There can be so, so little to a Jeff Irwin riff.
For instance, on the track ‘43’ on this, what’s been discussed as their probable final album, one single repetitious note gives unto the violent hashing of a chord.
This is boldly minimal yet has the capacity to floor.
Originally a drummer, he stepped up to playing guitar early in the band’s career when no suitable guitarists were forthcoming, and attributes his peculiar approach to being self-taught.
It is recognisably his in the way Mike Kennedy (Vision of Disorder), also borne of a hardcore-influenced early-’90s US metal scene, has developed his own take on the style over years.
To still refine upon the particulars of individual playing style decades after becoming established shows dedication unto one’s craft, in this case matched only by the one-dimensional bludgeon Will Haven unfurl.
Single-minded and undiluted, ‘Hewed with the Brand’ commences with pummel and heft. There’s hardcore attack in the drumming performance; bass slides in from up in the stratosphere so that, bang: they have your attention.
Grady Avenell’s voice is pained – the delivery consistent throughout – reinforcing the uncompromising nature of Will Haven’s ire. (Immovable and unrelenting, inextinguishable; indefatigable.)
Evil keyboard effects see out several songs (some cataclysmic outros) making the whole thing seem tense, as though on the verge of becoming unhinged.
The tones and overall sound captured herein are of a giant stature.
Like Unsane, W.H. forged their own sound and operate now within its parameters. As ‘Muerte’ progresses, you get into the swing of things and can begin to anticipate what’s coming.
But periodically a segment or riff finds you exhaling through pursed lips, nodding, cheeks puffed. (One eyebrow raised, inwardly urging them further.)
Absent of technical complexity, ‘Muerte’ succeeds upon the conviction of those barrages. One follows another follows another follows another.
And that has been their strength for over twenty years: no concession given to ensuring that there’s balance. They match the intensity of Full of Hell and Cult Leader.
Things are pacy throughout.
As with one-time tour-mates Crowbar, there’s a misperception they always play slow. Further, Mike Scheidt’s guest vocal performance on ‘No Escape’ is alchemy itself – if it was difficult to imagine how that was going to work, it’s natural and integrated and has resulted in a clearly worthwhile collaboration.
‘Muerte’ smelled good pre-release. Previews of a track featuring Deftones’ Stephen Carpenter (contributing signature 8-string chug) engendered a healthy sense of anticipation for this, Will Haven’s first full length album in almost seven years.
Although, rewarding as it is, it’s felt it may already have been time to increase the technicality somewhat, if only to keep up with their peers.
Perhaps that would have diluted the attack. But if they really do decide to call it quits (this time for good), we’ll be left to only imagine what it could have led them unto.
3.7 / 5 – P. Thomas Donnelly ::: 23/4/18