October 4, 2013 | , | 3.5

Havok, Unnatural Selection

Havok: Unnatural Selection

Havok’s last full-length, 2011’s Time Is Up was one hell of a thrash album with some of the best drum work I’ve heard in a long time. It was aggressive, fun and contagious, but it clung a little too tightly to the retro Bay area sound. With Unnatural Selection, the band seems to be branching further out to incorporate a more varied field of influences. This makes for an overall better album albeit with a few missteps here and there.

The Colorado band still has an iron grip on the retro thrash sound that fuels their driving sound, but the music on Unnatural Selection has anything but a singular vision. The guitar work (provided by Reece Scruggs and vocalist David Sanchez) is just as infectious and frenzied as before, but now it’s also a good bit more varied. I’ve always loved the band’s all-or-nothing rhythms, but the addition of some massive, mid-paced chugging monsters (with more rumble from new bassist Michael Leon) certainly make for a more enjoyable album that has more than enough head-banging ebb and flow (with the continued domination of drummer Pete Webber).

As any proper thrash album should start, the politically charged “I Am the State” rages right out of the gate with pile-driving drums and frantic guitar work. This opener couldn’t be any more appropriate as it’s a solid transition from the previous album to the more diverse music found here. “Give Me Liberty… Or Give Me Death” is another hard-charger and probably the best track on this offering. The riff work is on point and attitude is pure gauntleted fist up the governments ass — with the current shutdown in D.C. this song is as timely as you can get.

“It Is True” sees the guys focus more on the mid-tempo drive which ultimately dominates Unnatural Selection while the more frenzied eruptions are left as means to change things up instead of fueling every second of each song. At times it works and at others, not so much. The combination of “Under the Gun” and “Waste of Life” fall a little flat for me as a good bit of the aggressiveness is tamed. The lyrics are bit clunky on the first while the cleaner singing on the second is something that I’m apparently going to have to get used to. And unfortunately, I think the cover of Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” doesn’t translate well. Havok is obviously a thrash band and their attempt at doom doesn’t work nearly as well as their Slayer medley and Sepultura cover on their EP Point of No Return.

Thankfully, the guys close strong with the pummeling title track. Despite a couple of stumbles along the albums path, Unnatural Selection is still a strong effort from these thrashing bastards. It doesn’t quite have the immediacy or energy of Time is Up, but it’s got a more dynamic sound which is evidence of the group growing and evolving. As long as Webber keeps beating the hell out of his kit and the Scruggs/Sanchez combo keep shredding, I’ll be awaiting their next release with open arms.