I think it’s safe to say that 2017 was a redefining year for Denver-based thrashers Havok. The band released their fourth, full-length album Conformicide, which not only saw the band hit tireless touring cycles around the world, but executed some of their most dynamically driven material to date. With that, Havok reached an entirely new level of musical competence, implementing a refreshing variation of string work, employing a flashier production, and injecting prog-infused complexities into their expeditious brand of thrash.
Over the years, Havok have successfully transformed their traditional sounding thrash roots into a sound that is not only multifaceted, but completely puts them in a league of their own. With the release of their brand new album, V, just around the corner, Havok have crafted a fresh collection of 11 think-for-yourself tracks that perfectly combine their classically fueled, thrashing ways with their technical, forward-thinking nature.
While V may deviate from the band’s more experimental mentality of the album prior, it puts more of a focus on harnessing the raw power of the hard-and-fast classics. However, some of those proggier ideas that came to life on Conformicide are not completely abandoned, just a bit more nuanced throughout V. Luckily for someone like me, I’m all for traveling back in time for a good, ol’ fashioned speed metal attack. This album hits with force (phantom force for that matter). It is in-your-face, heavy, and highlights some of the band’s best guitar shred ever recorded on tape.
That said, after introducing the opening track “Post-Truth Era” in a very “Blackened” fashion (not the only time you’ll hear inspiration from the Metallica discography), V puts the foot on the gas pedal and smashes it through the floorboard. “Fear Campaign” keeps the energy and spirit of the old-school alive and well, kicking down the door with a blazin’-hot speed riff. This song, like many others on this album (especially “Merchants Of Death”), embodies an extreme 80’s feel with that menacing and threatening, signature Havok overtone.
The creative songwriting tactics and dominating grooves, distinctly heard across Havok’s repertoire, start to really develop in “Betrayed By Technology,” “Ritual Of The Mind,” and “Interface With The Infinite.” These tracks are rhythmically stimulating, hammering forth with a simplistic-yet-bold heaviness.
Guitarists Reece Scruggs and David Sanchez (also lead vocals) reveal such a monstrous, metallic guitar tone that pairs perfectly with the hammering double bass and methodical fills of hard-hitting drummer Pete Webber. The guitar pair work together to unleash some of their sharpest, most precise guitar solos, accentuating every intricate detail to the point where every note is played with magnificent clarity. Sanchez goes on to hit higher-pitched vocal registers than ever before, layering some Cowboys From Hell-era Phil Anselmo falsettos in with his normal shrieking scream and even some cleaner-style vocals.
Bassist Brandon Bruce takes plenty of opportunities to put all concerns one might have to rest throughout V. Being in a position where he had some large shoes to fill, Bruce exceeds expectations, adding extra meat to nearly every riff, filling in open spaces, and even getting playful on tracks like “Cosmetic Surgery,” “Panpsychism,” and the straightforward thrasher “Merchants Of Death.”
Closing track “Don’t Do It” is massive. Building up from a clean introduction to something slow and heavy, this deliberate offering weaves through clean and electrifying dynamics. Sanchez trades in his shrieks one more time for some of his most melodic singing to date, which works extremely well for the track, while the lead solo towards the end of this song was absolutely put in place to melt your face off.
V is a collective representation of where Havok have gone in past works and where they choose to put their energy. On Conformicide, the band proved they could think outside the box and approach their music with a more progressive mindset. With V, Havok continue to demonstrate a skillset that allows them to create such radical and hard-hitting ideas, seriously upgrading the dimensions of traditional thrash. The intensity of their music continues to match the aggression of their message, which is and always will be TO THINK FOR YOURSELF.