It goes without saying at this stage, but a new Will Haven album really is for the already converted. Though that speaks more positively towards them than anything else, as a band whose opaque mix of metalcore with noise-rock, sludge and post-metal remains indelibly unerring in the face of any metal trendiness. On top of that, it’s just cool to see how they’ve continued to run the distance since regrouping in 2005. Just take VII, whichgives off the notion that they are indeed playing the hits, but for as condensed as it is without even a whiff of compromise in place, they’re yet to be worn down.
The primary onus is place on—of course—the sound, and how it’s the most crucial element of Will Haven’s make-up by leaps and bounds. Much more so than any distinctive compositions or hooks, which is why it’s easier for them to get away with a bit of a shorter album like this. The sonic fundamentals just matter that much more, and on that fronts, there are very few complaints. Naturally it’s absolutely punishing in its sludgy dirges and deeply oppressive atmosphere (even smuggling a couple of blast beats into Luna to augment that), all carried out with the air of certainty of a band well-versed in all of this. Even if Will Haven aren’t leaping off the page anymore, it speaks volumes to how adeptly they can still handle engulfing their work in fire and fury.
Even more impressive is, in the case of frontman Grady Avenell, he’s barely showing any sign of strain. He’s always been a terrific screamer, and VII shows no difference in the slightest, where he’s ragged and frayed and deeply intense. Honestly, he becomes just as much a part of the whole atmosphere as everything else, ultimately giving Will Haven more opportunities to stretch their legs. When La Ultima Nota is effectively just a wrenched-out scream sandwiched between glacial post-metal gloom, and still works as the album’s climactic moment, there’s clearly something working overall. Lyrics aren’t exactly carrying much weight here—they mainly feel more bluntly expressive or impressionistic—but they’re still clearly purposeful for a general immolation you’ll find on Paloma’s Blessing or Diablito (or rebirth from the flame on Wings Of Mariposa).
Even when it’s very seldom transcendent in any field, there’ll always be something on VII that at least clicks, and does so with real resoluteness. Will Haven sticking to what they know can bring out some thrills, if only for how they’re yet to find themselves lagging or dipping by any measurable amount. And at seven albums in with a storied underground legacy already under their belt, that’s enough. Again, it’s for the fans first and foremost at this stage, and VII pulls out all the right notes that’ll leave them wholeheartedly satisfied.
For fans of: Poison The Well, Coalesce, earthtone9
‘VII’ by Will Haven is released on 7th July on Minus Head Records.
The Pink Spiders
If you’ve got a thing for pop-rock between the 2000s and any point in the five decades prior, you should get on The Pink Spiders pretty sharpish. They aren’t a new band by any stretch, but they’ve often been sequestered in spots that haven’t allowed them to really flourish (maybe a result of touring with primarily ska-punk bands?). Regardless, Freakazoid is an absolute riot, the kind of album made by a band right in the sweet spot of craving some fun, while also giving the widest possible berth to any ‘novelty act’ accusations.
Instead, The Pink Spiders simply mine into their stock of pop melodies with serious aplomb. It’s most firmly rooted in the all-American power-pop of Cheap Trick or The Cars, but there’s nothing that’ll be too alien for fans of, say, The Maine, or the lineages of ‘90s indie and pop-rock that precede them. That classic flair is the big capper though, with their heaviest use of synth buzzes and new wave sheen to date, on top of a good-time rock ‘n’ roll sensibility with so much spunk to it. You can practically trace its genealogies too—Freakin’ Freakin’ Out is all big guitars and classic rock joie de vivre; Baby I’m High has its thrusting rockabilly on full display; You’re The One is basically a riff on Daydream Believer with that piano work at the start.
There’s definitely a frivolity to it all, especially with how cavalier The Pink Spiders are in drawing from their influences. That’s also where the charm comes from though, and when they make it exceptionally easy to look past how there’s barely a single original concept on display here, you get swept up in a hurry. There’s not a single hook presented as though it isn’t covered in the stickiest substance known to man, nor do The Pink Spiders get bogged down with any sort of minutiae to impede that. It’s pure and easy and all the better for it. Even on their more ‘traditional’ pop-rock songs like Gold Confetti or Can’t Stop Letting You Down (the latter lodged in a Something Corporate vein that’ll be manna from heaven to a certain subset), there’s still the boon of Matt Friction sounding like Marc Bolan on a Weezer song, or a cavalcade of lyrics where their insubstantiality is absolutely part of the point.
The Pink Spiders totally own it as well, such is the reason why Freakazoid goes down so smoothly. Had this been the kind of flagrant nostalgia-pandering that can’t even be bothered to hide those intentions, it would’ve been a completely different story; the fact that never comes to mind once while listening, however, is only a good thing. It’s just too fun and addictive to become tarred with any notion like that, aided by some tacit awareness of how this isn’t tapping into the zeitgeist in the slightest. But it doesn’t need to, not when The Pink Spiders are packing hooks this buoyant and a presentation that’s dripping in natural likability. And besides, it’s only about a half-hour listen—you’ve got no reason not to give it a spin.
For fans of: The Cars, Cheap Trick, Rick Springfield
‘Freakazoid’ by The Pink Spiders is released on 7th July on Pure Noise Records.
One thing you’ll notice fairly immediately about PLAIINS is that they seem to have this whole ‘power-trio’ thing locked in. You’ll often find such phrases as being interchangeable with rock that has no characteristics other than its own unwavering straightforwardness, but there’s definitely a bit more to that here. For one, a big deal is made about the whole melting-pot aspect of PLAIINS, be that in its members’ disparate heritages or—more pertinently as far as the release itself is concerned—a fairly deep genre pool integrated well. It rounds out to what mightn’t be too far removed from some typical rock fare, but Puppet’s fire underneath itself makes a significant difference.
For one, there’s no subjugation of the ‘power’ part of that genre tag. The strain of riff-rock carries the most weight here, though decked out with hints of post-hardcore or Queens Of The Stone Age, it’s far more palatable. What’s more, any workmanlike stiffness is out of the equation completely, leaving room for Wooha! (speak easyyy) or Chelsea Smile to rattle by unhindered and unimpeded. It can’t be overstated how simplistic these changes are, nor how easily PLAIINS can dodge their own stagnation because of them. There’s no vast overhaul or deeply-woven genre fusion going on; it’s simply a case of affixing what works to a core rock engine, and reaping the benefits.
There certainly feels like there’ll be more longevity here because of it, just because PLAIINS never burn themselves out in terms of what they’re doing. A six-song EP makes that a far more manageable feat, though by the time it’s over, PLAIINS don’t seem to have expended all their ideas. They’ll throw in garage-punk on Your Friends All Bore Me, snarky post-punk on POLIDICKS, big, buoyant rock on the title track, and use that keep themselves rolling with fitting force. And sure, they’re not saying anything too incisive or unique—their stance on politics with POLIDICKS should make that all too apparent—but they do enough elsewhere to get away from it. At no point does Puppet feel like it’s missing pieces or it’s underdeveloped where it matters.
And compared to a frankly copious number of acts in the same rock field, that’s something that PLAIINS neatly have to their advantage. They can stay entertaining in ways that this brand of rock frequently can’t muster overall, on top of just displaying an aptitude for keeping themselves fresh and fun in good capacities. Honestly, Queens Of The Stone Age might just be the best comparison point—a band built on the fundamentals of easy-pleasing radio-rock, with a sufficient drive to be something more than that placed at the forefront. Should they keep building on that and deepening their influence further, PLAIINS could turn out something pretty excellent in future.
For fans of: Queens Of The Stone Age, Idles, Royal Blood
‘Puppet’ by PLAIINS is released on 7th July.
Words by Luke Nuttall