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Havok - Unnatural Selection Review

by Matt Hensch

While many revivalist thrash bands have stumbled over the creative block and relied solely on recycling Slayer riffs, a band like Havok has excelled beyond its competition. The group's first wave of albums, including the baller "Time is Up," had shown snapshots of a quartet that could channel the blood and brains of bands like Exodus or Sepultura (before they began sucking the big one, that is) and include creative elements, which quickly made them the herd's alpha male. "Unnatural Selection" is a proper continuation of Havok's ongoing crusade into the metallic pits, and is likewise an evolutionary record of sorts. Toned down are the blazing riffs and scorching solos of "Time is Up," replaced for a more balanced formula that weaves from snappy beatings to mid-paced haymakers—a transition done by many of their cohorts both old and young. The good thing about Havok: they know what they're doing.

"Unnatural Selection" sounds like Havok truly coming into form. Right from the opening bursts of "I Am the State," Havok is running through crossover-inspired thrashy goodness loaded with piercing vocals, burning riffs, and limitless storms of electricity. As the album rolls on, little nods of the group's influences spray out in varying degrees, and "Unnatural Selection" ends up kicking some serious tail. "Give Me Liberty... or Give Me Death" is another rocket of blazing riffs and unrelenting intensity, and nicely placed after "I Am the State." Afterwards, Havok begins diving into some evolutionary territory, as the gloriously dark "It is True" and "Under the Gun" explore different rhythms and ideas that add a lot of girth and imagination to the Havok enterprise. Mildly different, yet not far out. Mid-paced numbers like "Waste of Life" are a swell time as well, but the band circles back to the turbo-charged energy of its openers shortly thereafter.

There's a lot of noteworthy chemistry here, particularly in the rhythm section. Pete Webber, who'd previously been labeled a killer drummer on "Time is Up," takes this land as his own. His invigorating style and sharpness bring an unprecedented amount of vitality to "Unnatural Selection," and it's no wonder he's considered such an integral part of the Havok machine. Not to discredit the performances of the remaining members, mind you; they also make contributions to the record's success. David Sanchez's shrieks continue to break the sound barrier, Reece Scruggs' ripping solos are beastly, and Michael Leon's bass playing improves "Unnatural Selection" significantly, especially throughout the cover of "Children of the Grave." Speaking of this Black Sabbath ode, Havok's take on the classic is unique and controlling, a clear contender for the record's crown jewel. It lyrically fits well into the social and political themes expressed throughout "Unnatural Selection."

From whirlwind riffs to concrete-smashing grooves and even a cover tune cooked superbly, "Unnatural Selection" is a winner. They're a versatile bunch with a lot of performing power and chemistry, and it's very clear that they have a perfect understanding of where they want to go musically, yet at the same time the gentlemen of Havok keep themselves within the confines of their elements. "Unnatural Selection" beats out "Time is Up" in my opinion, as it shows so much more than just erupting speed, although that's not a bad thing either. In fact, no matter what they do, Havok survives based on laws both natural and artificial—they cannot be stopped. Havok's time is far from up; it has only just begun.

Havok - Unnatural Selection


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