Will Haven : VII

Will Haven VII

Seeing Will Haven’s name listed as the opening act during a stop on Deftones’ Around the Fur tour prompted me to snag a copy of their debut album El Diablo on the spot. After all, any band touring with Deftones at the time would have to be decent. This proved to be an astute assumption on my part, Will Haven were even darker and heavier than Chino Moreno and company. El Diablo blended sludge with Victory Records-flavored hardcore and a dense groove. The album proved to be one of the best metallic hardcore albums of the late ’90s, even if the band they were often compared to, at least for a while, was in fact Deftones.

After line-up changes and a mid-career hiatus, the Sacramento group still embodies the same combination of bleakness and anger they did in their earlier years. Much like on their 2018 album Muerte, they explore new depths of atmosphere to frame the hammering guitars and throat-tearing screams. After explosive opener “Luna,” the band keep up a steady barrage of syncopated chugs that devastate what is being passed off as breakdowns by a wide swath of bands today. While they don’t necessarily play a style of metal similar to Deftones, the two bands’ worlds continue to overlap, as Will Haven are working with Deftones producer Joe Johnston here, who dials all of the layered sounds in just right and captures a massive guitar sounds that still allows everything else in their songs room to breathe. 

The best example of the pristine mix this album received can be found on the song  “For All Of Future Time.” Rather than the guitars turning everything into a throbbing wave of downtuned chug—heavy just for the sake of being heavy—there is space created for the ambiance to really darken things and provide a dynamic array of aural color. Even in the band’s earliest days they came from a place where hardcore intersected with nu-metal, of which the emphasis on groove continues to be a potent part of their repertoire. Yet they seem to churn out progressively heavier riffs with each song, as if setting a personal challenge to keep outdoing themselves.

Will Haven’s commitment to creating heavy music does not exclude melody or hooks. Both of those are abundant here, not falling into the predictable formulas that afflict some of the more mainstream corners of metal. The band’s commitment to smart songwriting might not make them as accessible to huge rock festival audiences, but they have painted this album with an honest purging of emotion. Metal is overrun with bands that play atmosphere-by-numbers in a soft-to-loud manner, but Will Haven creates an atmosphere at their quietest that feels just as heavy as when the gain gets cranked up. The continued maturation of sound presented here affirms that their instincts and creativity remain as sharp as ever.

Label: Minus Head

Year: 2023

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