Havok – Conformicide (Century Media)

Tuesday, 7th March 2017
Rating: 8/10

The retro thrash movement was a war of attrition. As per metal’s habit, too many of the same-minded bands came looking for the same thing: old-time thrash glory. And when these bands started to flood the scene, it became difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, although Colorado’s Havok have always stuck out, probably because they are better than their peers. Their jump to Century Media from Candlelight notwithstanding, Havok also had a highly-publicized row with their now ex-manager, Justis Mustaine, the son of Dave Mustaine. Such tidings factor well into the band’s fourth album, Conformicide.

Overt political themes blanket the album’s ten jams, including a nod to Orwell’s masterpiece tome 1984 with the song “Ingsoc,” which is in reference to the “Newspeak” party who controlled the population with its strong-arm tactics. While we will cast political discussion to the side (vocalist/guitarist David Sanchez deserves immense praise for putting actual thought into his lyrics, though), it’s of importance to note the rather formidable rhythm section of Nick Schendzielos (also of Cephalic Carnage and Job for a Cowboy) and drummer Pete Webber. The pair put on an intricate, tightly-wound display on “Hang ‘Em High” as well as “Peace is in Pieces,” which somewhat harkens to early ’90s thrash, the transitional period for many bands from that era.

One of the few new(er) American thrash bands who matter, Havok’s ability to capitalize on the best elements of the style while not pandering to the lowest common denominator is refreshing. Here is a band who has every opportunity to phone it in with overwrought, juvenile topics and song ideas but does the opposite. Conformicide is the perfect thrash album for the times.

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