Review: “V” by Havok

Denver Colorado Thrash quartet Havok are no strangers to overcoming obstacles in their path. In 2017 with their trailer loaded up for the Metal Alliance Tour, they returned from a European trek to find they had thousands of dollars of gear stolen. Two years earlier in 2015, founding lead guitarist Shawn Chavez died at just 30 having exited the band five years earlier. But despite those things and a revolving door of members, the bands 2017 album “Conformicide” was held up as an instant classic by many including Cover Killer Nation. So three years on, what do David Sanchez (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Pete Webber (drums), Reece Scruggs (lead guitar) and Brandon Bruce (bass) have of offer?

Bathed in feedback, “Post Truth Era” kicks in with that Modern Thrash edge that also harks back to the glory days of the sound. For those not in the know, Sanchez has a venomous voice and the message behind the album is very much about questioning everything that the powers that be have to say. Let’s face it, Governments and Corporations massage the truth to suit them and keep the money filling their coffers. Those themes bleed into “Fear Campaign“, front loaded with breakneck headbangable riffs and whirlwind kit work from start to finish, a few lyrics away from being arrested for inciting a riot in certain US states when these songs get performed in the live arena. Bruce gets a driven bassline into “Betrayed by Technology” which has sinister overtones and some impressive lead flourishes. The mixing and mastering job is spot on as the bass and drums give the overall sound the punch of a heavyweight boxer.

Lines like “Nature has the answers, the system has the lies” appear in “Ritual Of The Mind” and give it a sing-a-long ability. The back story of the war on drugs is an interesting one and bands like Hazzerd and Road Mutant could take some influence from some of the structural integrity in these songs because they sound distinct and fresh. Talking about interesting back stories, “Interface With The Infinite” is about the human race becoming one with the internet with lyrics that could be sourced in a bad acid trip. It’s a rage fueled Mosh pit stomping affair that has a Havok Vs the Twenty First Century vibe to it that is in keeping with the overall feel of the album. The Hmong people are an ethnic group in East and Southeast Asia and in their culture “Dab Tsog” (or night hag) is an evil spirit who kills men by strangulation in their sleep, sitting upon their chests so they can not escape. That formulates the tale behind the pair of mid album cuts with the instrumental “Dab Tsog” being the starter before the main course of “Phantom Force“. The latter is a rager to the subtlety of the former. In 1975 as the Hmong escaped the killing fields of Laos to the US, many suffered that strange fate and both vocally and lyrically Sanchez is on fire with his retelling of the tale as it plays out at a thousand miles an hour. It has a blistering set of fear and panic inducing riffs that are fueled by the lyrical paranoia, while Scruggs lays down a couple of face melting solos.

The final third of the album opens up with “Cosmetic Surgery” which has Crossover Thrash style gang chants in a fist pumping beer chugging anthem that has a bass line to die for from Bruce. He gets the opportunity to shine as some of the funky melodies he has to offer bleed above the guitar work in place of some lead flourishes that you might get from a Metalcore act and it works really well. “Panpsychism” or the belief that everything material, however small, has an element of an  individual consciousness is the ultimate big brother society ideology and perhaps represents the thoughts of the most paranoid of minds. The interweaving of all the instruments on this one is really something else and that suits the longer running time perfectly without losing any of the high energy gallop. “Merchants of Death” is the opposite, a relentless lethal dose of American Thrash hatred that has Scruggs finest solo moment and perhaps could be a throwback to the tales of the Vietnam war. The sinister, menace of “Don’t Do It” is frankly sublime and proves that Havok can do atmosphere as well as anyone else, taking their time to craft and build in this 8 minute piece of epic grandeur. When it does explode into some break neck speed Thrash riffs and a blistering solo, it’s the bare knuckle punch in the face that wakes the sleeping lion to bite your head clean off. Each tale on “V” is a compelling listen, full of fresh ideas within familiar ideology and each one is as equally crushing as the last. “V” is Thrash perfection [9/10]

Track listing

  1. Post Truth Era
  2. Fear Campaign
  3. Betrayed By Technology
  4. Ritual Of The Mind
  5. Interface With The Infinite
  6. Dab Tsog
  7. Phantom Force
  8. Cosmetic Surgery
  9. Panpsychism
  10. Merchants of Death
  11. Don’t Do It

V” by Havok is out 1st May via Century Media

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