Minus Head
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Luna
02. 5 of Fire
03. For All Future Time
04. Evolution Of A Man
05. Paloma's Blessing
06. Wings of Mariposa
07. Diablito
08. Diablito II
09. No Stars to Guide Me
10. Feeding the Soil
11. La Ultima Nota

When WILL HAVEN released their debut album "El Diablo" back in 1997, it felt like the start of a brutal revolution. Ostensibly purveyors of sludge metal, via noise rock, the Sacramento crew had a unique sound from the start. Nobody lurched, slammed and eviscerated with quite the same bug-eyed zeal, and while there was never any real chance that WILL HAVEN were going to conquer the mainstream, 26 years later their early records enduring influence is simply indisputable. And despite a three-year hiatus in the noughties, this band have never lost their intensity or their distinctive musical identity.

Recent albums like 2011's "Voir Dire" and 2018's "Muerte" may have seemed a little low-key, in terms of production and promotion, but both contained the visceral DNA that made WILL HAVEN so exciting first time around. What the band really need is an album that echoes those early classics: "VII" is exactly that, albeit with an extra two decades of vitriol funneled into the formula.

Opener "Luna" sets the tone. Guitarist Jeff Irwin has always been a riff machine, and even though the song is over and done in less than two minutes, the sheer vicious momentum behind the riffs goes far beyond anything WILL HAVEN have recorded this millennium. Similarly, "5 of Fire" and "For All Future Time" stagger and stab with the same lopsided fury that first endeared the band to fans of noisy music. "Evolution Of A Man" has an obscene amount of scabby-fisted groove powering things forward. Frontman Grady Avenell still has a shattered-tooth scream to kill for, and even though his enunciation has sharpened over the years, he still sounds like a man on a mission to spit in the face of the entire world.

"Paloma's Blessing" is a particularly evocative, three-minute assault with riffs juxtaposed against hazy, blackened ambience and Avenell's roar offset by moments of brooding melody. "Wings Of Mariposa" repeats the trick, with doomy overtones and a stuttering, hammering pulse that thrums with desperate intent. "Diablito" and "Diablito II" are grimy showcases for Irwin's inimitable riffing, laced with ghoulish dynamics and mutant rhythmic tics. "Diablito" is arguably this album's emotional apex, and one of the most accessible things WILL HAVEN have recorded in years, despite still sounding like a runaway bulldozer constructed from charred meat. Eerie keyboards sing the songs to their final rest, before "No Stars To Guide Me" shimmers into being: a caustic, slithering call-to-arms, it hinges on a primitive, two-note riff and disintegrates into more vexed, ambient scree.

Closing with the unearthly chugging of "Feeding the Soil" and warped, instrumental epilogue "La Ultima Nota", there is no room for fucking around on "VII". These songs are uniformly short, snappy and savage, and WILL HAVEN sound as engaged, enraged and fired up as they did back in '97. Time refuses to be turned back, and it seems unlikely that this will have anything like the impact that "El Diablo" had back in the sludgy day, but this is by far the best thing the band have put their names to since "Carpe Diem". This is the sound of true originals on top form.

Author: Dom Lawson
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