Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Havok - Unnatural Selection

Havok is my favorite thrash metal band, so it’s more than obvious why I was so excited for this album’s release. Unlike most other thrash metal bands that I would make a big deal out of (Slayer, Testament, Kreator, Destruction, Overkill, Exodus, GWAR, Metallica, etc.), this is only Havok’s third album. And they have quite a bit to compete with this time around considering that last year, Kreator released a monster of an album and Overkill released an album that landed on the #2 spot on my “Best albums of 2012” list. But to most other people, Havok is just another better-than-average thrash band. But nearly constant touring over the past two or so years has really paid off; causing Havok to be among the biggest 21st century thrash metal groups with Warbringer, Bonded by Blood, Municipal Waste, Black Breath, and a few others. So here we are, the third full-length from the mighty Havok, the magical third that, if good, will both solidify their reputation and their sound.

If you’re already a fan of these guys, don’t expect anything you haven’t heard before; these guys are a fairly generic thrash metal band. The thing that’s special about Havok is how much fucking energy and variety they put into their music. It’s not only the same old tremolo picking, those intros that start off with one guitar playing one power chord really fast, really fast punk-influenced drum patterns, etc. They have more than just that (I’m not saying they don’t do all of that generic stuff). Havok is known to take those generic traits and simply pound them into different shapes; sort of like what Kreator, Warbringer, Destruction, and other thrash bands have been doing recently. Nothing new, just the same thing presented in a new way.

The artwork on Unnatural Selection is strikingly similar to the Time is Up album cover, some weird-looking fellow sitting at a desk. But although political themes have always been present in Havok’s music, they seem to be the main topic on Unnatural Selection. With quotes such as “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny, when the government fears the people, there is liberty” and politically biased song-titles, it’s obvious that this is the primary theme of the album.

When compared to the majority of thrash metal, Unnatural Selection stands as one of the stronger records of the past year or two. But when compared to the two previous Havok records, Unnatural Selection doesn’t quite live up to expectations. As far as creativity and catchiness goes, everything’s fine; there’s nothing wrong there. It’s the energy where I’m having issues. This collection of songs just isn’t getting me as hyped up as Burn and Time is Up do. But that’s in the overall music. The vocals have increased with intensity; often times to the point of screaming instead of yelling. But if we took those vocals and applied them to thrash metal with the same energy that songs like The Root of Evil and Scabs of Trust, then we would have one hell of a fucking thrash record. So I’m enjoying the direction that the vocals have taken, but the overall energy and the apparent lack in variety really brings all of that down.

So in other words, Unnatural Selection acts as a disappointment when compared to other Havok material. But really, in general, this is nowhere near a bad thrash metal album; Havok still know how to bust out some fucking heavy music. So I would recommend this to thrash metal fans only that have already heard Havok’s other stuff, because this isn’t their best work. But trust me, if you’re a thrash fan that doesn’t have ridiculously high standards, this is something that you should give a listen. Unnatural Selection gets my score of 16/20.