Havok - Conformicide - (7.5/10)
Published on March 19, 2017
Since when were lyrics the prime factor in deciding whether a record succeeds or fails? If the lyrics were of that much importance, you may as well have someone read them out as a poem. While it’s no secret that the lyrical content of Havok’s new full-length is pretty terrible – it doesn’t mean the quirky-yet-frenzied thrash metal is of any less quality.Conformicide is the fourth LP from the Colorado headbangers, and it sees their sound expand to include slightly wider influences. The cover art may not be penned by the legendary Ed Repka, but it might as well be! It sets the mood suitably and leaves the listener aware that there are no surprises, but plenty of familiar nuances contained within.
The production on this album is curious and unique – and I love it for that. The bass is so prominent, and is often the focus, even when not unaccompanied. Listen to it completely dominate the grooving verses of “F.P.C.” – not what you’d expect from the opener! The guitar tone is thin but precise, and blends wonderfully with the crisp, snappy drums. Sanchez’ voice is as beautifully manic as ever, but this time the mix deliberately adds too much gain – so his screams become a harsh cacophony. This is no more exemplary than at the climax of “Hang ’em High” – where he reaches heights considered mentally unstable. However, the less said about his lyrics the better. It’s your typical conspiracy-theorist, ‘9/11 was an inside job committed by an alien George Bush’ nonsense. “F.P.C.” stands for “Fuck Political Correctness” – that’s all you need to know.
Havok occasionally disappear up their own asses during Conformicide. Instrumental sections that serve no purpose, but to show off the string-players’ virtuosity, pop up here and there. “Ingsoc” is the main offender, but there is a great song in there if you trim the fat. Unfortunately, my favourite track on the album, “Masterplan”, also suffers from this – as the awesome core of the song is bookended by directionless plodding. On the other side of the coin, when the virtuoistic moments are positioned correctly, boy does it kick off! Two guitars and a bass, flittering around each other, playing contrapuntal lines that all somehow work together – it’s mightily impressive.
As for the album’s highlights: “Hang ’em High” kicks off eerily reminiscent of Annihilator’s “Criteria For A Black Widow” – but quickly launches into a monstrous, multi-layered thrash anthem – with Sanchez giving his most vicious performance on the disc. “Masterplan” sees the quartet unleashing their inner Megadeth, in a tertiary-structured track that reeks of 1986’s “Bad Omen”. The one-two punch of “Peace Is In Pieces” and “Claiming Certainty” displays a penchant for driving the pace after the extensive preceding songs. And “F.P.C.”, cringeworthy lyrics aside, is angry and varied enough to be the correct choice to open the album. Overall, Conformicide is breaking no rules – but it’s showing that Havok had tough enough skins to survive the thrash revival. Along with Evile, Lost Society et al, I hope they continue to stride forwards, refining and tweaking their sound until it’s as sharp as And Justice For All.