Birthed in the mid 2000's, Colorado's Havok under normal circumstances would have had their work cut out for them in their quest to make themselves future stalwarts of thrash metal. You'll remember that as we were reaching the middle of the naughties, Nu Metal had arguably already peaked - and the new wave of American heavy metal was in full swing. The likes of Lamb Of God, Killswitch Engage, Machine Head, and Devildriver had charged through the gates of alternative culture to create a groundswell of opportunistic fervour.
By that token then, your average thrashers were to have their backs bound to a wall if they were looking to re-live the genre's hay-day of the mid 80's, but Havok aren't your average thrash band. Vocalist David Sanchez recalls the bands infancy well, and insists the idea of creating a style of metal that had already seen its apex was never a concern.
"Well, I didn't really care about being 'IN', I still really don't." David declares, "I started the band because I wasn't hearing bands play the kind of music that I liked. So we started, and we were playing the stuff that made me excited. And that's still kind of the case, I don't really care if it's fashionable, that's not the point - if I was trying to do this for reasons that weren't just pure love the music - I'd be playing other kinds of music [laughs]. We're in the wrong genre if we're not doing this for passion."
David follows with the kind of rhetoric you expect, Metallica were one of the main reasons he picked up a guitar after he found himself in awe of their Live Shit: Binge & Purge CD. His obsession with The Californians and Megadeth eventually transferred to the likes of Overkill & Testament, and before he was even able to really compute the idea - Sanchez was looking as far as his strained eyeballs could see for new, heavy material, to the point where he decided to create his own.
Though solid from day one, the bands creative peak to this day remains 2011's Time Is Up. A record that truly encapsulates the snap and groove of Obituary while still engulfing the kind of riff sprints you'd find on Anthrax's Among The Living. It almost feels criminal that Havok aren't 20 years older, because you can't escape the idea that the four piece would have been destined for greatness in the beer soaked walls of 80's metal.
When asked if he's ever wished Havok could have arrived two decades earlier - he hilariously quips: "No, because by now I'd be a miserable fuck" before delving into more detail. "You've gotta play the hand that you're dealt, there's been times where I've thought 'man if we would have been around in that time we might be more famous, or have more money from selling records'. But, who knows? We can't wish for things like that, had that have happened there would have been so many variables that could have changed things. I'm happy to be alive now, and exist when we do."
Speaking of the present, you don't need to be reminded that the current state of affairs in the world has put bands across the planet in a difficult position. David states that 'it feels weird not to tour when you've got a new record coming out', but the deeper conversation here is how he manages to break away from the tour mindset. Both himself and Havok as a collective have been doing this for so long now that you start to wonder: where does David Sanchez the person begin, and David Sanchez the thrash metal hero end?
"I guess I yell at people a lot more when I'm on stage! [laughs] But when I'm on there [stage] I'll try and say something important, and transcendent, or I'll do something silly and try and make a joke. But that's kind of where my head is when I'm not on the road anyways, I'm often thinking about things that are much bigger than myself - and constantly laughing at things. I love humour and stand up, I find humour in a lot of areas that other people don't: which is a blessing and a curse. I look like an insane person to people who don't find certain things funny that I do"
Havok's new record V is an interesting time stamp for the band - it's still the neck spinning, high octane speed patterns that you're familiar with, but there are nods to an idea that Havok may become something more at some point. Lyrically as direct as ever, David's focus as we speak appears to be the social construct of the digital age, and tracks like 'Fear Campaign' and 'Betrayed By Technology' really put the microscope on our failures over the last two decades.
"You could argue that throughout all the annals of history human beings have gone wrong" Claims David, "But we're still here, and I think that we'll still be here for quite some time. There's always things that we could do better, but it's a matter of education, I can't speak for other places but the education system here [USA] is not designed to make you a critical thinker. In my opinion they kind of want you to be a little bit stupid, and not think outside the box, because that's more beneficial to the system - it doesn't do the system much good when you're not willing to bow down to the status quo. But like I said, we're very lucky to live WHEN we do, we have super computers in our pockets, we can buy food from all over the world for a reasonable price - back in the day wars were being fought over salt."
His frustrations don't just lie with the million dollar suits making the big decisions though - he feels sometimes we forget our fortunes too easily. "Life is complex, and we have problems that come with that complexity, but if you take a minute to inventory the things we have that are good: there's a lot to be really grateful for. We didn't do anything to accomplish not being born into places riddled with starvation and disease, it's pure luck, my heart sinks when I think about that stuff."
Where V makes its biggest impact though is in its closing, eight minute opus 'Don't Do It', a track centred around the concept of suicide, and played out with a level of production, and progression you've never seen from Havok. As David goes into detail of how the track came together, and what it means to him - you can't help but feel gripped.
"The song was written because I saw a completely shocking fact: over the last decade the number of suicides in young people has tripled. There's three times as many kids killing themselves today versus when I was a teenager, that's pretty shocking. I wanted to write a song to address that, because I've been in dark places before, and I'm really glad that I didn't do anything so drastic, because life is so much better now than in those times. So I'm trying to urge other people who may be struggling with those kinds of issues to join me, there's light at the end of the tunnel. For the vast majority of us - life is not just constant suffering, there is good that can happen: and a lot of it is up to you."
It's fair to say that for the most part: Havok has been a labour of love for Sanchez and co. Playing their dream music at a time when it couldn't have been harder to break through was undoubtedly a daunting task, but they pulled it off. And it's because of the above sentiments that we're discussing the band as one of acts still looking to push thrash forward in 2020. When you boil it down to its finest residue: Havok are an outfit that sum up the concept of the working mans band - regardless of the era they're playing in.
You can listen to the interview in full on the latest episode of the Noizze Podcast here.