Though when it comes to size and appeal, thrash metal reached its cultural peak in the 80's, it's bands like Municipal Waste, Revocation, Power Trip, and Havok that have kept the genres modern day heart rate from flat lining. Generally sticking to the classic blueprint left for them: Denver four piece Havok have always took nods at the Mount Rushmore of thrash, but never quite been an outright carbon copy of their fore fathers. Their breakout record Time Is Up not only cemented them as a force, it opened up a whole new conversation about the future of a sector of metal thought to have been on its way to the cemetery.
The bands fifth record, aptly titled V, makes subtle yet vibrant gestures towards a fascinating shift in Havok’s mentality. You get the sense that the Colorado bruisers will always be a thrash band at heart, but there’s just enough flirtation with different ideas here to open up a whole new realm of potential concepts moving forward.
‘Post-Truth Era’ plays things safe coming out of the gates, its ominous instrumental build soon gives way to that sumptuous, classic Havok turn of pace: it’s a charming welcome home. Vocalist David Sanchez’s attack of the digital age on ‘Betrayed By Technology’ stands tall too, his chimes of “I can see the writing on the wall, our way of life is about to fall” sit atop a crushing bed of rhythmic attack from Pete Webber and Reece Scruggs: it’s thrash metal 101.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that when Havok double down on their pre-existing blueprint – the outcome is more than capable of swapping punches with the heavyweights of metal history. ‘Phantom Force’ has an acidic, low end production that mimics Anthrax’s ‘I Am The Law’, while the frenetic, harsh guitar lines of ‘Merchants Of Death’ pull influence from almost every area of metal before putting your blood in a twist.
Even with all that said though, V is unlikely to be looked at as a record that pushed the Havok boundaries any further back than what they already were. That is until closing track ‘Don’t Do It’ rears its head. More open ended, and human than we’ve ever heard them: there’s a sonic fork in the road here from Havok here that while unexpected – works all the same. Eight minutes in length, featuring acoustic guitars, vocal progressions from Sanchez we’ve rarely heard, and a truly savage pace shift: this isn’t Havok flipping their script, but it’s a necessary expansion in ideas which sounds every bit as compelling as Slayer’s ‘Seasons In The Abyss’.
When you listen back to the likes of ‘Ingsoc’ from V’s predecessor Conformicide, Havok’s eventual experimentation makes sense in their timeline. This new record isn’t quite the absolute best of both worlds, but it is a high octane, full throttle thrash effort with a refreshing twist to boot. V puts the Colorado quartet in the echelons of Sylosis and Power Trip as bands that sit at the forefront of modern day thrash.