In Jesseworld, no band compares with Will Haven. They’re this weird mix of hardcore and sludge with this air of evil floating above that sounds like nobody else. If you’ve never heard them then you’re missing out. When they disbanded shortly after the release of 2001’s Carpe Diem, I was heartbroken. They announced a return in 2005 which was promising until vocalist Grady Avenell dropped out of the mix resulting in their fourth album, The Hierophant, being recorded with a different vocalist. It wasn’t the same band to me. But now they’re back with Avenell and their fifth album, Voir Dire, which is truly a beast from start to finish.
“Held To Answer” is the perfect way to open Voir Dire and herald not only Grady Avenell’s return to the mic but also Chris Fehn’s inclusion as the band’s new bass player. It starts as ambience that slowly turns into angellic melody until a thunderous guitar/bass/drum combination come crashing down. Fehn stands out from the beginning as his bass brings a slow ominous rumble to the mix then Grady enters and all is right in the world. There are literally three verses “sung” (I say “sung” because it’s very had to pin down Avenell’s style) in “Held To Answer” but they have the impact of a nuclear bomb being detonated. Devastating.
And then “When the Walls Close In” starts with Grady screeching the opening line and Voir Dire really begins. Guitarist Jeff Irwin is the unsung hero of Will haven. His guitar tones are so unique as he switches from menacing melodies to thunderous riffs. Coupled with Mitch Wheeler on drums and Fehn’s low end, the resulting sounds are cataclysmic.
“Urban Agoge” sways and shimmies through time changes and Avenell switches his scream for a quiet hiss until the Meshuggah-like rifftatsic climax. Speaking of Meshuggah, check out the heavy riffing that begins “Harvesting Our Burdens”. Then the song does something completely unexpected, it opens up into one of the most epic choruses Will Haven has ever created. And that’s the thing with Voir Dire, just when you think you’ve figured the album out, it goes somewhere else.
If the only Will haven you know is 2007’s The Hierophant with vocalist Jeff Jaworski then you don’t know Will Haven. Sonically, The Hierophant was still WH in spirit but without that missing part it just wasn’t the same. Voir Dire is a confirmation that you need all parts to make a whole. It’s a combination of all three studio albums with Avenell but takes the band to whole other plane of existence thanks to the addition of Adrien Contreras on keyboards who brings so much atmosphere to Voir Dire, especially in songs like “The Siege”, “Lives Left To Wither”, and closer “Lost”.
As soon as this album was announced I was determined that it was going to be my favorite metal album of 2011 and after hearing it over and over and over and over, I can’t see any other album already released or scheduled to be released taking the title from Voir Dire. It’s Will Haven incarnate. If you loved this band before, you’ll love them even more now. If you only knew them from The Hierophant, then you ain’t heard nothing yet.