Three years removed from the decidedly more experimental Conformicide, Denver thrashers HAVOK return with album number V (see what I did there?), out May 1 on Century Media Records. I have to be honest…for me, this is the record they needed to make. It is ten tracks of pure, unrelenting Thrash Metal that will have all the heads banging while still encouraging everyone to question things and think. Vocalist/guitarist David Sanchez is as fiery as ever, spitting out the lyrics that hit just as hard as the riffs, bass, and drums, and he never fails to get me riled up. Drummer Pete Webber (aka Octopus Man!), guitarist Reece Scruggs, and new bassist Brandon Bruce pull out all the stops on each and every tune, as does Sanchez.
From the very first listen songs like “Ritual of the Mind” and “Fear Campaign” had me riveted. The former has an almost marching cadence while the latter is a goddamn blitzkrieg of speed, power, and words. The X Factor for both though, is Webber. He knows how to give each number exactly what it needs, never overplaying, but always leaving me in awe of how he plays. Since I first started listening to and covering the band I have given him several nicknames that all involve him having eight arms. He is a very good sport about it, but seriously, he plays like a man with that many appendages!!
Opener “Post-Truth Era” starts out with a rather “Blackened” vibe before going from 0-60 in less time than a German sports car. The words to this one are so accurate it’s frightening. The riffage is outstanding thanks to Sanchez and Scruggs, with Scruggs raining the first of many vicious guitar solos down upon our heads. But the runaway favorite, the fucking best track found here is without a doubt “Cosmetic Surgery.” Bruce and Webber, alongside Scruggs and Sanchez give us easily one of 2020’s best metal songs and that is simply not up for debate. Bruce also truly shines here, making it even better and showing he’s a perfect fit for the band. When it is safe to tour again they had better do this one live!!
First single “Phantom Force” is a punch right to the face, and this number boasts arguably Scruggs’ best solo. The best way to describe the whole thing would be HAVOK on steroids, or Captain America’s Super Soldier serum. Jeezus!! On the other side of that coin closer “Don’t Do It” starts off very clean, albeit dark, and then slowly but surely descends into pure hellishness. For eight minutes we are taken on a journey that quite frankly I didn’t want to end. It is bold, ambitious, melodic, and a perfect way to cap off an amazing disc. Anyone who loves this band will surely love this track. Mark Lewis does a great job in the producer’s chair from start to finish, too.
Listen, I have flown the flag for HAVOK since before A&GS started, when iTunes suggested them to me, and I have no intentions of stopping anytime soon. I’ve interviewed the members countless times, shared many laughs with them, and spent over a decade reveling in their unique brand of Thrash Metal. When I get excited about a record I tend to curse a bit more than usual. With that said, V is FUCKING GREAT ON EVERY LEVEL!! It is right up there with Unnatural Selection as my favorites. Clearly the winner for Thrash Metal Album of the Year has already been decided. It is HAVOK by a country mile. If you don’t pick up your copy on May 1 you are doing yourself a disservice…FACT.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM