By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A veteran heavy music act that rose to fame from the same Sacramento scene that produced such influential groups as the Deftones and Far, noise-metal outfit Will Haven plays a special San Francisco show Thursday to celebrate the recent release of its first new album in seven years.
Founded in 2005 by guitarist Jeff Irwin and vitriolic vocalist Grady Avenell, Will Haven came together after a short-lived project Sock involving Far guitarist Shaun Lopez dissolved. By the next year, the quartet had released a self-titled EP to solid feedback. While the band’s sound touched on the heaviness of the Deftones and the cathartic post-hardcore sound of Far, the group explored a much more dissonant and metallic groove that recalled the hectic intensity of NYC noise-punk icons Unsane and Max Cavalera’s post-Sepultura band Soulfly.
Will Haven would build their fan base with tours supporting friends the Deftones, Soulfly and Limp Bizkit in addition to garnering more positive reviews with releases like El Diablo, WHVN and early career highlight Carpe Diem in 2001. But despite the critical praise and commercial success, Will Haven suddenly announced it’s plan to break up after Avenell decided to step away from the band to focus on family and college, even going so far as to release a DVD featuring footage from what was announced as their last ever show in Sacramento in January of 2003 along with video from other recent tours.
The split did not last long. Less than three years later in the fall of 2005, Will Haven announced a reunion with Avenell. While the now group initially planned to just record an EP, writing sessions went so well that they decided to record their first full-length effort in six years. However, Avenell would again depart prior to the recording, with band friend Jeff Jaworski stepping in as Will Haven’s new lead singer for The Heirophant.
Avenell eventually ended up rejoining Will Haven after sharing the stage with the band for a couple of benefit concerts to help Deftones bassist Chi Cheng (who was seriously injured and in a coma after a Santa Clara car crash in 2008), once again becoming a full-time member for their fifth album and first to feature Avenell’s vocals in a decade, Voir Dire. The album was universally acclaimed by critics and once again established the band as one of the leading lights in experimental metal.
Will Haven has become more sporadic with its activity since then, but the group still regularly resurfaces with new recordings and live dates. A follow-up to its last EP release Open the Mind to Discomfort in 2015, in March the outfit unleashed its latest collection of songs (and first for Minus Head Records), Muerte. As compelling a mix of sinister ambient soundscapes and crushing guitar riffs as the band has produced, the album features guest spots from YOB leader Mike Scheidt (on “No Hope”) and Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter (on the sprawling closer “No Sol”).
The band headlines the Eagle Tavern in San Francisco on Thursday night for this Subliminal SF show that both celebrates the new recording and kicks off a brief run of tour dates in Southern California. Will Haven is joined by gothic-tinged Oakland doom/sludge crew Hellbeard and experimental group Sleepbomb, an outfit that has made a name for itself since 2005 performing live drone/doom soundtracks to movies like Conan the Barbarian, Metropolis and Bladerunner.
Will Haven Record Release Party
Thursday, May 3, 9 p.m. $10
The Eagle Tavern