I wasn’t really sure where to begin with this new HAVOK album Conformicide (March 10, Century Media Records). I’ve had it for quite some time now and I gotta be honest, the first few listens did not hook me at all save for maybe four songs. Now obviously my love for the band is known far and wide. Hell, just look at how many pieces we’ve done on them, whether it be interviews, album reviews, or the five live show write-ups written by me personally since summer 2013. It’s also true that I never write word one about a record until I’ve listened to it at least three times start to finish. Well ultimately, this new one required a couple more to make any kind of an impact.
I’m not against bands changing things up sound-wise or trying some new stuff because when it works it can be wonderful. Other times however, it can be one heck of a headscratcher. Such is the case with opening track “F.P.C.” For the first half it sounds almost like something in the vein of PRIMUS, and then it turns into an all-out rager, albeit one that is extremely repetitive. So after a rocky start I was glad that first single “Hang ‘Em High” was next to sort of cleanse the palate if you will. After a slap bass intro the band is off and running, rhythm guitarist/vocalist David Sanchez snarling and screaming his politically-charged lyrics to anyone within earshot.
“No Conscience” is next, Pete Webber the Eight-Armed Wonder leading the band off to the races with frenetically-paced drumming. Good solo here courtesy of lead guitarist Reece Scruggs. This track definitely reminded me of early MEGADETH, which is by no means a bad thing. “Intention to Deceive” is one of the record’s most biting tracks, and it’s clear that bassist Nick Schendzielos fits perfectly alongside Webber, making up one badass rhythm section that goes along with the chainsaw riffs. Now, “Ingsoc” I wasn’t quite sold on when it was first released but it’s one of those that grew on me. And when it did I played the shit out of it.
“Master Plan” features a little bit of dual harmonized lead work and has some serious groove before we come to some of the record’s best tracks. “Peace Is in Pieces” and “Claiming Certainty” make up the fiercest one-two punch on this whole thing while “Wake Up” keeps the body blows coming and once again the lyrics hit just as hard as the music. Closing the disc on the version us peons were issued (minus two bonus tracks, I’m told!) is “Circling the Drain”, and it’s 7:17 of prime thrash that never once drags or lets up. Like I said, the heaviest, angriest, and sharpest tunes come in the second half, which more than makes up for anything I wasn’t feeling earlier.
All told this is a pretty good HAVOK album. Lyrically Sanchez is encouraging us to question everything and most importantly think for ourselves, which I admire. However there were a couple of spots where musically I just couldn’t get it. But hey, that happens. Besides, the tunes they’ve been playing live on tour are the cream of the crop from Conformicide. When all’s said and done, after a decade of being at the top of the newer Thrash Metal pyramid, and seeing countless sound-alikes flood the scene in their wake, they’ve earned the right to take some chances, even if not all of them work for me. Either way, be sure and grab your copy and see what you think, because there is plenty of gold in them thar hills.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Intention to Deceive”, “Claiming Certainty”, “Peace Is in Pieces”, “Wake Up”