For the most part, Havens’ debut album On the Verge of Collapse offers up some serviceable blackgaze. There’s plenty of extremity displayed in the heavy drum programming and fast-paced guitar sweeps, but these speeds are geared more toward precision than outright savagery. The production doesn’t have much of the grainy haze commonly associated with the genre, but its cleanliness allows the melodic leads and periodic twin harmonies to run rampant while still servicing the rustic atmosphere.
What really sets Havens apart from their peers are the vocals, which opt for a hardcore-influenced yell in lieu of more conventional shrieks. The approach is abrasive and seems out of place at first, but their balanced placement in the mix keeps them from grating too hard. That said, their literal one-note nature does make me long for a more varied approach; it would’ve been great to see some clean vocals sprinkled in ala the recent efforts by Hostblod and Chrome Waves.
The project’s commitment to melodic textures is also commendable. With the midway instrumental “Detachment” serving as the token quiet track, every other song on here cycles through heavier and softer segments with enough mood variations to keep from running together. “The Vanity of Human Wisdom” makes for an early standout due to its triumphant air but the more prominent atmospherics on the title track and “The Storm Within” are the strongest contributions.
While one can find themselves wishing that Havens’ approach to blackgaze was a bit more adventurous, their debut album is competent enough. The shouted vocals take some getting used to and there are a few guitar hiccups, but the musicianship is solid overall and there’s a steady vision at play. Hopefully, the project finds ways to expand their dynamics beyond the guitar work. There’s a solid foundation here with plenty of room to grow.
“On the Verge of Collapse”
“The Storm Within”