01. I Am The State
02. Give Me Liberty… Or Give Me Death
03. It Is True
04. Under the Gun
05. Waste of Life
07. Chasing the Edge
08. Worse Than War
09. Children of the Grave
10. Unnatural Selection
Colorado has always been known for it’s lush landscapes, scenic views of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, and more recently, becoming one of the first states to legalize the ganja. This is all just fine and dandy, but if all were right in the world, the great Centennial State would also be known for being home to one of the most talented, adept and downright badass metal bands on the planet: Havok. After turning heads with 2009’s Burn, Havok seemingly came out of nowhere and proved they were a monolithic force to be reckoned with in the form of the 2011 thrashter-piece, Time is Up, as well as the superb Point of No Return EP. Since then, they have been penned as one of the leaders of the current “re-thrash” scene, and while some may argue that re-thrash’s time has come, Havok stay true to their roots and keep the spirit of thrash metal very alive and well on their latest masterpiece, Unnatural Selection.
Havok are a band who have always worn their influences on their sleeves, and opening banger ‘I Am the State’ introduces some crossover elements in the vein of Suicidal Tendencies and Municipal Waste that weren’t explored on any of their previous albums. Follow-up track ‘Give Me Liberty… Or Give Me Death’ keeps this newfound swagger chugging along, but don’t fear: the Bay Area influence is still very much present, as evidenced by Havok’s seemingly endless stockpile of whiplash-inducing RIFFS. Rest assured, Havok doesn’t disappoint at all in that department. Unnatural Selection is filled to the brim with some of best riffs in recent memory, riffs that will get the circle pits swirling and no doubt cause lots of sore necks. Seriously, just listen to the mean grooves of ‘Worse Than War’ or ‘Waste of Life’ and try not to headbang. It’s impossible.
There are subtle nods to all of the greats that spawned from the 80’s Bay Area scene, such as Exodus, Megadeth, and of course, Metallica, but it doesn’t stop there. Havok lead guitarist Reece Scruggs has cited Pantera and Dimebag as huge influences, and tunes such as ‘Under the Gun,’ with it’s southern-tinged chorus, would make Dime proud. In fact, from a production standpoint, Unnatural Selection sounds a lot like a Pantera record, as the band enlisted longtime Pantera producer Terry Date to mix the album. The guitars are crunchy yet crisp, the drums sound huge, and the bass is heard when it needs to be. Also included is a cover of the Black Sabbath classic, ‘Children of the Grave’, which, while spot on as a cover, is actually the weakest cut that Unnatural Selection has to offer. The album could’ve been even stronger than it is had the band written one more thrasher instead.
As with any other “revival”, the re-thrash scene has spawned some bands that either overplay or underplay their instruments, but Havok refuse to be slumped in with either of these groups, finding the perfect middle ground between sheer musicality and good songwriting. Frontman and rhythm guitarist David Sanchez gives his best vocal performance to date on Unnatural Selection, and although his anti-government lyrics are rather stereotypical for this genre and not very far reaching, he perfectly nails the 80’s rasp of icons such as Dave Mustaine (in the 80’s) and Steve “Zetro” Zousa and adds a few flourishes of his own, such as the stuttered “d-d-d-d-d-d-d-do” in ‘Under the Gun’. The rhythm section, composed of newcomer bassist Michael Leon (of melodic death outfit The Absence) and drummer Pete Webber, is absolutely lock tight, with the latter solidifying his place as one of the most consistent and solid drummers in metal today.
Thrash is still very much alive, and the fact of the matter is that Unnatural Selection perfectly captures the essence of the legendary old-school thrash train of thought whilst maintaining the modern-day elements that are prevalent in metal today. With Unnatural Selection, it’s clearer than ever before that Havok live, breathe, and bleed thrash metal, and their passion for it oozes from every part of this album. The future’s in good hands.
Havok – Unnatural Selection gets…