LOUDER REVIEWS: 'V' - Havok
For a style that rides so much on the legacy of four defining acts, Thrash Metal sure has a lot of fresh blood in its ranks. For an act who titled their debut ‘Pwn ‘em All’, Havok seem to be making more and more of a name for themselves. And as the genre teeters on the edge of an exciting and long-overdue second wave, their politically charged lyricism proves evermore needed. Portraying imagery of a living man disintegrating to dust, 'V' is an exemplar of anxieties – a piece which ferociously confronts disgraces and nightmarish realities, that can make us feel like the fabric of our world is in a state of decay. It does all that while furthering the compositional and expressive maturity of the act, bearing all the hostility of past works while creating an animistic experience.
A cavalcade of frequencies begins ‘Post-Truth Era’. Distinct from the propagandist news bulletin which saw in 2017’s ‘Conformicide’, the first few seconds instantly show an attempt to improve an already impressionistic sound. In fact, the opener is fastened and imbued with complex moments that send sensations of fear and exhilaration riveting through the listener's body, upon each startling alteration. “Demand evidence! the messenger of truth wasn't only burned alive, he was forced to change his words, turning the world into an echo chamber of lies" our frontman screams, once more wielding his skill for provocative yet rhythmically complex wordplay. An overarching concept at play is the division between honesty and deceit, warning us to be aware of which is which. “Don’t believe what they say, another lie another dollar made” runs the chorus to the mighty ‘Fear campaign’, continuing to stack tension. Scruggs and Sanchez’s guitar styles skilfully duel in a battle between the classic riff-orientated aura which they owe so much to, and the faster, throttling style which has come to define them. All the while, Webber and Bruce do more than define a distinct tempo, their intricate bass and drum work often proving distinguished in a way that's unique yet challenging.
The start to ‘Betrayed by Technology’ is intentionally stunted, making the cohesive completion outstanding. The utilisation of higher pitches and less distortion sets the piece apart from the macerating nature we have come to expect, creating more of a symphonic and amassed feel, as if to symbolise the whirr and chaos of digits in an enigmatic algorithm. A hearer may marvel at the multifariousness and diversity of all the different channels or foundations the track accrues, though may feel the sting of realisation, as these elements begin to resemble something far less human. ‘Ritual of the Mind’ by contrast sounds like a call to war from the opening seconds, the riff and beat marching forward like an armada. There's a cruder and less crazy side to their playing demonstrated, so preferability will be vital in determining which side of the records sound you gravitate to. For those who prefer the erratic side, ‘Interface with the Infinite’ comes recommended. About psychedelic experiments, the severe instrumentation plays a startlingly great role in conveying an idea of hallucination, occasionally reverberating or changing when you least expect, carrying the idea of feeling lost in mental prisons, inflicted through mind control. An outlandish concept? A tribute to science fiction? Maybe, yet it's those journeys into exaggeration and conspiracy that grant so much wit and pathos to these anthems.
“Is this a figment of my imagination, or is this apparition real? I can't believe that I escaped the war but I can't escape my fate” divulges the violent thought process of the burned-out soldier on ‘Phantom Force’. Spoils of war may be an expected concept in their field, yet the trouncing cadenced shifts, and the hammering instrumentation summons images of bloody battles and gutted civilisations in such a way that you hone on to the story, forgetting about any perceived predictability. ‘Cosmetic Surgery’ cuts frightening parallels between body operations and the lies politicians tell to hide ugliness, each splicing variation in the performance, feeling like the stabbing of a blade or the clatter of guns. ‘Panpsychism’ creeps in on spidery acoustics – there are risks scattered throughout as menacing backing harmonies pervade as the rhythm section retains presence, and a tolling of bells overshadows satanic arpeggios, in a timely tribute to tradition. Soon After, ‘Merchants of Death’ makes a strangling impression in only two minutes, both frenetically fast and bitingly raw in composition.
‘V’ ends on one of the most ambitious pieces they’ve ever penned – an eight-minute exploration of a characters anguished mental state, which encompasses visceral aggression, and melancholy introspection. “I feel all alone, an empty shell of what used to be. Feel like a ghost. Psyche imposed by a mental cacophony” runs one line to a song humbly titled ‘Don’t do it’. And that's the underlying point – there’s a misrepresentation at the start of the review. In fact, the artwork can be just as easily interpreted as a man who is growing as tree’s grow in a desolate wasteland. Havok’s writing can be perceived as violent or hostile, or as powerful and motivating. With the determination and vigour on show, it is difficult not to feel affected in one way.
‘V’ is available for purchase and streaming now.
Check out the video for 'Phantom Force' below: