Album Review: Havok – Conformicide

By Ryan Falla

Denver based thrash metal band Havok has released their fourth album, ‘Conformicide’, with heavy expectations. Not only have they been tearing it up in their early career, they personally have full confidence that ‘Conformicide’ is their best release yet.

You know what? I agree with Havok.

Not only do they mix in a healthy dose of infectious grooves but the heavy political message makes it worth paying deeper attention to. Bands don’t really get political nowadays as there is a lot of playing it safe in the industry, so there aren’t a lot of strong opinions offered in music today. If a band does throw an opinion out there it causes a lot of division with the fans, regardless of where you stand politically. As we saw with the Slayer incident recently, speaking out a strong personal opinion can rattle some fans. Havok doesn’t give half a damn about people’s sensibilities and let everyone know what they think. It’s seriously some good ol’ thrash in the vein of Megadeth, which is another extremely political band. Speaking of Megadeth, I’m not sure if I’ve heard a band as political as them or even attempting to be for a long time.

Regarding Havok, their politics may come off pretty handed to some. I personally enjoy records like Suicidal Tendencies’ debut record and every Dead Kennedys record, bands that gets political and back it up with good music are memorable for a reason. Speaking of the music, David Sanchez’s vocals are strong enough to draw your attention with their own power and cohesively deliver his message without the music overshadowing his voice. Havok is skilled at laying down a platform for the vocals while constantly pushing the musical platform to greater heights.

The bass work by Nick Schenzielos is absolutely phenomenal throughout the record ‘Conformicide’, it’s seriously the first thing that sticks like glue with this album. The opening track ‘F.P.C’ introduces the album with an acoustic death knell trance before hopping straight into some meaty thrash. That’s when ‘Conformicide’ really starts, the bass pops in hard with some mad funk a la Infectious Grooves and you won’t be able to ignore it.

Havok puts together fantastic groove thrash with beautiful bass work and adept songwriting skills to allow for the bass to shine without turning it into a gimmick or crutch. David Sanchez goes on a few pretty good rants, and to be honest the track ‘Intention to Deceive’ made me a little nervous. The songs kicks in as if you’re tuning into a news broadcast, the anchor introducing himself as a liar who’s feeding meaningless stories to make you think what he wants. Havok comes at you like damn NFL linebackers, whether or not you agree it still drops like an anchor on your stomach. The track within itself is very solid, it’s a moderately paced thrash track that keeps up high energy throughout the whole track; it’s midway blast-off giving a burst of energy to an already strong song.

‘INSGSOC’ breaks up the straightforward thrash with some more groovy thrash. It’s seriously refreshing to hear something different blended into the thrash genre nowadays, I’m aware it’s an existing genre but that doesn’t mean it’s always done well or tastefully. Thankfully for Havok they succeed in both measures, though you might find yourself wanting just a little more of that sexy bass work to rear its beautiful head.

The politics they get into are nothing wild, or at least they shouldn’t be. It’s still the usual “anti-establishment” message that musicians are extremely fond of. Havok shows how different the anti establishment stance looks; before Dave Mustaine was telling you not to let the government tell you what to think or say. Now you have Havok telling you not to let the people tell you what to think or say.

The record falls away from the formula of the first half that gives the album such intensity; Havok goes towards more straightforward thrash and the lyrical content isn’t as stirring, whether it be shock value or curiosity. That’s the biggest downfall of the album, at the midway point when they’ve established heavy groove undertones and strong vocal content they move away towards straightforward thrash.

Don’t get me wrong, the second half is a solid thrash showing; but that isn’t what was shown in the first half and it’s a little disappointing. ‘Conformicide’ is a fun record aside from the luster it loses halfway through, and whether or not you agree with their statements the shock value of how hard they come at you adds to the initial shine.

Funky grooves and thrash metal works great when done; Havok plays with this formula for a short while before dropping into straightforward thrash. It would have been better to hear them play with this formula the entirety of the record, but for what ‘Conformicide’ is, it stands as a heavy thrash record with some hard groove curveballs. It’s definitely worth a listen if you’re looking for thrash metal that takes a different turn than what is typically thrown around.

Rating: 8/10

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Record Label: Century Media
Release Date: March 10th 2017

Track Listing:
01. F.P.C. (05:20)
02. Hang ‘Em High (04:49)
03. Dogmaniacal (05:55)
04. Intention To Deceive (05:42)
05. Ingsoc (07:41)
06. Masterplan (06:25)
07. Peace Is In Pieces (05:17)
08. Claiming Certainty (03:42)
09. Wake Up (05:41)
10. Circling The Drain (07:17)

Total Duration: 57:55

Havok links: website | facebook | twitter | instagram