Havok are a Thrash metal band formed in 2004 in Denver, Colorado. The band currently consists of David Sanchez (Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitars), Pete Webber (Drums), Reece Scruggs (Lead Guitars/Backing Vocals) & Nick Schendzielos (Bass/Backing Vocals).
“F.P.C” starts off Conformicide with an eerie classical guitar passage before popping bass work of Nick Schendzielos gives you a slap around the head. As opening tracks go, this is a great way to start the record as it showcases exactly where Havok are looking to take their music. “F.P.C.” stands for Fuck Political Correctness and the message that comes across is pure anger. It’s a rage that permeates throughout the record.
Up next is “Hang ‘Em High” and it is classic Havok with punchy riffs and infectious hooks. Sanchez spits out venom about the lies and betrayals of elected officials. Frantic riffs and urgent rhythms are topped off by some of the most angry lyrics anywhere to be found on Conformicide “The enemy is not coming from overseas”
Taking a bit more than a casual side swipe at religion, “Dogmaniacal” whizzes by in a blaze of outright, violent aggression whilst also displaying some strong, melodic intent along the way. There is a Megadeth vibe here whilst still remaining very much Havok.
“Intention to Deceive” with its sharp main riff and Sepultura-esque speed burst in the mid-section is up next and starts comically brilliantly with its faux news report summing up perfectly the dumbing down of the public. “It’s five o’clock, and here’s what we want you to think.” – Comical yes, but sadly has a dark ring of truth to it. What follows then is an incisive groove-laden thrash song preoccupied by the media’s stance on misinformation, lies and fake news.
At 7:41, “Ingsoc” is the longest song on the record, and it provides a moment for Havok to stretch out and explore a little bit. Progressive touches here and there as it builds on a compelling intro which features some frenetic drumming. There is a nod to the Orwell masterpiece 1984 here with Ingsoc being a reference to the “Newspeak” party who controlled the population with its strong-arm tactics.
“Masterplan” could be seen as a departure in some regards, as it boasts an epic, grandiose feel. The long intro establishes the scene with its apocalyptic gallop. There is a stoner vibe at times but it can’t resist thrashing. Complete with some speedy shredding and dynamic vocals “Masterplan” is a righteous depiction of the end of times.
There is a, sort of, hardcore/punk feel to “Peace is in Pieces.” Much like “Hang ‘Em High” the way that Nick Schendzielos and drummer Pete Webber play off of each other proves that the pair are an unstoppable force. Their rhythmic sensibilities are flawless. The riffing here is tight and Sanchez snarls his way through the song.
“Claiming Certainty” and “Wake Up” are standard, breakneck thrash songs. Sanchez and Reece Scruggs weave their driving riffs, filled with brutality. Both feel frantic and abrupt but have some really cool lead work going on. The latter is more melodic than the former but both come across as vitriolic as the rest of the record.
The album finishes of with “Circling The Drain” which, again, has a bit of a punkish vibe to it and more crazy bass groove. Along with “Wake Up” this song really hammers home the idea that there is a sense of mind control taking over our lives resulting in people becoming zombies or puppets swimming round and round in the same fish bowl.
The addition of Nick Schendzielos on bass was an inspired choice. His playing raises the quality of the songs, with his infectious grooves and slaps. I mentioned previously his work playing off Peter Webber and the pair of them really do bring it. Webber himself is a beast behind the kit, demonstrating rock steady beats whilst throwing in his own artistic flair, adding touches of funk groove throughout and his playing makes the album “pop”
Special mention must also go to the production. The album is very clean and you can hear every instrument perfectly. Whereas most albums tend to bury the bass, there was a lot of emphasis on it here. It cuts through, it’s punchy and thick and is a highlight on a record full to the brim of highlights.
There is a very good chance that Conformicide will be remembered as a modern thrash classic. Whilst I’ve enjoyed all of Havok’s previous work, this feels to be their most complete and sets the bar for how modern thrash should be done. It may still be early in the year, but Conformicide should be on several Album of the Year lists come the end of 2017.
An absolute fantastic listen from start to finish and I cannot recommend it highly enough.