Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with Jeff Irwin of Will Haven

Will Haven‘s new album, Muerte, is coming out tomorrow, and I can confirm that this is one intense, expansive, mind-melting piece of work. Listening to it got me thinking about the power of heavy music, so I got Will Haven guitarist Jeff Irwin to talk with us about the five heavy albums that changed his life.

Read on to learn how Mötley Crüe and Neurosis impacted Irwin, and to find out what legendary thrash drummer Irwin used to pretend to be as he maniacally air drummed into the abyss, just like the rest of us did.

1. Mötley Crüe – Too Fast for Love (1981)

I remember when I was younger I had a strong love for music. The age I was exposed to Mötley Crüe, I was all about Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and Kool and the Gang’s Celebrate! I remember, vividly, going to my aunt’s house, where my three boy cousins lived; they were playing pool and blasting Too Fast for Love on the stereo, and that was it for me: I was hooked from that day on. So even though I knew of Aerosmith and bands like them from the radio, this seemed more underground and more my style. I just loved the rawness and aggression of Too Fast for Love. I think the cowbell on “Come on and Dance” was a good hook as well [laughs], but that record opened up the floodgates for me as far as that type of music, such as Iron Maiden, Ratt, Ozzy, Scorpions, and so on. This is when heavy music became a huge part of my life. I still love that record to this day, because when I put it on it takes me right back to that day, being at my cousin’s house and all the memories hanging out with them. That album will always be in my top five no matter what, just because of the impact and the memories it has for me. I have to thank my cousins, because they introduced me to a whole new world as far as music that inspired me to one day be in a heavy band.

2. Suicidal Tendencies – Controlled by Hatred/Feel Like Shit… Déjà Vu (1989)

I just finished my first year of high school and this was my summer soundtrack. I was familiar with Suicidal Tendencies before, but this record got my attention because it was so much heavier to me than the older stuff. It had a metal vibe to it. I remember seeing the video for “Waking the Dead” and had to run out and buy the record on release day. I love this record from start to finish! It’s funny because around this time I was getting into gangster rap like NWA and DJ Quik, but this record kept me in the metal world. It just has this vibe to it that I’m drawn to; this record introduced me to dynamics in heavy music. The progression of the first track, “Master of No Mercy” right into “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow” was awesome. I have amazing memories with listening to this record; it still holds up. I remember we played a show in Los Angeles for the Chi Cheng benefit and the Deftones had gathered up a bunch of their friends to play at it; there were all sorts of famous musicians there, like Tommy Lee and so on, but when I met Rocky George from Suicidal Tendencies that is when I got completely starstruck [laughs].

3. Slayer – Seasons in the Abyss (1990)

After I got into the more ’80s metal stuff, I started searching for heavier stuff, which I think a lot of kids like me did, and then all of a sudden, I found Slayer! I was still in my gangster rap phase when Slayer’s earlier stuff was released. When this record came out, I was fully back into the world of heavy. This record is killer through and through. “War Ensemble” has some of the best drumming I had ever heard. I remember just trying to drum along with this in my room, which was impossible! This record is an amazing piece of art. The songs, the drumming, the lyrics are all so good. I know a lot of Slayer fans hold Reign in Blood and South of Heaven as the pinnacle, but for me this record just has everything. Seasons in the Abyss definitely kicked me back into my love for all things heavy and aggressive. I played drums at the time; after hearing this, I realized my dream to play drums in a heavy band, so to play this record became my daily homework. I definitely never even came close to [Slayer drummer] Dave Lombardo, but it was a lot of fun trying to pretend to be [him]. I still hold this record as one of the greatest of all time! I am bummed they are calling it a day, but what else can you possibly do? They have made by far the best, most evil, thrash metal records of all time. There will never be another Slayer, and their legacy will last forever; I know I will keep their spirit alive.

4. Fudge Tunnel – Hate Songs in E Minor (1991)

This album is kind of where it all started for me. I always had an interest in being in a band, but when I heard this record I knew exactly what kind of band I wanted it be. This record is just so dirty and heavy and has such a cool, punk, underground sound to it. I thought it was so new and fresh compared to anything else I had heard. It was so simple, as well, which I was drawn to; everything I had heard in the past was so technical and this was just simple, yet more crushing, than anything else. The beginning of the record is so perfect: you kind of have no idea what’s coming, and then, boom—Alex Newport is a mad genius! At the time, there was no one like this band; he took his influences and made something new with it, which I totally love. I love the album Creep Diets as well, but this record is what set me in motion to write the music that I do. My friend and I started a band where he played bass and I played drums; all we did was try to write songs that sounded like this record. That little band he and I started would become our first band, Sock, which ended up evolving into Will Haven. I started Will Haven when I sold my drum set and bought a guitar; the first songs I learned how to play on guitar were these songs, so the influence from this is definitely in our DNA. We did a song for a Bad Brains tribute record and, I have no idea how it happened, but Alex Newport ended up recording our session. We were in awe the whole session because everyone in the band was hugely influenced by his music. That was an awesome day for us. I actually kept in touch with him for a bit after that and I told him how much his music meant to us; it was like it had all come full circle and I was able to tell my biggest influence “thank you” in person.

5. Neurosis – Souls at Zero (1992)

I don’t even know if I can call this a band, because they are a true piece of art. Hearing this record for the first time in 1992 was mind-blowing; I was just coming off Fudge Tunnel when this record was handed to me, thus completing my influences. This record is probably the heaviest, most evil thing I have ever heard in my life. It almost didn’t make sense because it was just too dark and evil; I remember thinking, “Who thinks of this?” [laughs] I had always been drawn to more of the darker vibe, and this band and this record captured all of that. The opening song, “To Crawl Under One’s Skin,” at the time, was the most insane thing I had ever heard. It took “heavy” to a whole other level. “The Web” will always be one of my top five songs of all time. This band has been probably the biggest influence on me in my songwriting; I have never shied away from telling people that, because this band deserves that respect. They just do it right: from the music to their art to their vision, there is no faking in this band whatsoever, and that just makes them probably the best heavy band of all time. There is something very special when you meet or talk to another Neurosis fan, because if you know, then you know. It’s a special cult that only true music lovers can appreciate. I love this band to the fullest, and they will always be big influence on anything I do musically. I think one of the biggest honors for us as a band was to be able to tour with them a few times. Seeing them on stage every night was a spiritual experience for me! Touring with them was hard, because after they came on, no would even remember who opened up for them [laughs].