Denver thrashers Havok bring their razor sharp A-game.
Despite the initial excitement regarding the thrash revival of the mid-to-late 2000s, in 2017 this somewhat minor shift in popular metal trends is unfairly sneered at for being derivative and unoriginal. However, brilliant retro thrash acts such as Havok prove that this seemingly dated form of metal can still be vital, and on Conformicide they also demonstrate how it can be cutting edge.
The taut, tight, high register guitar attack that guitarists David Sanchez and Reece Scruggs employ reads directly from the Megadeth hymn sheet, but there’s an undeniable and irresistible energy to their high-speed rhythmic assault. Straight forward thrashers like “Hang ‘Em High” and “F.P.C.” blast ahead like a rocket powered on pure adrenaline, yet the politically charged lyrics snarled and spat by Sanchez ensure that the tracks are by no means lightweight thrash by numbers. “Wake Up” in particular is filled with a venomous call to arms chorus that is addictively furious and catchy, especially when paired with a simple but effective guitar lead. Accompanied by Scruggs’ dazzling fretboard gymnastics and the intensity of Pete Webber’s drumming, every song is suitably propulsive and leaves the listener breathless. In spite of the lack of variation in this format across the album, the band execute this particular sound with verve and attitude- think of this as less a rollercoaster ride and more like being tied to the end of a turbo-charged drag racer.
Whilst this sounds like the kind of platitudes used for any old thrash act, Havok have a special ace up their sleeve that sets them apart from their peers. New bassist Nick Schendzielos (formerly of Cephalic Carnage and Job For A Cowboy) is such a highly accomplished musician who is never content to just sit behind the guitars and hide in the mix- his inventive, and at times downright funky, bass lines adds an extra layer to Havok’s sound that ensures they aren’t one-dimensional in the slightest. When Schendzielos steps into the spotlight and treats the listener to the tasty licks up his sleeve in “Claiming Certainty”, “Circling The Drain” and “Intention To Deceive”, the tracks develop a far more interesting character. Although his slap bass sections adds an extra punchiness to things, I would have liked to see him show off his ability to write melodic and memorable bass lines that could trade-off with the searing guitar solos to provide even more texture to the Havok formula.
Havok have shown on Conformicide that they certainly have what it takes to stand head and shoulders above their peers, whilst also crafting an album that stands up in its own right. Combining an exceptionally high quality of high-octane thrash lunacy with some exemplary musicianship has rewarded the band with a very strong body of work. Hopefully by further developing their idiosyncrasies and intricacies they can carve a niche for themselves beyond simply being Megadeth wannabes and become a heavyweight in their own right.
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