Released: 2013, Candlelight Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
With their third album, Denver's Havok muscle up, get more serious and take a step or two away from the freewheeling “rethrash” of their earlier outings. Where 2011's Time Is Up and 2009's Burn each had more than their share of '80s thrash idol worship, and didn't seem to care how obvious it sounded, and the 2012 Point of No Return EP featured Slayer and Sepultura covers, Unnatural Selection finds the band making a concerted effort to establish their own identity, or at least sound less old school – though with varying degrees of success.
There is a cover song here, but it's Black Sabbath's “Children of the Grave,” which is an odd and already overdone choice that kinda goes nowhere. “Chasing The Edge,” however, might as well be a cover song, as it sounds like a spot on hybrid of Testament's “Let Go Of My World” and Metallica's “Escape.”
But get past those bumps in the road and Unnatural Selection sees the quartet coming into their own. Much of the material here is noticeably beefier, heavier and darker. Even the faster songs, the opener “I Am The State,” “Give Me Liberty … Or Give Me Death” - with its wickedly funky ass bass line, new guy Michael Leon is a fantastic addition - and the title track that wraps up the album, are thick and chunky.
With Terry Date (producer of White Zombie, Deftones, Pantera) and ex-Death/Obituary/Testament guitarist James Murphy having a hand in mixing and mastering the album, which was produced by Havok vocalist/rhythm guitarist Dave Sanchez, the emphasis obviously is on heft. And Havok deliver it in spades, especially on the mid-tempoish fare that makes up the bulk of the album, raining hooks like Mike Tyson on “Under The Gun,” “Waste of Life” and “Living Nightmare.”
The lyrics here are a suitably weighty lot, oozing cynicism, anger and even Tea Party-sounding anti-government paranoia on the aforementioned “I Am The State,” “Give Me Liberty … Or Give Me Death” and “Under The Gun.” But they give the album a definite topicality and show that while Havok might revel in the past, they certainly don't want to sound stuck there.