‘Open the Mind to Discomfort’ was a disheartening offering from Sacramento noise-metallers Will Haven upon its 2015 release. For a group once revered for their urgency and feral caged-animal intensity throughout their stellar turn-of-the millennium run on ‘El Diablo’, ‘WHVN’ and ‘Carpe Diem’. The EP was the victim of tumultuous lineup changes, sounding tired and unfocused.
However, time can heal old wounds, and in the three years since the EP’s release, Will Haven has become a more stable and confident unit. Having allowed bassist Adrien Contreras to settle, sixth full-length ‘Muerte’ assures the quartet are back to their best.
If ‘El Diablo’ presents the sporadic chaos of a band having to perform in the middle of a storm, then ‘Muerte’ is the typhoon itself. It’s a pulsing dystopian landscape completed by piledriving metalcore riffs, scattergun lead guitar patterns, and a scathing vocal performance from frontman Grady Avenell who unleashes his catharsis of feeling hopeless and broken, and turns that fear into rage.
Boasting a much thicker, towering guitar tone, Jeff Irwin creates a towering buildup of tension across this record, while a more mature songwriting approach stops listeners from guessing what the buildup will lead into. On tracks such as ‘Winds of Change’ and ‘43’, the band can switch from whiplash-inducing metalcore grooves to a doom metal arrangement that flows with a malicious slowness, like magma trailing down a volcano. ‘Unit K’ and ‘Ladwig No. 949’ are fuelled by pure adrenaline as dissonant lead guitar sections shoot out across the main rhythm like bullets bouncing off steel walls.
What ultimately defines ‘Muerte’ is the scale and grandeur behind these moments of despair and chaos. There’s a graceful sense of pathos behind these layers of distortion that keeps you gripped from start to the closing note of the Stephen Carpenter co-written ‘El Sol’. Will Haven have re-emerged from a difficult patch as a more assured and focused band, and the result is an absolute triumph.
‘Muerte’ by Will Haven is released on 23rd March on minus HEAD Records.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)