Thrash metal from Denver, Colorado, USA

Burn Havok - Burn (Candlelight Records) 2009

1. Wreckquim [instrumental] (1:35)
2. The Root of Evil (5:33)
3. The Path to Nowhere (3:41)
4. Morbid Symmetry (4:55)
5. Identity Theft (4:42)
6. The Disease (4:26)
7. Scabs of Trust (4:46)
8. Ivory Tower (3:48)
9. To Hell (4:10)
10. Category of the Dead (5:35)
11. Melting the Mountain (2:42)
12. Afterburner (3:25)

There are a lot of retro thrash bands around as of 2009. For a thrash fan like myself, I love all the retro thrashers playing homage to their Bay Area heroes. However, even a die-hard fan like myself admits that a lot of these bands can get samey and boring after a while. The thrash for thrash sake ethic sometimes overshadows the songwriting. That was never the case with classic bands like Tesament, early Metallica, Slayer, Dark Angel, etc. The speed and intensity was there, but there was also something that hooked you in and kept you coming back for more. Denver, Colorado's Havok are one of those bands that possess that same quality. "Burn" is simply an outstanding thrash metal platter. Each song is dynamic, well-structured, guitar driven, heavy and made me want to instantly bang my head. Isn't that what good metal is suppose to do? Havok's chops are top notch as well.

The short instrumental opening "Wreckquim" flows seamlessly into "The Root of Evil", which is a Testament inspired track that Testament wishes they had written during their heyday. This tune simply shreds from beginning to end and is worth the price of admission alone. "Morbid Symmetry" stands out in my mind as one another song with a big Testament influence, yet never really sounds identical to Testament. Actually, I hear bit and pieces of many of the band's inspirations throughout, while the bands still retains it's own identity. "Identity Theft", for example, has a solo section towards the end of the song that has a vibe not unlike some of the faster material on "Kill 'Em All". "The Path to Nowhere" reminds me slightly of Megadeth's "Hangar 18", yet it's only an influence and point of comparison, not a direct rip-off. In reality, the entire album is thrash-tastic! Since owning this CD I've played it more times than I can remember and never once did I get bored, skip a track or find myself wanting to turn it off. Try cranking this one on your iPod while you are working out at the gym and see if it doesn't give you a pump. It's pushed me through more than one intense cardiovascular workout.

Time Is Up Havok - Time is Up (Candlelight Records) 2011

1. Prepare For Attack (3:57)
2. Fatal Intervention (4:28)
3. No Amnesty (3:30)
4. D.O.A. (3:43)
5. Covering Fire (4:15)
6. Killing Tendencies (5:32)
7. Scumbag In Disguise (4:34)
8. The Cleric (4:46)
9. Out Of My Way (3:20)
10. Time Is Up (4:02)

Havok pick

Havok used & abused guitar pick

Havok NM
Havok live in New Mexico, 2011.
Crappy photo taken on my cell phone.

With "Time is Up" Havok deliver yet another furious and energetic thrash metal opus. If "Burn" didn't put Denver's Havok at the top of the new-thrash metal heap, then "Time Is Up" is sure to do it. Much like "Burn", Havok make no apologies for what they are. They certainly are not trying to reinvent the wheel.  "Time is Up" is an ode to Bay Area thrash metal and once again draws major influences from the legends of that scene such as ExodusDeath Angel, Slayer and Testament. The album incorporates fast tempos, galloping, machine-gun riffing from Reece Scruggs and David Sanchez, fast and furious guitar solos, gang vocals, and all the wonderful things that make us dawn our patch-clad, denim vests and jump into the mosh pit. It's all tied together with Sanchez’s textbook thrash metal yelp. Yes, Havok are young and hungry, full of piss and vinegar and happily living in 1989. 

The album opens with a full-throttle bang! The title track is riveting, straight-forward thrash metal! The band delivers similar cut-throat, razor-sharp thrash metal with furious, frenzied guitar solos on "Prepare For Attack", "Fatal Intervention" and "No Amnesty".  Other tracks, such as "Killing Tendencies" and "D.O.A." the band incorporates some of their classic heavy metal influences, especially Iron Maiden in some of the lead work. "D.O.A" in particular brings out the Exodus influence in the band. However, Sanchez screeches out his finest Tom Araya-style scream in the middle "D.O.A" as well. For all ten tracks, the quality stays consistently high, with each track inducing as much head-banging mania as the next. There are no forays into death metal or experimenting with progressive tendencies. I don't think Havok even know what a clean channel is. No, this is straight-forward thrash metal!

So, with their influences so purposely worn on their sleeves, and their denim vests and t-shirts, the question may be asked, why not just listen to the old guard and skip these newbies? Well, for one, the old guard haven't brought this much energy to the table since the 80's. As well, Havok sport excellent guitar work and lots of catchy, fist-pumping, shout-along songs. As well, this band has chops. They aren't just screeching their guitars and bending the whammy bar. There is some serious fret-board shredding going on here. So while the band may not be offering anything new musically, what they do offer is high-quality and should please any fan of thrash metal. Frankly, I find Havok to be far more enjoyable than some of the more popular new wave of thrash bands. 

The album is produced by legendary guitarist James Murphy, of Testament & Death fame. Murphy give the band a tight, heavy sound that is just slick enough so that every instrument, including the bass guitar, can be clearly heard. However, it's not so clean that he robs the band of that raw energy. "Time Is Up" should be in any self-respecting thrash fan's collection, even if you don't particularly respect the retro-thrash thing. Havok are more than convincing.

Havok - Point of No Return (Candlelight Records) 2011

1.  Point Of No Return (4:37)
2.  Cradle To The Grave (5:02)
3.  Arise (3:25)
4.  Postmortem/Raining Blood (7:17)

In my opinion Havok are at the forefront of the New Wave of Thrash Metal movement, along with Vektor and Municipal Waste. Few other bands have the songwriting that Havok have. Havok are not a thrash-for-thrash sake band. While they stick to that tried and true Bay Area formula, they do it convincingly and with infectious riffs, songwriting and actual hooks. To tide the fans over until the next full-length release, Havok has released "Point of No Return", a four song EP. The CD is released to coincide with the band's first ever tour of Europe. (Here's wishing them the best out there. They are road warriors!) The EP is built around  two new tracks, two remakes of thrash classics (Sepultura's "Arise" and Slayer's "Postmortem/Raining Blood") and crappy cover art. Artwork aside, the music simply kicks ass!

The two new songs are the real gems of the disc. Both songs continue in similar crunch mode to the tracks on "Time Is Up". Yes, this is straight-forward, heavy, angry thrash metal! Unlike a lot of the retro thrashers, they don't sound like regurgitated Exodus or Slayer. Rather, Havok have more melody and hooks, not unlike Death Angel, Testament or Forbidden. The riffs are lethal and David Sanchez's vicious vocals fit the music perfectly. Of the two thrashers, the galloping "Cradle to the Grave" sticks out as the best song with it's hooky riffs and vicious vocals. It's just one of those songs that makes you want to strap on your air-guitar and shout along to the chorus. The song ends with a nice thrash metal jam that includes some good solo work.

The last two songs are the covers. Both are well performed and recorded. Picking a thrash-metal song like "Raining Blood" takes some co-hones as it is one of the defining songs of the thrash metal genre. Having said that, Havok do a fine job with it. I'm not saying it's better than the original, as covers of classic songs like this rarely come close to the magic of the originals. However, I certainly didn't feel the urge to skip either of these two songs.

A worthy addition to the Havok catalog and a nice teaser to keep people's interests peaked until the band returns with their next full length release.

Havok - Unnatural Selection (Candlelight Records) 2013

1. I Am the State (4:05)
2. Give Me Liberty... Or Give Me Death (4:43)
3. It Is True (4:49)
4. Under the Gun (4:18)
5. Waste of Life (6:12)
6. Living Nightmare (4:59)
7. Chasing the Edge (5:03)
8. Worse than War (4:57)
9. Children of the Grave (4:39)
10. Unnatural Selection (4:16

"Unnatural Selection" is Havok's third full-length album. Since 2004 Havok have been fronted by David Sanchez, vocalist and guitarist, who since 2010 has been accompanied by lead guitarist Reece Scruggs and drummer Pete Webber, with bassist Michael Leon joining in 2013. Despite the line-up changes the band continues to flex their musical muscle churning out yet another fantastic thrash metal platter.

Few neo-thrash bands can touch Havok. The infectious riffs are never ending on this album from the opening "I Am The State" to the Anthrax-styled "Under the Gun" to album closer and title track "Unnatural Selection". While Havok offer plenty of speed and aggression, such as in the razor sharp "Give Me Liberty…Or Give Me Death", but they also aren't afraid of a big groove or slowing down the tempo to give the song power and variety. They also offer plenty of memorable choruses in which to raise your fist and scream along to. "Waste of Life" is a mid-paced song with a massive groove and a gang chorus that begs to scream along to. "WAISTIIIIIIIIIING! YOUR LIFE!" Basically Havok have a knack for writing hooky, aggressive thrash metal with a slight punk vibe and a youthful exuberance. 

As usual, vocalist David Sanchez is the force to be reckoned with. His nasty sneer and snarl gives the band as much charisma as Dave Mustaine brings to Megadeth. However, on this album he seems to be stepping out of his box from time to time. At times Sanches switches from spewing lyrical venom to a slightly more melodic tone, which is especially evident on "Is It True". As well Sanchez mixes the snarl with a bit of singing on the band's cover of Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave". 

Kudos to Havok for sticking to their guns and doing what they do best. They aren't concerned with reinventing the wheel or trying to come off as sophisticated and arty. Instead they continue to trudge ahead taking no prisoners releasing one solid thrash album after another. In short, Havok rules!

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