Review Summary: An unheard of band release an overlooked album that turns out to be one of the best of the year. Surprised?
Will Haven; a band hailing from Sacramento, California, have never really gained as much recognition as one would hope. Despite the constant support from local act, Deftones, it can’t help but feel like they’re also being overshadowed by their big brothers. With the departure of signature vocalist Grady Avenell on their last album ‘The Hierophant’, things started to turn sour. It wasn’t a bad record per se, but a change in musical direction as well as the lack of Avenell made it the band’s weakest record to date. After being torn apart by critics and fans alike it seemed like all was lost.
Four years later and enter ‘Voir Dire’. Despite the constant praise for their album ‘Carpe Diem’ - it’s arguable the band now have a new magnum opus. The record ticks the boxes when it comes to being heavy and melodic, much like ‘Carpe Diem’. Moreover, it also contains some highly imaginative and thematic lyrics. So, what’s the big deal?
Well, the most impressive aspect of the album is how the band creates atmosphere. The sludgy guitar riffs and thick bass comes off as menacing, ominous and downright unnerving at times. This, in conjunction with solid drumming and Avenell’s screams and yells all mesh together seamlessly creating a harrowing ambient quality while still retaining its heaviness.
The best example of this is the album’s closer ‘Lost’ which really rounds out the mood of the album with the inescapable feeling of paranoia and conspiracy coming to a horrifying and devastating conclusion. The opening minute utilizes soft piano played at a sluggish place with a combination of screams, yells and spoken word passages by Avenell which really evolves into something sinister.
The group also use various sound clips throughout, all of which only emphasizes the album’s flavour. Such tracks like ‘Urban Agoge’ or ‘Lives Left To Wither’ contain very subtle and wicked dialogue usually appearing at the start or end of each track. Although hard to decipher whilst listening, it definitely adds a new layer of complexity to an already intense album.
Voir Dire sees Will Haven ascend a new level of musicianship and songwriting - one that is dynamically elaborate as it is evocative and atmospheric. A few lesser and more homogenous sounding moments keep this from being a classic, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t excruciatingly close. Not only is this the groups best effort to date, but is also one of the best in the genre - arcane, despairing, and melodic.