Conformicide review by Havok

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  • Released: Mar 10, 2017
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.2 (22 votes)
Havok: Conformicide
15

Sound — 8
It's safe to say thrash metal has seen a bit of a revival lately, with some really heavy hitting bands like Vektor, Skeletonwitch, and Municipal Waste helping to revive the genre in the past decade or so, and each of the Big Four bands (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax) releasing albums that are considered by many of their fans to be in the "return to form category". One of the bands leading the charge on the revival of thrash metal has been Havok, hailing from Denver, Colorado, and consisting of vocalist/guitarist David Sanchez, bassist Nick Schendzielos (formerly of Cephalic Carnage and Job for a Cowboy, and the most recent member to join, since 2015), drummer Pete Webber, and lead guitarist Reece Scruggs.

The sound on this album is about as bare-bones and classic as thrash metal gets, most of the time. The band does occasionally stretch its musical wings, though, and album opener "F.P.C." (which I'm guessing ironically stands for "Fuck Political Correctness", based on the lyrics) sees the band using classic thrash metal acoustic guitar sounds, and introducing the album's vocals (probably one of the few uses of totally clean vocals on the album) over one of the funkiest, grooviest bass lines this side of Primus. And Schendzielos' bass performance on this album is certainly worthy of mention, as nearly all of his bass lines are incredible. He revels in playing lead bass parts all over the album, but never getting in the way of the other performers on the album. But, if you're a fan of incredible bass playing, this album might just be for you.

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Guitar riffs are in no short supply on this record, either, with every single song featuring many fist-pumping riffs, as well as some great solos from Scruggs. Sanchez even gets a few solos on the record, including the main solo in the song "Dogmaniacal". Pete's drumming is in the pocket for the most part, and he's probably the least stand-out member of the band, but his work is still great as it lays a perfect foundation for the band. There's not a lot of tempo variety throughout the album, with most of the tracks being on the upper end of the scale, but there's still enough to keep the album from getting boring or stale. There are a couple of interesting things on the album besides the music, such as the "news introduction" on "Intention to Deceive" and the sound collage that opens "Wake Up". The bonus tracks on this album include a very short, punky track called "String Break", and a cover of Pantera's "Slaughtered".

The production on this album is great. Very raw and barebones, with not a lot of extraneous layers clogging up the mix, and every instrument gets an impressive amount of breathing room. The mix is a little heavy toward the bass guitar, but given the style of bass playing on the album, this is more than welcome. The guitar and drum tones are also very organic and not so oversaturated that they lose definition.

Lyrics — 8
In keeping with thrash metal tradition, the lyrics on this album are often political and very pissed-off. Opening with "F.P.C.", the band makes its mission statement pretty clear and bold: "They want to shut you up/And put your mind in a cage/Dictate the words that you can use/Freedom of speech goes up in flames/When the censorship begins/They will come for you/Speaking your mind becomes a sin/Political correctness breaking through". Clearly, this is a sentiment that will cause some consternation among certain groups of people, but one can certainly understand where the rhetoric in these lyrics are coming from in this day and age, but it almost seems ironic that the title, which as mentioned above, likely stands for "Fuck Political Correctness", is abbreviated and censored.

Clearly, they're also not one to shy away from criticism of the US government, and they cut right to the chase on "Hang 'em High": "Selling out to the highest bidder/So spineless, so low/Politicians and big business/The United Snakes of America/Criminal/I think it's time for justice to be served/Punishment/I think it's time they get what they deserve/The enemy is not coming from overseas". "Dogmaniacal" also takes aim squarely at religious establishments: "God wants you you to obliterate your neighbor/If he does not think like you/Take a look at any holy book/And it's crystal clear it's true/You look with your eyes, but you fail to see/Because you're blinded/You're blinded/Blinded by religious ideology". The band also references George Orwell's "1984" in "Ingsoc", and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in "Masterplan". The band also proves they can be against both pervasive political correctnes and war at the same time with "Peace Is in Pieces". With so much anger and agression on the album, it's almost a bit jarring that the album closer "Circling the Drain" has what can almost be described as a positive ray of hope to its tone, in its calling for humanity to rise against all of its negative aspects to build a better tomorrow: "Humanity is at a vital point/On the cusp of greatness/Unless we start to fix the problems of the world/It could all be wasted now/We've got so many things/That cause misery and pain/Unless we fight for change/We are circling the drain".

Vocally, David Sanchez relies heavily on shouted and screamed vocals rather than clean vocals, though there are clean vocals occasionally on the album, such as the almost classic Mustaine snarl in the verses of "F.P.C." and the strong cleans in "Circling the Drain". Unlike a lot of vocalists that use harsher vocals, I don't find myself growing weary of Sanchez' voice after several listens, and his voice definitely suits the style well.

Overall Impression — 8
While it's nowhere near as sophisticated as Vektor's recent release "Terminal Redux", one of the few newer thrash metal albums to really make waves in the scene, "Conformicide" might be in the standings as one of the best recent thrash metal efforts to date, even including recent records from the Big Four (though personally, I still think Megadeth's "Dystopia" was an incredible record).

It's rare that an album that calls back so strongly to an era of music some may find "dated" can really bring you back to that era, but "Conformicide" does just that for me, and stands proudly and strongly against titles from the classic era of thrash metal. If you're still someone who believes anything after "...And Justice for All" was bad, or that Megadeth isn't Megadeth without Marty Friedman, or someone who still regularly spins albums from non-Big Four acts such as Testament, Exodus, and Forbidden, I can't recommend this album enough. Truly one of the strongest releases in the genre that I've heard in a long time. And it's a true testament to the quality of the record when it's hard to really pick a stand-out moment on the album, though I definitely like the variety in vocal styles on "Circling the Drain" and the absolutely insane bass playing throughout the record. And even if thrash metal is a scene you kind of missed out on, I'd still recommend giving this absolutely solid album a chance.

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18 comments sorted by best / new / date

    beggar__
    They no longer have that mexican looking bass player? I thought he was sick. I only recently found out about Havok and "Point of no return" was what got me interested. I love the oldschool sound. The new polished djenty metal sound is fucking boring.
    travislausch
    Their new bass player is fucking sick too, man They really know how to pick 'em. Personally, I love the polished "djenty" sound, but every once in a while, I gotta have something raw and organic like this. 
    44Double0
    Totally agree on the sound part, I usually get hate for this but this is why I dislike Ola Englunds tone most of the time, it get's boring really fast. Great guitarist though.
    jasperado
    i saw these guys in a bar in fort collins one time back in like 2007 with about 20 people slipping all over the beer soaked floor and falling whilst drunkenly moshing around like we were at a slayer show, thats how i will always remember them, they were good you could tell right away
    qrEE
    *sigh* oh look another perspective on "PC culture" that has absolutely no understanding of the actual concepts of "censorship" and "freedom of speech" and attack the invisible boogey-men known as "sjws" rather than demonstrating any knowledge on sociopolitical issues in practice.  I was hoping that this bullshit wouldn't find its way into Metal but unfortunately it did. When are people going to figure out that "freedom of speech" and "censorship" are terms that can only meaningfully exist in a legal context? Specifically with reference to the relationship between government and people? Violations of freedom of speech can only occur when the government attempts censorship. A violation of freedom of speech is a violation of federal law, and it's specifically something that refers to the *government* violating the rights of citizens. Outside of that specific context, "freedom of speech" and "censorship" essentially do not exist. Denial of platform isn't censorship, and freedom of speech is not the right to any platform you desire. The "PC police" don't exist, and if they're referring to social justice advocates, well it turns out that social justice advocates aren't the government, and so they are incapable of posing a threat to your freedom of speech. I mean we could grow up and have a more nuanced understanding of actual sociopolitical issues, or we could complain about how those pesky "pc police" are ruining everything by... doing something... some vague... thing... but *scary ooooo!!!*
    HugoPan
    Yeah, like if there wasn't mass boycots to business that 'offends' the feelings of 'minorities' all over the country, people getting fired for saying what they think, people losing contracts and jobs oportunities, even death threats(Like Andrea Bocelli's threats if he sang for Trump in the White House). its not a straw man. its pretty real, and people must be really naive to ignore this.
    travislausch
    I mean, I completely agree with you, but art is art, man. I like my thrash metal pissed off, and I don't really care what the target is. People would complain about this all the same if they were going after the opposite side of the argument on this one, too.  I dunno, I guess I just don't look to thrash metal for my philosophy on life and politics.
    qrEE
    It's not that, I just look for Thrash Metal that's about something *real*. The whole "PC police" thing is a straw man, not something that actually exists or is relevant to any real issues. "Hook in Mouth" by Megadeth sang about the exact same topic (censorship and freedom of speech coming under attack) but sang about it in response to a senate hearing fronted by the PMRC that was intent on restricting access to Metal records. You know, something *real*.  Like, if you're gonna be pissed off about something, at least understand *what it is you're mad at*. Best example is Dyer's Eve from Metallica. To me, singing about "pc police" is like singing about "emos" or "posers". Of all the things the band could be pissed off at, they chose the middle school route. And I mean that's fine, more power to them. I just expect more bands to do this too because that's what "political anger" looks like now... looks like Rush Limbaugh and Alex fucking Jones. And that's unfortunate because it encourages people to be proudly ignorant about real issues, which just makes the genre stagnate artistically (well, it's been doing that for 15 years now).
    Camron62\m/
    And how is it that, for some reason, Havok doesn't seem to understand what they're mad at??
    Camron62\m/
    Bruh who the fuck is to say that the state of the world, and catering to being "PC" isn't a huge problem in the world right now, especially in Europe?
    Snake™
    As someone with their degree in political science, I concur with your statement. People don't actually understand what political correctness is, they just see it as being soft. PC =/= censorship. Being "politically correct" merely means using terms as if government would (i.e. African-American, Asian-American, etc.) when discussing stuff. Most people feel it violates free speech because they "can't" call people racial slurs, which is actually wrong - 1st Amendment protects government consequence, not the ass-kicking someone deserves for using a racial slur to begin with.  In the realm of thrash metal, there aren't many enlightened artists like that, especially in a genre where being "tough" and drinking copious amounts of piss beer is the norm. The best political-minded thrash album will always be Rust In Peace, as Mustaine was actually calling out excessive wars and the nuclear arms race. 
    SomberSun
    Always good to see artists of any realm take a stand against the autocracy of the left.
    44Double0
    Great album from what I've heard so far, saw them live last year and they were absolutely killer! Need to dig deeper into their music, only a casual listener as of now...
    SonOfAnarchy
    At first I didn't like the singles that much, except Hang em high, but after hearing the record as a whole I start to come around on the other songs too. I think this is a pretty good record musically, however, IMO Dave's voice was cooler on Unnatural Selection.
    a drummer
    Goood thrash. I definitely enjoy this more than selection but the lyrics are cringy at times. The drummer has really stepped it up and the addition of the new bassist is great. (Listen to JFAC's Sun Eater) Songwriting wise, this is the best they've ever sounded. I just miss their older party vibe. Now it's just too in your face with political and religious bullshit.
    kurdtdcobain
    This album is so good. It's their equivalent of Death's Human. Still like original Havok, progressive enough to be different and growing, but still obviously the band we love. I feel like they will always be held to Time Is Up when releasing new material, but if you love that album so much, you can always listen to TIU. This new album is very musically mature, and I'm glad that they feel as if they're not confined to their previous album's sounds