ALBUM REVIEW: Havok – V

Judging by its title, the latest release by US thrashers Havok is either a bold, singular statement about this being their fifth full-length studio release, or, rather less plausibly, that it’s actually a concept album based on the 1980s sci-fi series about alien lizard people who wear big red jumpsuits. Sadly, it is, in fact, the rather more mundane first option, but that doesn’t stop V (Century Media) from being bigger and almost as frightening than the hairstyles on that show.

Two parts ...Justice era Metallica (but with notably more bass), one part Arch Enemy, opener ‘Post-Truth Era’ jabs and weaves, landing its punches with precision before the classic thrash attack of ‘Fear Campaign’ launches itself at you with all the elegance and sophistication of a roller-skating rhinoceros. ‘Betrayed by Technology’ and mid-paced chugathon ‘Ritual of the Mind’ are hewn from the same darkly portentous rock, while ‘Interface With the Infinite’ echoes the same techno-warnings heard elsewhere throughout the album. After the brief interlude of ‘Dab Tsog’ (named after a paralysing sleep demon also known as the Night Hag), the full-on ‘Phantom Force’ kicks things up a gear followed by the savage ‘Cosmetic Surgery’.

The bass-led progressive thrash of ‘Panpsychism’ may prove to be divisive among some fans, but the fast-paced snap of ‘Merchants of Death’ sets things straight before the schizophrenic eight-minute closer ‘Don’t Do It’ begins with another burst of prog, and even some clean singing before launching into a frantic blur of riffs and speed.

As V progresses it becomes increasingly clear that the star of the show is new bass player Brandon Bruce. The second half, in particular, has his fingerprints all over it. All the familiar speed and fury is still in evidence, as are the Anthrax style chops and stomps, but with the band becoming more exploratory, and vocalist David Sanchez stretching himself even further, there’s no chance of Havok getting dull any time soon.

7 / 10

GARY ALCOCK