WILL HAVEN exists somewhere in the gray area between metalcore, noisecore, noise rock and sludge, synthesizing the best qualities into something the band can call its own. Social media and message board pundits can wrangle over the particulars, but what's important to note is that the freedom with which it roams continues to yield interesting and fruitful musical results. This approach once again renders fruitful results on "Muerte", one of the act's strongest releases to date.
The Sacramento-based band remains steadfast in conveying a very particular kind of brooding that's paradoxically high energy at the same time. Its focus upon slow to mid-tempo material coupled with a catchy nature would suggest that the band appeals to the mainstream side of heavy music. And it has in fact been championed heavily by the DEFTONES (Chino Moreno co-produced the 2007 album "The Hierophant") and SLIPKNOT (Chris Fehn, a.k.a. "#3," played bass on the 2011 release "Voir Dire"). Yet the group has remained an underground darling since its inception, only periodically peaking its head through a hole in the ice into the mainstream.
With "Muerte", the band's sixth full-length album, WILL HAVEN creates hard-hitting music with an almost danceable sense of groove. Sea-dwelling bass lines and head-nodding beats, as per usual, provide the solid foundation upon which alternately biting and sludgy guitar lines boost the sound and wander with ferocity. And, of course, vocalist Grady Avenell simply can't be ignored. His screaming isn't unlike that which heavy music fans have heard before, but the delivery is robust, passionate and exceptionally menacing and vitriolic. Avenell's hellish screams tastefully contrast the majestic melodic guest vocals of YOB's Mike Scheidt on the epic doom inspired track "No Escape". DEFTONES's guitarist Stephen Carpenter makes a guest appearance as well. Considering that the song gracing his presence, "El Sol", is one of the best songs of the album, one that brings his own band to mind, it seems odd that it is the album closer.
"Muerte", a Spanish word that translates to "death," starts off with "Hewed with the Brand". The opener begins calmly enough before the abrasive storm of metallic rage sets in. All that follows is a meticulously crafted voyage through lulling auras that are stricken through by shard-like guitar surges almost as though WILL HAVEN is tenderizing your flesh only to finally deliver murderous blows. WILL HAVEN's penchant for crafting atmospheric soundscapes is augmented with somewhat regularly but appropriately employed synthesizers. "Now in the Ashes" and "Winds of Change", especially the latter track, benefit the most from these dream-like, ethereal synth lines that help create a sense of drama. "Muerte" proves, yet again, that WILL HAVEN is a perfect band for open-minded heavy music fans—those inclined toward metal, hardcore, noise rock and more—who are seeking something that's truly different but familiar enough to appreciate.