Monday, January 28, 2019

The Long Hundred 007/100: Will Haven - El Diablo which the hardcore scene's redheaded stepchild beat the traffic before the post-metal pile up.

[This is part of a series of posts dedicated to 100 albums I feel lucky to have heard. The full list and a more detailed explanation of the series can be found here.]

Back in college, a friend I used to trade tapes with tacked on a few songs from the first Will Haven album on a cassette that was otherwise filled with more "traditional" hardcore bands. The transition from formulaic nineties hardcore to the hook-driven apocalpyticism of "Stick Up Kid" and "I've Seen My Fate" was jarring, but it was the reason that Will Haven stood out and became one of the few bands from that series of tapes that I remember. As a die hard (perhaps unreasonably so) Sepultura fan, it was hard not to fall for the Will Haven's percussive, groove-centric sound, which was undeniably influenced by Chaos A.D. and Roots. But there was much more to the band than that.

Will Haven came from Sacramento, a city in California roughly halfway between Bakersfield (ground zero of the nu-metal outbreak) and the Bay Area (where Neurosis had already begun transforming the musical landscape with their atmospheric sludge). Will Haven found themselves similarly in between those two styles, and arrived at a style of doomy hardcore that was at once catchy and solemn. This band should have been huge, but were weirdly shunned by the hardcore scene.

In an issue of the zine Rumpshaker, synth punk anal wart Atom and His Package was asked to review the album, and dismissed it based on the Deftones being thanked in the liner notes. This wasn't an outlying attitude: though Revelation signed Will Haven soon after El Diablo was released, the venerated hardcore label seemed embarrassed by their new prospects as they rubbed shoulders with the likes of Deftones and Soulfly. Will Haven, it seemed, appealed to the "wrong" kind of heavy music fan and were largely ignored by hardcore kids as a result.

In truth, Will Haven's grooves (usually in 3/4, a time signature that's almost unheard in either hardcore and nu-metal) had more in common with Snapcase than they did with Korn or Limp Bizkit; and Grady Avenell's throat scraping screams wouldn't have been out of place on a Deadguy album. But where Will Haven really separated themselves from the one-chord wonders of the time was the band's atmospheric riffing. Decades before the terms "post-metal" or "doomgaze" were even uttered, Will Haven pioneered the use of shoegazing guitars and ambient interludes in heavy music.

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