Colorado thrasher’s Havok are back with their 5th studio release, the appropriately named ‘V’. After “Conformicide”, their 2017 release which was greeted with a mixed reception but delivered with a high intensity touring schedule, ‘V’ sees the band pushing onwards in an aim to deliver a modern classic thrash record. Engineered by Mark Lewis, the brains behind some of the sounds we hear on Cannibal Corpse’s latest releases and with some artwork provided by Elrian Kantor, the visionary behind some of Kreator’s iconic and memorable album sleeves, Havok are pushing hard and the 4 piece are seemingly standing on the edge of stardom. Let’s see if 5 is the magic number.
Straight out of the gate, “Post Truth Era” opens up like a late 80’s classic thrash track. The melodic intro melody which sounds eerily familiar to Blackened by Metallica surges forwards into some thundering riffs, again, very familiar to Blackened. Vocally, it is a whole other world; Teutonic vibes of Destruction are all over this release. Fierce and delivered with a commanding presence, they suit the surging pedal riff beneath them and the sucker punch of an opening track does not disappoint in the slightest. Thematically relevant to today’s society and how sensationalism tops factual, the stinging thrash attack has that 80’s vibe nailed down with extreme precision and you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a late 80’s thrash effort.
Once the opening number subsides, the album surges forwards with an unforgiving pace. “Fear Campaign” is a whirlwind of thrash riffs and blistering leads which cut like a scythe. Wild screamed choruses, harshly sneered verses and a thundering rhythm section hold it all together and the constant bombardment of lightening quick riffs and leads does little to minimise any breathing space. “Betrayed By Technology” is your standard thrash staple about machines taking over the world. A solid chugging rhythm in the verses has the right pacing for the classic ‘headbang whilst holding your beer’ move most thrasher’s are familiar with. The stop-start chord bursts in the chorus are timed well for headbanging and in all, it’s just a solid thrash track across the board.
We get a little more 80’s throwback with “Ritual Of The Mind”. The swelling in volume and presence intro which has a massive 80’s vibe peaks into a solid chugging riff which will have heads swirling round with plenty of windmill headbanging. The simple, moderate pacing of the track lends itself well to heaviness whilst not being overly heavy in tone, something which should carry over well to the live performance, and the great use of gang vocals to add some intensity just cap it nicely. Throw in the highly political stance in the lyrics and it has all the makings of a modern thrash anthem, especially the instrumental section halfway through the track; the melodic harmony section and a sweet sounding bassline make it rather pleasing and provide the perfect platform for a slick shred solo to cap it all. Later in the release, “Phantom Force” brings more shades of the 80’s, more notably the Slayer approach. Rapid fire riffs which buzz like a chainsaw and harshly spat lyrics give it a real cutting edge and its high-octane tempo helps this 3-minute cruise missile of thrash land it’s explosive payload with satisfying results.
“Cosmetic Surgery” has some intense venom in its lyrics and vocal delivery, matching up well with the blistering delivery of the riffs and the thundering bassline. A scathing analysis of modern-day behaviour, it warns of the false facade many put up and how it can bite you in the ass, and if the lyrics don’t hit home, the heavy guitars will certainly hit the spot. Thundering and relentless, crushing all in its way, this is one of the standout tracks of the release and one I cannot wait to hear live. “Merchants Of Death” is a more modern refinement on the East Coast US style thrash, sounding a lot like Overkill in places, which is certainly not a bad thing! The bouncing bass, cutting guitars and piercing lead sections land well, the only major difference is the lack of falsetto wails and higher pitched vocal attacks. The galloping pace and low-end prominence help create a real energetic feel and again, the penultimate track is up there as a real stand out moment musically. Wrapping up the release is “Don’t Do It’, a moody 8-minute epic which has plenty of atmospheric instrumental work in its intro. Lingering clean arpeggios, acoustic guitars and spooky sounds give way to a slow and heavy chunky riff monster. Vocally, it is more theatrical than the rest of the release, jumping from harsh screams to ominous cleans, it has plenty on offer and shows a different side to the riff machine which Havok is normally perceived to be. It’s certainly different to the rest of the release and the way it shifts at the 5:30 mark into a thunderstorm of breakneck paced guitar riffs and harshly spat vocals ends the track in a tremendous fashion, allowing a fade out to acoustic arpeggios closing the album in style.
In all, “V” is a highly ambitious album. It is solid from start to finish, maintaining a consistent standard of delivery throughout. It manages to merge the old school 80’s US thrash and the Teutonic thrash well whilst keeping the sound Havok have cultivated for themselves, showing both their respect for the forefathers of thrash and the band’s intent to be one of the modern day thrash greats. Only time will tell if Havok can be classed as a 21st century thrash standard setter, but at the moment, “V” is certainly setting the standard for 2020’s thrash release offerings.