Thursday 7 May 2020

Havok - V (2020)

Country: USA
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 May 2020
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It's not a bad time for American thrash, with Testament, Warbringer and now Havok releasing their new albums in the span of less than a month. The genre groups on Facebook are busy arguing about which is better, but they kind of all are in their way. The Testament is the most accomplished, without a real debate being viable there; but the Warbringer arguably reaches the highest peaks and this is surely the most consistently up tempo and energetic, with the most manic solos.

That's not to say that all of these albums have flaws and this one's show up early. Post-Truth Era has the second intro in a week for me to be obviously borrowed from Blackened and then Ritual of the Mind kicks off like Harvester of Sorrow. It seems almost weird that the rest of the album doesn't plan to be ...And Justice for All for a new generation. While it's hard for a thrash band not to show an influence in early Metallica, it's nowhere near as overt as we might imagine from those intros.

Ritual of the Mind is the most obviously Metallica influenced, because it's a slower song than the first three tracks and it cares more about a stalking feel and careful composition than just blistering along with energy. There's a machine gun guitar section late on that reminds of the late section in One as well. Interface with the Infinite is another midpace song, though it has some neat guitarwork to create texture that moves it away from Metallica.

To me, this feels more like early Megadeth musically but with David Sanchez channelling Bobby Blitzer from Overkill vocally. Perhaps this higher scream is partly why I'm not a big fan of the mix. I do like how crystal clean the drums sound and how the bass is so easy to track, especially on tracks like Betrayed by Technology and Panpsychism, but I had to play around quite a bit with the equaliser to calm down the top end.

Of course, this isn't Megadeth and other influences creep in now and again. Cosmetic Surgery has a Slayer feel to it, especially early on before vocals show up and late on when they're done. In between it has a bounce that's far more east coast. There's a more progressive feel to a song like Panpsychism, though it never quite makes it to the level of, say, a Hexenhaus. Merchants of Death kicks like an Overkill song beyond just Sanchez's vocals, though it still reminds of Megadeth, back when they were fast and energetic.

Following that peach of a speed workout is an eight minute epic called Don't Do It, easily the longest track on the album and a song that combines those two approaches into one song. It's technical prog thrash for a long time and even the intro sounds original, but it kicks in hard six minutes in for what is by far the best couple of minutes of the album, ending with a neat outro.

So Havok aim for quite a lot here and they capture a good chunk of what they aim for. It starts fast and ends fast, but plays with some different sounds in between. I think I'm happier with the heads down no nonsense songs, like Phantom Force and Merchants of Death, and the more imaginative ones, such as Panpsychism and Don't Do It, not to forget that guitar texture on Interface with the Infinite.

While those Facebook thrash groups rave about this holy trinity of brand new American thrash albums, I'm just enjoying them. There's some great stuff on each of them, but I'm finding problems with each too. The best thrash album for me this year is still Annihilator and they're a Canadian band. This is a decent and welcome album featuring a few songs that'll surely get those pits moving when gigs open up, and I say the same about Testament and Warbringer, but I seem to be wanting a lot more from my thrash nowadays and I'm wondering where I'll find it next.

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