Havok (United States Of America) – Pwn ‘Em All

Havok sounds a great deal like Nuclear Assault, which is a rather interesting band to sound like these days. They never quite go into crossover territory, but the band’s brand of thrash metal is highly punk influenced and bouncy; not quite the nihilistic thrash that many of us are into. The music is resolutely oldschool and quite well written, and there’s a distinct lack of the filler which seems to be plaguing a lot of modern thrash bands. The (just under) thirty minute running time of this EP is the perfect length: the six tracks get their points across without ever overstaying their welcome, and it’s quite an effective little package overall.

Judging by the cover art and title, you’d probably expect irritatingly good-time shitty retro-thrash like Municipal Waste, but Havok is much more genuine than that. I never get the impression that these are guys trying to falsely channel the oldschool. Instead, it sounds like they’re making the music they make, and it just happens to be oldschool thrash in style. Like all good thrash, it’s all about the riffs, which are very Nuclear Assault-based in nature, with the occasional flair of NWOBHM melody, particularly in the solos. Drums are surprisingly impressive, with lots of small double bass flourishes really adding to the overall package, along with the solid vocal performance. Production is clear and strong, though cymbals are pushed strangely far into the background.

Let’s get to the meat of the music though: the riffing. Havok displays a great grasp of the dynamics of oldschool thrash riffing, with two guitars that interact with each other in perfect ways. Tension is built and released through steadily building feedback or progressively more intense riffing, and each riff is carefully presented to the audience before getting machinegunned into the verse. It’s actually a really carefully made set of songs, despite the fact that it’s a relatively casual style of music. I can’t talk about standout riffs because, honestly, they’re all really good. Most of them are quite similar: lots of chugged open chords punctuated with bursts of punkish ‘melody’, but the more melodic solos add a genuine level of variation to the music as a whole. There are additional touches, though, that make this different from merely ‘normal’ thrash: a bigger usage of punch harmonics, the occasional flair of tremolo or big, sustained chords, and a generally good sense of varying a riff by simply working around how it’s played.

Havok is the sort of band that I value a great deal more than Municipal Waste, Blood Tsunami, Evile, etc. simply because they seem much more honest about the whole thing. The guys in this band are clearly big thrash fans, but don’t feel a need to show how thrash they are in their music. It’s a band that’s refused to follow the way thrash is rapidly getting turned into an ironically employed commodity, and instead just makes the music it wants to make without any care for what the rest of the world thinks. It shows in the music: very confident, with no uncertainty or room for error present. The band is a very tight unit, not only musically, but in the general cohesion of themselves as a musical entity: they’re damned good at what they do and they know it, but they don’t throw that in your face like others.

All the oldschool thrashers out there will definitely want to pick this up as long as they aren’t expecting overtly cutesy music. Get past the aesthetic and you’ll find music that’s quite vicious even in its calmest moments, and it could have easily come out of the late ’80s if the production was a little rawer. I think that as far as highly punk-influenced thrash goes, there’s not much better out there these days, and I find myself enjoying this EP more and more with every listen.

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~ by noktorn on October 14, 2007.

One Response to “Havok (United States Of America) – Pwn ‘Em All”

  1. Can we get a link?
    everyone around here wants that EP but its almost impossible to get unless you can use paypal…

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