The thing about younger thrash bands these days is that they have the advantage of their youth and modern playing and production, and that youthful energy and powerful sounding recording definitely results in lethal sounding releases. Bands like Lost Society and Havok are solid proof of this combination. With Havok especially, listening to their Point of No Return EP got me checking out and subsequently being blown away by their past releases. So it was with great anticipation that I await their third full length album, Unnatural Selection.
The Give Me Liberty… Or Give Me Death single already got rabid fans waiting for the new album, but somehow it failed to really capture my attention or live up to my expectations. And for some reason this slight feeling of disappointment was constantly there as I took my first listens to Unnatural Selection. Make no mistake, the band’s high energy playing style is still there, with that high speed and intensity that the band goes for like in their past releases. The playing style of guitarists Reece and David still bear that high Bay Area thrash influence, with many moments where one is reminded of the good old days of bands such as Exodus, Testament or some slight Metallica, though there are some slight groove and crossover influences, with the gang shout vocals and stuff. The riffing on the intro of Give Me Liberty… Or Give Me Death even brings in some slight Toxic Holocaust influence.
But there was just this thing that was missing, that made the past releases so attractive to me. It was only on the third listen or so that I realised what was so out of place on the album. What made songs like Cradle to the Grave such attractive thrash tracks to me was to a large extent the high and energetic drumming of Pete, with the seeming chaos that he seems to bring about, yet keeping everything in some form of order throughout. While the energy and strength with which he punishes his kits are still present on Unnatural Selection, there are fewer of such truly energetic and chaotic sections, and this, I really miss a lot and definitely takes out much of the charm of Havok‘s music.
Honestly, as a record on its own Unnatural Selection is probably one of the better contemporary old school thrash records. But this honestly pales in comparison to their back catalogue, with the Black Sabbath cover Children of the Grave being one of the few personally high points on the album. If one wants to know what Havok is capable of, one would be better off checking out their Point of No Return EP or their past full length releases.