Review Summary: An energetic and convincing attempt from Havok that unfortunately is held back by a real lack of originality as the album progresses.
Many fans of thrash metal music have heard of revival act Havok for a variety of reasons. The band formed in 2004 and received a decent amount of praise for their first two studio albums, with 2011's Time Is Up frequently being cited as one of the best thrash revival albums so far. They are also renowned for their energetic live performances in which they put absolutely everything they can into creating a powerful experience for their fans. The band are semi-technically proficient as they have evidenced on both of their first two albums, with some fairly complex riffing at times, fast drumming and a decent sense of how to structure a song properly instead of ripping off the usual verse-chorus structure. 2013 marks the return of this band with their third studio album entitled Unnatural Selection, and many were eager to see if it could live up to Time Is Up, despite the fact that that album gets far too much praise in general.
The simple answer would be yes, it easily lives up to that release. From the introductory riff to I Am The State right the way through each of the ten tracks, Unnatural Selection showcases a good deal of progression for this band. Whilst their brand of thrash metal is nothing unique, it is at least a nice throw back to the 1980's thrash acts such as Metallica and Anthrax, and their third album is just another example of this. The riffs are solid and the drumming is intense, with lots of great use of double-bass work and some nice tones to the snare. The bass isn't particularly audible but it does a solid job of anchoring down the rhythm sections, whilst the vocals are very enjoyable, with some great high pitched shrieks and a somewhat laid back feel to them usually. All of the band put in a fairly competent performance here, and many of the tracks are really fun to listen to, whilst the technically proficient element to their music is still there.
The aforementioned opener I Am The State is a great opener, and shows off the way this band can seamlessly integrate chord based playing with some more complex sections and it also has a stupendous drum interlude leading into the a great riff around three minutes in. The one problem with this track is the fact that the solo is rather tuneless, sounding like something Kerry King would write with some rather unnecessary sweep picking cast in there as well. The track that follows, Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death, absolutely blows it out of the water. This track has some lightning fast tremolo picked lines to kick it off at full throttle, with some chords added in to complete the riff. There is a brief break from the tremolo picking around twenty seconds in before the double bass and ridiculously quick picking continue into the verse. The vocals are absolutely tortured here with some ridiculously good shrieks at times, great gang vocals when the song slows down a little halfway through and some of the most pissed off thrash yells ever recorded. The slower part in the latter third of this track is probably the best moment of the album, leading into a surprisingly tight solo (which are the bane of this album usually).
The one problem that this suffers from really is the fact that there is not enough variety throughout to keep the listener's interest. The guitar lines begin to blend into one another around halfway through and the song structures are not as enjoyable as one could hope for. Under The Gun, for example, opens with a riff that is indistinguishable from much of this release, and then leads into one of the more minimalistic verse riffs here which just serves to antagonize the listener even more. This track in fact sounds like a thrash band attempting to blend some AC/DC influence in there during its verses, whilst the chorus is as dull and devoid of catchiness as could be. Waste Of Life is more mid-paced but does little to keep you hooked during its six minute duration, whilst Chasing The Edge falls into the trap of being far too generic for its own good. Fair enough, Havok sound like they are mimicking bands like Metallica, Exodus and Testament at the best of times, but this sort of homage really is going a little too far. By this point in the album, the only thing that will consistently bring enjoyment to your ears are the vocals, which are surprisingly good here.
Havok's third studio album is one that is both good and dull at the same time. The tracks definitely have a lot of life behind them and passion for the most part, but there are certain songs such as Under The Gun that really hold it back. The better tracks such as the opener and the last two songs are some of the better ones, with the galloping riff to the title track sticking out in particular, but there are too many songs that blend into the rest of the tracks.