “Bootstraps” is a masterpiece of sequencing which just enforces the passionate and powerful theme engrained throughout this record.
It will come as no secret that Deftones and Will Haven have always shared a special bond, and with Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter adding his magic by co-writing and performing on the closing 6-minute epic that is “El Sol”, there is clearly a renewed vigour and freshness to Will Haven in 2018 proving that the noise metal genre is far from dead.
Muerte Track Listing:
01. Hewed With the Brand
02. Winds of Change
04. The Son
06. No Escape (feat. Mike Scheidt of YOB)
07. Unit K
08. Ladwig No. 949
10. Now in the Ashes
11. El Sol (co-written with/feat. Stephen Carpenter of Deftones)
Run Time: 45.07
Release Date: March 23, 2018
Record Label: Minus Head Records
Check out the video for the “Winds of Change” single below.