Havok have been in the thrash scene now for just under a decade. Hailing from Colorado in the USA they’re signed to Candlelight Records and have produced some of the better modern thrash releases by avoiding being direct clones of their predecessors. Following 2011’s Time Is Up they have just released their latest album Unnatural Selection.
They do nothing much to push the boundaries of the music they play, lets be honest; but they also don’t just sit back and play thrash-by-numbers. They’ve mixed all their influences into one thrashy pot and added their own sound to the tracks. There is a stronger influence of the NWOBHM side of things in Unnatural Selection compared to the previous album Time Is Up which was an outstanding full speed thrashfest.
Unnatural Selection is a high energy affair, there’s not a sign of any cheesy thrash ballads here and thank fuck for that. Sometimes you just want to hear a bunch of guys going for it, firing on all cylinders and there’s nothing like a forced ballad to kill the pace and mood. Not to say all thrash ballads are bad (Evile’s In Memoriam is for example one of my favourite tracks in recent times) but it just wouldn’t fit here.
Though it isn’t as fast as its predecessor, there’s a bit more of a groove to be found in this latest album, with Chasing The Edge unfortunately causing me to do the Judas Priest hip boogie dance in the intro riff. On the subject of riffs, if I had one complaint about this album it is that the riffs seem to be stripped back, with several of the songs featuring the same sort of open E string chugging riff under the main rhythm. On the other hand thrash bands have been doing this since the early 80s so can we really complain about it now?
Unnatural Selection is also a high treble affair, this sadly is not one you can blast in your headphones for long before it starts pictchfucking your ear drums into submission, but that might just encourage us all to be more sensible and turn our music down for once. Or not. Probably not. Bring on the ear pain.
Front man David Sanchez’s vocals have gone through a bit of a change, at times he’s shrieking in a fairly high pitch compared to the lower bark he used for much of Time Is Up. As I write this I’m listening to said album and he just hit the Angel of Death worthy scream in the track D.O.A as if out of spite, well played Spotify.
Though I had a bit of a moan regarding the riffs a minute ago, the solos can’t be faulted, hats off to guitarist Reece Scruggs and Sanchez himself on that front. Special mention has to be given to Pete Webber for his tight drum fills and generally solid drumming throughout. We also can’t mention a member of the rhythm section without mentioning new member and bass player Mike Leon who gets a particularly enjoyable and upbeat bass solo spot during Is It True.
The album boasts a cover of Black Sabbath classic, Children of the Grave which suits their style perfectly; I’ve always wondered why heavy bands cover songs like Paranoid when gems like this exist for the taking.
Overall the album is nothing groundbreaking, but there’s a time for innovation and there’s a time for having a straight up good time. This is that time, and when these tracks are played live you know they’ll tear the balls off you.