Sacramento noise metal legends Will Haven deliver some of the darkest and most vicious material in their entire discography on their sixth full-length record, Muerte.
Despite various lineup changes and lengthy periods of inactivity, Will Haven have always persevered and released several acclaimed recordings during their over 20-year, off-and-on career. Though lumped into the alternative metal categories early in the career, the band’s unique sound made them somewhat black sheep in those particular scenes. They consistently distanced themselves from the tropes of those genres by melding noisy dissonance, angular riff structures, and dense layers of atmosphere while retaining an impeccable sense of groove. Though they never rose to the same level of prominence as some of their contemporaries, their singular sound has remained a quiet pulse of influence within the extreme music scene for quite some time.
When a band with an arguably cult following releases their first full-length album in almost seven years, people tend to take notice. As is the case with Muerte, the band’s sixth record and follow-up to both 2011’s Voir Dire and 2015’s Open the Mind to Discomfort EP. With their two most recent releases having been met with widespread positivity, not to mention their veteran status, a lot of eyes are on Will Haven as the release date for this record approaches. Listeners who have any semblance of doubt should be rest assured, however, because Muerte delivers on all fronts and then some.
This nearly 50-minute record touches upon and combines elements of every era of the band’s discography. The angular, dissonant guitar work of the early days, the bludgeoning groove of Carpe Diem, and the dense, smothering atmospherics of the band’s most recent material are melded together seamlessly throughout Muerte‘s 11 tracks. The opening one-two punch of “Hewed With the Brand” and “Winds of Change” kicks everything off to a vicious start and sets the mood for the album to come.
After a brief section of haunting soundscapes, “Hewed With the Brand” barrels into the listener with muscular, drop-tuned grooves, throttling percussion, and noisy, off-kilter chords. Frontman Grady Avenell’s infamous snarl is at the heart of this thrashing assault as the entire track is engulfed in ethereal ambiance. “Winds of Change” follows next with a back-and-forth struggle between city-leveling sludge and chugging, discordant riffs. This violent interplay eventually bleeds into a lengthy, slow-burning section of gargantuan grooves that stomp and moan like some otherworldly beast, which are then gradually swallowed by dissonance and gloomy noise before coming to a close.
Complete chaos ensues in tracks such as “43” and “Unit K”. These particular cuts are rife with oddly-timed, angular grooves and chugging beatdows, as well as feverish and dissonant riffs. These volatile tracks lurch and grumble with the band’s signature low-end and penchant for skull-caving sludge, but often transition into venomous, discombobulating noise riffs without warning. In contrast there are surprisingly melodic cuts on the album, such as “The Sun”, which channel anthemic post-hardcore into the band’s sludge-ridden sound.
The album’s sixth track, “No Escape”, is another one that stands out from the pack. The track opens with an absolutely mean and ugly groove that lumbers along menacingly before transitioning into a standard Will Haven, dissonant riff assault. This assault then transforms into a procession of doom chords that are spearheaded by melancholic, wailing vocals from Yob‘s Mike Scheidt. The opening riff returns to lay waste yet again just before the track makes a final transition into a wall of wavering sound in which Scheidt’s vocals meld into the near psychedelic atmosphere.
From the album’s first half of noise metal chaos, to Deftones‘ Stephen Carpenter’s seismic guitar work on “El Sol”, there’s plenty of fun and bloodshed to be had on Muerte. Despite the album’s name, Will Haven are far from being dead.
Release Date: March 23, 2018
Label: Minus Head Records
Favorite Tracks: “Hewed With the Brand”, “Winds of Change”, “43”, “No Escape”, “Unit K” and “Bootstraps”