NO KARATE IN THE PIT! You heard! Denver based Thrashers Havok are still as vehemently old school in their approach to music and there are no toxic beer mugs or tough guy macho stylings in sight.
I interviewed founding vocalist/guitarist at Download last summer and he described the then just mixed album as a call to “Wake up and hear the truth”. Conformicide are preaching to the pit and with the recent political upheaval worldwide what a timely sermon this is. Opening with an acoustic passage F.P.C. (which listening to the lyrics must stand for Fuck Political Correctness) the funkiest of basslines courtesy of Nick Schendzielos erupts dragging the rest of the band in with it. The bass is up front throughout the album and with good reason. I am reminded of Rob Trujillo in his ST days with the plucked heavy notes on this here album.
Havok take no prisoners on this their fourth full length. The aforementioned FPC attacks political correctness and warns of a loss of freedom of speech and the dangers of conformity. A very black and white point of view in what is a massive palette of greys but ffs Matt this is a thrash album not a sociology essay. “Hang ‘em High” attacks American politicians – “The Enemy is not coming from Overseas” . Here David screams like Mille Petrozza at his most anguished, fans of Exodus and Kreator who have not yet checked Havok out really need to do so. “Dogmaniacal” is next which is a prime slice of MegaDave , not surprising as Justis Mustaine was previously managing the band before a much written about argument over a contract which saw Havok kicked off Gigantour in August. Soap opera aside it’s a damn fine track! Talking of press “Intention to Deceive” addresses the sleight of hand confusion of big news networks to “allegedly” distract the masses from the truth. Say it ain’t so! Pete Webber put’s in a storming performance on drums here blasting and filling his way through whilst Reece Scruggs on Lead sends propaganda piercing guitar lines skywards. “Ingsoc” staccato opening rhythm is a little tech metal for my tastes. Luckily before I can reach for a Maths text book or Djent for Dummies a crushing riff kicks in and we are off to the thrash races. These guys can certainly write a thrash riff so catchy it’s like barbed wire underpants. “Masterplan” takes those barbs and hooks them into the leaders of the world causing “War famine Death disease” . It reminds me of the bad good old days of the cold war when Ed Repka was helping Californians tell tales of imminent nuclear destruction. With new issues happening on both sides of the Atlantic every day and Putin and Trump playing Risk in real time Havok could be just what the metal world needs. However that is for today’s teens to worry about. For now what I need is the chunky riff and beat of “Peace is in Pieces” (I know it’s a very Megadave title). There is so much chunk in this track that it could do the truffle shuffle (more 80’s references – I am on point). What is refreshingly great about this album is the balance between a common theme – both musically and lyrically and changes in pace and rhythms throughout the album. This is not a cookie cutter party thrash album churned out to sell retro skate jams. “Wake Up” is slap round the face and a call to arms that has this grey bearded 40 summat riled up and ready whilst “Circle the Drain” reminds me of Metal Church after a case of Monster. “String Break” is crossover at its greatest. 43 seconds of punked up mayhem. Love it! The dozen doozies are brought to an end with “Slaughtered”, an off kilter chugathon that drops a little industrial styling into the concrete mix.
In the blurb that accompanied this album it was stated that Havok have created their “Rust in Peace” or “Master of Puppets”. A tall order I thought. But a point well made. Havok do not just play at the thrash game for shits and giggles. They are true from the toes of their high tops to the tips of their windmilling manes. Conformicide is essential listening for those in the pit and those who wish they were.
(9/10 Matt Mason)