10 October 2011
by Danny Montana
You’d be forgiven for wondering if Will Haven weren’t a spent force already. Once upon a time, their sludgy Sacramento metalcore chops were being heralded for the big time – even above their friends, Deftones – but it didn’t quite happen. Bad luck meant the wrong label, the wrong tours and a lack of momentum that eventually led to vocalist, Grady Avenell leaving. The Hierophant, with Jeff Jaworski on vocals, was a painfully average album but Avenell is back. Will Haven are back. Voir Dire is a belter.
From the spacey, sludgy opener, ‘Held To Answer’ comes that classic Avenell snarl in the suitably claustrophobic ‘When The Walls Close In’. It’s a welcome return. Those atmospherics are a recurring feature in Voir Dire as they appear between songs, acting as a brace to the face-melting, bum-dissolving heaviness that has just passed and is about to happen again. It’s the closest to respite you’re going to get in 40 minutes. Take it.
Impressively, the addition of keyboards doesn’t seem to have change the overall sound as much as it has added another sinister melodic texture, working alongside Jeff Irwin’s brilliantly downtuned guitars.
The issues that resulted in the curiously effective tinny sound of Carpe Diem have clearly been addressed. The low end is insanely heavy. “Thunderous” doesn’t come close to describing it. Of course, they have Slipknot’s Chris Fehn playing bass for them and he knows how to record something that sounds pretty gnarled. If anything, he has actually succeeded in making Will Haven a heavier band than ever before (see: ‘Harvesting Our Burdens’) and as if we’re ever going to complain about a band becoming heavier.
The unrelenting power of ‘Object Of My Affection’ makes you never want to be wanted by this band for fear of battery and ‘A Beautiful Death’ is a grandiose song that builds and builds til it explodes in a huge repeated cathartic wail of, “There’s no end in sight.” No, Grady. There might not be, but we’re ok with that as long as you are.
It might not be quite as good as those first three albums (El Diablo, WHVN and Carpe Diem) but with Voir Dire, Will Haven have proven that they’re still better than most other heavy bands around. This album is a fantastic reason for Will Haven to never to part ways again. We need this band.
Sounds like: Will Haven, Deftones, AWESOME HEAVY MUSIC
Top tracks: Harvesting Our Burdens, Urban Agoge, Mida’s Secret
Guitar solo rating: 0 – no time for solos, just the biggest riffs