By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
Aggressive assertiveness, blistering riffs, and swift percussive beats is all the ingredients a person needs to create thrash metal. It is one of the most recognizable forms of heavy metal, and it has been on the forefront on my mind lately. With COVID-19 still confining us in our prisons (I mean homes, LOL), it makes me want to run outside and start thrashing something. I do not know what, but something. Luckily for me, Havok is here to help with that. This thrash metal outfit from Denver, Colo., came to my attention when I first saw them at Ozzfest Meets Knotfest in 2017. Their lightning speed and hostile attitude have given them an intimidating reputation. Now, they are back on the prowl, armed with their newest record, V. Continuing on the destructive path they have laid out with 2017’s Confirmicide, let us unleash the Havok within us.
We start with “Post-Truth Era,” a cautionary tale about “fake news” and our gullible nature to believe it at first sight. Frontman and rhythm guitarist David Sanchez is a snarly beast with an appetite for sick riffs. Add in Reece Scruggs searing lead solos, and there is one hellacious opener that will surely end in mayhem. Riffs rifle through our ear canals signaling a “Fear Campaign.” This is tune that attacks the propaganda machines, whose ultimate goal is winning over the masses through fear. Drummer Pete Weber glides smoothly between rapid punches and rhythmic flow, which is like a cross between Vinnie Paul and Charlie Benante. “Betrayed by Technology” has a booming old school bass lick performed superbly by newcomer Brandon Bruce. Sanchez gives us insight that we are too dependent on the technology that run our lives. Scruggs pulls out a monstrous, Kirk Hammett style solo that would make the Metallica guitarist green with envy.
We now come to my personal favorite, “Ritual of the Mind.” Sanchez plays this catchy lick that goes “dadada-dadada-dada-na-na,” building up the momentum that is coming from Havok. The build-up leads to another massive solo that is performed exquisitely by Scruggs. Bruce walks on the bass strings with intense, melodic passion as Sanchez screams to the top of his wretched voice. The whole beat of song, especially during the outro, is astounding to listen to. “Interface With the Infinite” comes out swing with full force thanks to Bruce and Weber’s impactful rhythmic blow. The scorching solo that Scruggs fires at us gives the song the more concentrated gut-check. What is amazing about Sanchez’s hollering capabilities is that it is melodic enough to where you hear the message about pharmaceuticals controlling our minds. Halfway through, and the bedlam continues.
After a short interlude with “Dab Tsog,” we are led to the speed demon “Phantom Force.” An old-school speed metal riff races through the eardrums so fast, you would be like ‘What the fuck just happened?’ Sanchez screams wretchedly as he struggles with the nightmares. There is a bold, crunchy riff that Sanchez and Scruggs. “Cosmetic Surgery” has a razor’s edge feel that cuts right through the bullshit. This song slams plastic surgery as a shell covering up a rotten personality. I feel Sanchez’s anger in his voice, telling the person the song is addressed to he can see through their crap. I particularly enjoyed Weber double bass pedal whammy that gives the song an extra jolt.
“Panpsychism” starts off acoustically with an ominous-like riff, then enters the meaty hook of the electric guitar and Bruce’s doom filled bass. I really like this tune because the mixture of doom metal and speed metal is a match made in hell. Lyrically, Sanchez dives deep into the psyche of our consciousness just as Scruggs hits us in the face with his Megadeth fused solo. A huge gamble, and the dice come up in Havok’s favor. The greed of war is what “Merchants of Death” is all about. The tone of this tune is reminiscent of Megadeth’s classic “Peace Sells” that features a slick solo. Intense to the very core of its bones, war is for hire. We now come to the end of the destructive road with the grand 8+ minute finale “Don’t Do It.” It starts off slow and then, 2 minutes in, it starts to build and build until it explodes. Sanchez shows off his singing capabilities, and they match the intensity of his screams. It sounds like there is hints of renaissance folk rock, progressive metal and flamingo guitar that blends nicely with the portentous piano. This is the magnum opus of V.
Havok is emerging as thrash metal’s newest hero, and V is proof that the group is continuing to move forward into new territory while never abandoning their speed metal attitude. Thought provocative lyrics, swift drum kicks, thunderous bass licks, and eruptive guitar riffs make this record a must have. Ever since signing with Century Media, Havok has been sitting pretty. If we have to continue to be in quarantine, then V will surely help us channel our wrath. To Havok, I salute you. Horns up!!!
01. Post-Truth Era
02. Fear Campaign
03. Betrayed By Technology
04. Ritual Of The Mind
05. Interface With The Infinite
06. Dab Tsog
07. Phantom Force
08. Cosmetic Surgery
10. Merchants Of Death
11. Don’t Do It
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