Picture the scene, you’re a young (ish) nu-metal head standing in the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton eagerly awaiting your heroes Deftones who are currently touring the now landmark record Around The Fur (Maverick). But of course, there are always those pesky support bands to get through until you reach the main course. On that night Will Haven was the first band up and had just released their classic début record El Diablo (Crisis) and I had no idea what I was in store for. They completely blew me away. I’d never up to that point heard anything quite like them. Slower, heavier more creepier sounding than Deftones but seemed to share the same almost ethereal aesthetic so common with the headliners’ music.
It is with great anticipation that I now get to talk about the new record, Muerte (minusHEAD), from a band that has had such a profound effect on metal since their inception without ever really being noticed for it. A lot of this could be down to their deeply underground work ethic and sporadic release schedule.
From the start Muerte doesn’t seek to push the band’s sound in any new directions, keeping the same pounding rhythms and Sludge Metal riffs to the fore, Will Haven seem to be cementing themselves once again as true pioneers of their craft.
This may to some seem like a band resting on their laurels and almost in some respects becoming formulaic. However, you simply cannot ignore the truly visceral nature and feel of Will Haven’s music; opener ‘Hewed With A Brand’ is literally a great place to start and shows that the band has lost none of the power that has fuelled them from day one. That signature guitar sound of Jeff Irwin is omnipresent creating thick walls of sound that batter you senseless, everything here drips with atmosphere as if the music is lurching from a black void contained in your speakers.
The return of original vocalist Grady Avenell on 2014’s Voir Dire (Bieler Bros/Holy Roar) was met with unanimous positivity and he is right back in the groove again on Muerte. Grady has always been that final piece of the puzzle for me and was dearly missed. His rasping, bile-filled vocals are so effective on songs like ‘Now In The Ashes’ and ‘Winds OF Change’ that the constant switch of the music from Metalcore groove to post-Metal doom-laden soundscapes is just effortless and brilliant.
Muerte is everything I have come to expect from a Will Haven record which is both a blessing and a tiny bit of a curse.
They have lost none of their ability to create epic soundscapes with a truly one-off and unique sound. There are even new elements thrown in here and there such as post-metal and some electronics. I just wish there was something a bit more to it, but now with a much more settled line-up, we may get more experimentation on the next release.