Review: “Muerte” by Will Haven

Sacramento, California Noise Metal veterans Will Haven have been making our ears bleed since their debut, 1997’s “El Diablo”. New album “Muerte”, Portuguese for “Death” is the bands 10th release in a 21 year career that has seen them surpass themselves several times over. So the question is, have they been able to do it again?

“Muerte” starts with an eerie and atmospheric vocal before bursting into life with Grady Avenell’s typical anvil heavy vocals alongside a post-hardcore riff from guitarist Jeff Irwin that delivers in both urgency and a rise and fall wave after wave of sonic attack. It’s a loud-quiet-loud variant that typifies Will Haven. “Winds of Change” then brings an atmospheric edge of darkness with riff pile drivers separated by eerie low synths and a huge bass sound. There is a gazing quality to the musicianship as the band slow up the sonic assault to allow the atmospheres to build while playing through some buried news reel samples, which give the whole thing a really haunting feeling. “Kinney” then lifts up the pace with a big bass sound while utilising a gradually growing and repeating cycle drum pattern that layers up the sound. “The Son” starts with a clean guitar tone before bursting into life as the drums, bass and vocals join. It’s dark atmospheres take the album to a new depth, the sonic equivalent to diving further into the black depths in search of a pirate vessel laden with gold and only finding a rusting trawler. It’s another song that closes with an eerie synth sound that comes from behind the guitars and strikes a note that fades. “43” has a crushing call and response guitar section, a huge post-hardcore riff balanced off against a much lesser tone giving it a real repeated punch. Grady Avenell’s throat shredding vocals tear through the song and help increase the darkness.

The first of the two guest appearances on “Muerte” comes in the form of “No Escape” with vocals from Mike Scheidt of YOB. His classic hard rock vocal tones add an eerie depth that works really well in stark contrast to Grady Avenell’s uncleans. It’s a powerful demonstration of how far Will Haven haven come in their musicianship to pull off the final result with this one. “Unit K” ups the pace dramatically, tearing through down tuned riffs without dispensing with any of the atmospherics of the previous songs. “Ladwing N. 949” is a sonic assault that delivers on many levels while also allowing some breathing space to the listener. “Bootstraps” is the first song to have a spoken word element from Will Haven in a long time. It’s a song that offers a lot in contrast, making the heavier seem heavier by broadening the sound. It’s not something usually associated with the Sacramento Screamers but it’s a great touch. “Now in the Ashes” is a song that summarises the album itself and condenses it into a single track, if that was possible. It’s a sonically huge affair with an epic nature to it that is rich and dark while also being crushingly and destructive at the same time. Closing out the album “El Sol” is the much reported on collaboration with Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter for the longest track on the album, at 6 minutes and 21 seconds. Both bands are great friends having played shows together as they came up in the scene and Will Haven have supported Deftones many times in the live arena. Carpenter’s choice of guitar tone gives a distinction and separation between his sound and Will Haven’s Jeff Irwin that suits both parties. The Deftones guitarist uses his opportunity in a heavier band to deliver some of his finest work. There is no doubt that the pair of guitarists should be collaborating more often on this evidence.

“Muerte” as an album is one of the most complete works we’ve heard in a long time. It’s an album that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the final echoes. The album has a phenomenal flow to it, a depth of darkness that is equally well reflected in the cover art. Will Haven have fine tuned the best elements of their sound to deliver what we consider to be their finest work to date, soaked in atmospherics, angst and vitriol delivered the perfect execution. [8.5/10]

Track listing

1. Hewed with the Brand
2. Winds of Change
3. Kinney
4. The Son
5. 43
6. No Escape (ft. Mike Scheidt of YOB)
7. Unit K
8. Ladwig No. 949
9. Bootstraps
10. Now in the Ashes
11. El Sol (ft. Stephen Carpenter of Deftones)

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