Remembering what metal used to be is a time-honored tradition for Ventura metalheads who crowd dives and small venues on a regular basis looking for that seemingly lost energy. Since the exodus of originals disbanding to start solo projects, or to jump in line to be the next celebrity drummer, metal just hasn’t had the kind of resurgence that punk has recently seen. That isn’t to say that metal is dead. Metal can never die, and the proof is in the long-lasting Will Haven, which will be dropping by Billy O’s this Friday.
Founded in 1995, Will Haven – not a person, but a fictional character created by the band – was the kind of metal band that was pieced together from other pieced-together metal bands. The original lineup included former members of metal staple Sock, and came to prominence alongside the Deftones, Slipknot, Far and Ghostride but distinguished itself by being content with flying under the radar – the band never achieved the commercial success that found its counterparts. Will Haven played for the sake of metal.
It wasn’t until 1999 that Will Haven found moderate success with the album WHVN, a pinnacle of noise metal that earned it a headlining spot in the Australian Vans Warped Tour and saw its fan base expand. Vocalist Grady Avenell worked alongside Chino Moreno of the Deftones on various projects, including a slightly more metal edition of Do They Know It’s Christmas? as well as guesting on a number of Far singles.
But for Will Haven, stepping into the upper echelon of metal acts wasn’t to be – Avenell left the band after the band’s largest tour to date, and the rest scattered, seemingly lost to the ever-churning grinder of metal. For three years, Will Haven ceased to be.
Much as the Phoenix rises from the ashes, Will Haven managed to resurrect itself in 2005, with many original members returning. Grady Avenell, the on-and-off-again vocalist, would leave once more, replaced by Red Tape’s Jeff Jaworski, only to return in 2010 to complete the current lineup.
When Will Haven arrives in Ventura, it will bring both its varied experience as a patchwork art project and a load of new material. The latest, Voir Dire, released in October of last year, dropped to both critical and fan acclaim and is the first album to feature Grady Avenell since 2001’s Carpe Diem.
The current lineup consists of Grady Avenell alongside guitarist Jeff Irwin, drummer Mitch Wheeler, former drummer of Slipknot turned bassist Chris Fehn, guitarist Anthony Paganelli and Adrien Contreras on keyboards.
Alongside Will Haven will be newly formed Fake Figures, whose members are also veterans of the scene. Another Frankenstein’s monster of a band, Fake Figures consists of Travis Miguel of Atreyu, Russ Martin of Hotwire, Heather Baker of the Iron Maidens, Bob Bradley of Scars of Tomorrow and J Po of Nightfall.
Playing side by side, Will Haven and Fake Figures will showcase the generational gap between the old and the new – Will Haven’s paced, even and dirge-like noise is a staple of the ’90s, yet still relevant and just as hard-core as ever, while Fake Figures’ speedy, screaming melancholia is a product of youth born in the ’90s who grew up with Will Haven’s albums in their mothers’ cars.
Much as Sherlock Holmes studies a crime scene, metal heads can study both the differences and the similarities between the OGs and the new, each of which adds a unique voice to the somewhat sparse movement.
Will Haven, Fake Figures and War Widow will play for a 21-and-older crowd at Billy O’s on Friday, Feb. 3. Doors open at 9 p.m.