Denver, Colorado has never been a hot spot for Heavy Metal bands to come from. I have no idea why it has never been a big scene for bands to come bursting forth, but it never has and it especially has trouble spawning great Thrash Metal bands. That was until HAVOK ended up in my hands.
I’ve been more cautious lately of what Thrash bands I buy since the market started to become saturated with this revival movement, but I took a chance on HAVOK’s debut, simply entitled “Burn”. Luckily, it paid off this time and I have found another great Thrash band. 2009 seems to be one of the great years of Thrash Metal (although the last few haven’t been letdowns) and “Burn” is going to make the list of best Thrash releases of the year for me.
Like many of their peers right now, HAVOK are a revival sounding Thrash band that take a lot of influence from the Bay Area titans from the 80s with their brand of Thrash attack. Fans of older TESTAMENT are going to find this release a great one as the band nods their direction for a majority of the release and un-surprisingly one of the members is wearing a TESTAMENT shirt in their press photos for the album. HAVOK staple their music with lots of galloping rhythms, overlaying melodies, Punk influenced drum techniques, a surprisingly relevant bass performance, and spattering Thrash vocal work like most bands that play revival Thrash are doing. No it’s not the most original sound I’ve ever heard (honestly, there aren’t many revival Thrash bands that are) but the band does play it with an energy and fresh vibe that puts them a cut above the rest.
Competent guitar chemistry and a sick, sick, sick drum performance highlight most of the album for me with particular nods in the direction of drum variety and some more then impressive solo work on the frets and strings. I was also impressed with the fun and interesting use of bass on the album. The tonality of the bass was perhaps my biggest complaint for “Burn” (which is really a small thing in the end) but he plays it like a pro and it reminds me of some of the more expressive TESTAMENT bass work in their early career like on “Souls Of Black”. Vocalist David Sanchez also has a pretty solid performance with his somewhat standard but still good take on spitting out those social commentaries. He occasionally gets a great solid scream in the mix that reminds of Schmier (vocalist of DESTRUCTION) from their early days and the occasional group chant, which seems to be a requirement now; helps keep up that Thrash energy.
Fans of older Thrash from the US are going to instantly fall in love with HAVOK. This debut has a lot to love and little to criticize. Even the somewhat raw production is just that right balance of old and new that it mixes the instruments well but gives it that old school charm. “Burn” is a great release for this young band and I can foresee plenty of great things will come to them if they can match a live show to the awesome energy on the release. Pick this one up all ye Thrashers!
Songs to check out: “To Hell”, “The Root Of Evil”, “Afterburner”.
(Online July 3, 2009)