Will Haven were always a band whose name existed in the periphery of the musical scene I was familiar with. The term “noise metal” always seemed to put me off… who wants to listen to noise? It wasn’t until the opportunity to see it up close that I’d decided to give it a shot.
Stereo is one of my favourite venues in the city. A nice size and always decent sound. Waiting outside in a chilly lane for doors to open, that decent sound can already be heard. Machine gunning drums and shrieking screaming over what sounds like the end of the world coming from someone’s soundcheck. To someone not regularly into this… it is kinda exciting. It’s like watching the people scream on the rollercoaster before you go on it.
Opening the show is Gendo Ikari. From what I can tell, they’re local. They may have been responsible for the soundcheck we could hear from outside. They play very fast blast metal… that means that every beat is a snare hit (and each song is about 300bpm) with sludgy guitar and mega distorted bass. The vocals sound like a pig in a war. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but what’s undeniable is that it’s done well. The absolutely rapid drumming could put the likes of Travis Barker – a man who has made millions for just having fast hands – to shame.
The vocals are something that I would bet no-one reading this could replicate. As the four piece are unleashing hell on stage the room is rapidly filling, with the only space in front of the barrier being a brief dancefloor for their bass player mid set. This show is so loud you can genuinely feel your clothes and hair move with every sound that comes firing at you from the PA. This is that rollercoaster ride I was speaking of beginning… the kick drum alone able to set off heart palpations.
Next up we had Plague To Pyres. This is the kind of band who’s name you’d drop to your parents when you were at your most angsty just to make them worry about you. Let’s not forget, there was a time when the band name Black Sabbath made people faint. Speaking of Sabbath, this band is a lot more riff-oriented. There’s no million mile an hour drums or seven strung guitars. There’s chunky riffs and solid drums. No bass player, which is a shame as it could have added something.
The vocalist looks like a young Henry Rollins and gives off the energy of an angry Henry Rollins. His growling into the mic is a lot more understandable than the openers… so much so that I can confirm there’s no love songs here. There are breaks from the growls that allow a surprisingly melodic voice to come out at the lulls of the songs too (think Deftones). This band would surprise anyone who gets cynically dragged along to a noise metal night as they’re surprisingly accessible.
As an after-edit… speaking to their manager the day after the show it turns out this was Plague To Pyres’ first show… ever! There’s no way in a million years I’d have ever guessed that and to be honest, I’m astounded. No matter what your experience with the genre is… that’s impressive.
As soon as Plague To Pyres finish, fans press themselves against the barrier waiting on the headliner. This includes one young man who’s had a bit too much sherbet and is consistently shouting across to band members before they’ve even started – I’m not sure he lasted the whole gig. The start of the set is delayed as road crew tinker about with the positioning of fairy lights… and I’m not even kidding about that. The crowd forgive the extra minutes waiting as soon as frontman Grady Avenell walks on the stage.
It goes without saying that the crowd here love this band. The room is a packed lake of synchronised head banging and grins. But we’re not here as a fan. We’re here as outsiders wanting to ride the rollercoaster for the first time – and the ups and downs are exhilarating.
This isn’t a band that just puts the foot down and blasts their way through three minutes of noise for the sake of being called metal. Yes, there’s the growls and snarls that put the outsiders off from getting trying out this particular type of ride – but there’s also a musical rhythm you won’t find anywhere else. There’s speed, and aggression, and angry shouting, but there’s breakdowns and interludes that keep us on our toes. The guitars have layers as opposed to just drop tuned, one finger riffs.
This show was the rollercoaster that it set out to be. For someone who isn’t accustomed to the more extreme metal subgenres, this was an exciting dip of my toe into the pool. I may not go to every noise metal gig I see advertised, but just as I know I can get on a rollercoaster and be thrilled and safe at the same time, I know shows like this will get my heart pumping. You get those adrenaline junkies who jump on white knuckle coasters every opportunity they get and you get the occasional tourist who can get even bigger kicks out of the same ride. As one of the aforementioned tourists, this ride is definitely worth experiencing if only once.
Photos by Catching Light Photography