If there is one thing that Havok is known for, it is their determination to keep listeners headbanging throughout an entire record, and that's what the listener will get with the band's brand new release Unnatural Selection. The problem with several thrash bands today is the lack of originality, and that goes for much of the music scene today. It seems that everything has been tried, and the only way to create something new is by mixing styles of music together, but even that idea is getting a little dated. Havok's first two studio releases: Burn (2009) and Time Is Up (2011) were packed with thrash intensity all the way through, whereas with Unnatural Selection, the band incorporated rock n' roll influences to showcase metal's origins.
The album's opener, "I Am The State" offers a great guitar workout from ax-men David Sanchez and Reece Scruggs, as well as intense speedy riffs all the way through.
From track 3, "Is This True" and track 9, the band's cover of the Sabbath classic "Children Of The Grave", the album goes a tad on to the slow side, even though groove is still intact in those tracks, until the closing title track, where the thrash comes back and gives the listener one more round of headbanging ferocity.
Track 6, "Living Nightmare" contains an awesome thrash groove that is reminiscent of early Testament. Their seventh track, "Chasing The Edge" has a groove that is guaranteed to keep you headbanging throughout, where it has great gang vocals, and goes mid-tempo thrash in the middle section.
The album also has its share of fillers. While track 2 "Give Me Liberty...Or Give Me Death" is an intense thrasher, it's one of the more weaker thrashers where it suffers from weak vocals and non-interesting riffs. The band also announced that the drums were recorded in a theatre, so my expectation on the drum sound was for them to sound huge, but they sound way too thin to have been recorded in a theatre, but drummer Pete Webber still offers up a solid drum workout.
Having said all of that, Unnatural Selection is a solid and intense thrash album, but I wish that Havok would take a chance of progressing rather than following the same steps as Slayer and repeat themselves every record, because that increases the chances of the band dying, and the band's relevance may even be put at risk after a while.
Even though Havok incorporated the rock n' roll influence on this record, many of the rock n' roll riffs and grooves displayed on the record feel dated, with the exception of a couple of tracks with those influences. I understand that Havok want to keep their music exciting for their fans, but if they don't progress at some point, they may suffer from losing their reputation of one of this century's best New Wave of Thrash bands. Even though there's really nothing too special about Unnatural Selection, the musicianship is still top-notch from start to finish, the massive talent is undeniable, and the guitar tone is still highly crunchy and gritty, thanks to the mastering duties of production great Terry Date. Be sure to check your neck after listening to the album.
Highs: I Am The State, Living Nightmare, Chasing The Edge and Unnatural Selection.
Lows: The drums sound too thin to have been recorded in a theatre. Could have used a couple more thrashier songs. Fair few of "been there, done that" moments.