It was supposed to be their last album – but it may give Sacramento band Will Haven new life

Will Haven.
Will Haven.

Back in 2015, when local experimental noise metal band Will Haven released its latest EP, "Open The Mind To Discomfort," band members thought it might be time to take a break.

They didn’t want to stop playing music, so the group still got together and jammed. The music was completely different, much more in the vein of the atmospheric jams of Pink Floyd.

Singer Grady Avenell told guitarist Jeff Irwin that he wanted to make a final Will Haven record. The name was going to be "Muerte" (Spanish for death, as in the death of the band), and so they got to work.

The record gets released on Minus Head Records on March 23 – but now they are not sure whether it will be the band’s final record.

“We posted something on our Facebook page about toying around with the idea of doing another record and right away we had 800 likes on it. It’s like, ‘OK, people actually care,’” Irwin said. “At least we know that five people are going to listen to this record. You don’t want to put out a piece of art and nobody listens to it.”

The idea of a final record titled "Muerte" gave the band a lot of inspiration. Irwin says he sat with the concept of death and let it inspire him. His typical songwriting style is to not think of music as songs, but to imagine a movie and to write its soundtrack. For "Muerte," he had an image of someone realizing that they were going to die and being overwhelmed with sadness.

He’d imagine various scenes, like how he would feel coping with his parents’ death, and created a musical version of this. This led to some songs with lots of different parts. Some start heavy and chaotic and then turn quiet and peaceful.

“The hope, despair, loneliness and reflection of all the times we had together and how they’re gone. That’s pretty powerful emotions. I put myself in that position of going through the stages of death,” Irwin says.

The song “Winds of Change,” released early as a single, is a prime example, with its Frankenstein assembly of four different sections.

“I tore everything apart and rewrote them four times. By the time we were done writing, the guys in the band hated me. Like when is this going to end?” Irwin says.

The sound on this release also is distinct because all those atmospheric Pink Floyd jams were used for fodder .

“I always wanted Will Haven to have that Pink Floyd influence, but it was always really hard to do,” Irwin says. “It helps that we had all these beautiful parts. I just had to add some evil to it basically.”

Since they expected "Muerte" to be their last album, the group asked the Deftones' Stephen Carpenter to collaborate with them on a song. Collaborations are unusual for Will Haven, but the band wanted to do a song with a longtime friend.

“When I started playing guitar Stephan and Shaun Lopez from Far were the only guys I ever watched my whole life growing up. He (Carpenter) was a huge influence on me. I'm like if I'm going to have somebody in the Deftones world it has to be Stephan because he's a big part of my life,” Irwin said.

The Facebook fan interest was a bit surprising to the band. Even in its heyday in the mid ‘90s, Will Haven was never huge.

The peak was probably 2001’s "Carpe Diem," which garnered a certain amount of cult popularity among alt-rock fans. But with rap-rock and nu-metal being the big genres in the late '90s and early 2000s, their noise-rock sound never got the big audiences.

Of course, both rap-rock and nu-metal are out of fashion these days, whereas noisy experimental is much more popular than it used to be.

“A lot of people had no idea that we even put out records past 'Carpe Diem,'” Irwin said. “If you were a fan back then I hope you hear this one for sure.”

Will Haven

Where: Holy Diver, 1517 21st St.

When: Friday, March 23, 7 p.m.

Cost: $10-$15

Info: holydiversac.com