The release of Will Haven's eponymous EP in 1996 changed the underground metal landscape. Countless groups tried to ape the band's signature sound a blend of mid-tempo hardcore and doom metal and many labels built their rosters trying to emulate its style.
Although the band has enjoyed high-profile tours with the Deftones and Soulfly and headlined club tours overseas with Crowbar and countless others, Will Haven largely has flown under the radar. And while the Sacramento group's lineup has changed considerably since its inception, the group's core of singer Grady Avenell and guitarist Jeff Irwin is intact.
Unlike other metal bands, Will Haven has not changed its sound to conform to trends, and its DIY ethic has gained it considerable respect among its peers.
The band, which is preparing to head overseas to play the annual Hevy Festival in the U.K. alongside such notable acts as Meshuggah, Converge and Glassjaw, plays tonight at the Blue Lamp in Sacramento.
Irwin, the band's only original, constant member (singer Grady exited and returned on more than one occasion), had much to say as he prepared for the hometown show.
Will Haven has been quiet lately.
Our label and agents push us hard to tour. We have had some amazing offers this year, but we have had to turn them down. We are not kids anymore. A few of us have families and normal jobs now so it's not as easy to get up and go like we used to. Additionally, it's five times more expensive to tour these days.
Your last record was released in 2011. Do you have plans for a follow-up to "Voir Dire"?
We have talked about working on a new record. I have some stuff put aside for a new one, but we will have to see where our heads are at. Bieler (the band's current record label) has been good to us, but we are done with them now (contractually). So we are in free-agent status. We haven't really looked into labels that much and are in no rush to find one.
Your tuning and playing style owes a lot to Bloodlet (a defunct hard-core band). Were you a fan of the band?
Yeah, I'm a big Bloodlet fan. I always loved how they were heavy but still so dark. I guess that does influence me in some way. I have tried to do my own thing but, of course, all the music I love finds its way in there.
Who would you say influenced your style?
My style was influenced mostly by Stephen Carpenter (Deftones) and Shaun Lopez (Far, Crosses) since I grew up with those guys. When I decided to play guitar, that's all I knew because I was with them all the time.
What other projects are going on aside from Will Haven?
All of the guys in the band are music lovers, so we are always doing something musically. Chris Fehn (bassist) is in Slipknot, Anthony 'Pag' Paganelli (guitarist) has a relatively new band called Horseneck, and Mitch Wheeler (drummer) and I started a new band called Goodbye Black Sky.
What can fans expect at tonight's show?
We will have the full band there with the exception of Chris. He's touring across the country headlining the Mayhem Festival with Slipknot. Mike Martin (original bassist) is doing this show and the festival with us. He is a total badass and I'm more than stoked to have him back on stage with us. I definitely miss that big guy. We just hope to see our friends out there (tonight), especially to welcome him back.
With: Black Mackerel, Journal and Abominous
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Blue Lamp, 1400 Alhambra Blvd. Sacramento
Cost: $8 at the door