Review Summary: An extremely powerful New School Thrash album that delivers enough intensity and aggression to please both fans and casual metal listeners alike.
It's the year 2013, and the New Wave of Thrash Metal is alive and well. Although I was admittedly skeptical of the movement at first, my attitude has been gradually changing. Despite New Wave Thrash Metal being stylistically different than classic 1980s thrash in many respects, the movement has managed to deliver some extremely talented bands who are truly passionate about playing heavy metal. Havok
, a thrash metal band from Denver, Colorado, are the perfect embodiment of the New Wave of Thrash Metal. Formed in 2004, the band represents everything New Wave Thrash Metal stands for. The band members are considerably young. The vocalist chooses a vocal delivery including (but not limited to) shrieking, growling, and snarling. The guitars, bass, and drums are aggressive. The tempo is constantly in-your-face. The names of their songs and albums are threatening and their album artwork may scare little kids. Hell, even the name of their band is spelled wrong (you can't get any "thrashier" than that). Havok's newest album, Unnatural Selection
, shows that Havok knows their place within the metal community and have no willingness to let up or become something they're not.
Although Havok's general sound hasn't changed much at all, Unnatural Selection does show some signs of progression from the band's previous works. Time Is Up
, Havok's sophomore album, was a very strong effort. The songs on Time Is Up were aggressive, energetic, and undeniably powerful. However, listening to the album straight-through is a difficult task. The album never lets up in the amount of energy it delivers; there are no chances to catch a breath or rest your head during any of the songs. A listener will not find a single mid-tempo anywhere on the album. On top of that, the songs begin to blend into each other after a while. Since most of the songs are relatively similar lyrically and structurally, it becomes difficult to differentiate between songs over the course of the album. The unrelenting aggression on the latter half of the album especially makes a few of the songs seem somewhat repetitive. Luckily, most of the problems that Time Is Up had are pretty much nonexistent on Unnatural Selection, indicating that Havok most likely took these criticisms to heart when writing new songs.
The songs on Unnatural Selection have significantly more variety than those on Time Is Up. Although the drums, bass, and guitar are still incredibly aggressive, some changes on Unnatural Selection display Havok's growth. The easiest change to notice is found within the lyrics. The lyrics on Time Is Up are traditionally violent and angry, the type of lyrics that every thrash metal band uses. Unnatural Selection changes things up by having political lyrics concerning freedom, war, and genocide. This lyrical change makes little difference in the grand scheme of things, considering "GIVE ME LIBERTY!" and "YOUR TIME IS UP!" are both shouted with the same amount of aggression. However, I still feel that this was an important change that needed to be made, as the violent, blood-soaked lyrics that New Thrash Metal bands so proudly display is becoming extremely rote (after all, how many times can you scream "YOU WILL DIE!!" before someone stops believing you"). The lyrics in Unnatural Selection are hard-hitting and effective as ever. While it may not seem like a big deal to a casual listener of thrash metal, the lyrical change on Unnatural Selection makes the album seem far fresher than most New Thrash Metal albums released in recent years.
The first two songs on Unnatural Selection are your typical, run-of-the-mill Havok songs (and damn good ones at that). However, upon reaching the third song, It Is True
, the listener will notice a bit of a stylistic change for Havok. The song's use of clean vocals in the chorus is a nice change (this is not to say there is anything wrong with Havok's vocals during their more aggressive songs) and the bass solo halfway adds to the song's somewhat easygoing mood. The song Children of the Grave
(a Black Sabbath Cover) is another atypical song on the album. Vocalist David Sanchez sings his way through the song without once using unclean vocals. The song has a nice groove to it and is one of the least heavy songs on the album. These less-aggressive songs help break up the menotomy, making Unnatural Selection significantly less repetitive than its predecessor.
The musicianship of Havok is undeniable. Everybody in the band are top-notch at what they do. The lead guitar work by Reece Scruggs is truly incredible. Scruggs' guitar solos range from jaw-droppingly fast to melodic and hard-hitting, each solo done with an expert amount of skill. David Sanchez's vocals fit Unnatural Selection's songs perfectly. As for the bass, Mike Leon does a commendable job. The basslines are always audible and the occasional bass solo is always complimentary to the band's sound. The drumming is one the best parts of the album. Drumlines are extremely powerful and aggressive throughout; Pete Webber does a great job of keeping up with the album's momentum. As for the album's production, it is impeccable. Everything is mixed and edited to perfection. Every guitar solo is clear, the bass is audible, the vocals are mixed well, and the drums sound amazing. For a relatively unknown band, the production is surprisingly quite professional.
Havok surprised me with their newest offering. Unnatural Selection delivers the goods that all thrash metal fans crave while still managing to be creative lyrically and stylistically. Although they keep their sound the same for the most part, the growth of Havok cannot be denied. With Unnatural Selection, Havok has distinguished themselves as one of the frontrunners of the New Wave of Thrash Metal movement.
Give Me Liberty...Or Give Me Death
It Is True