Havok – Conformicide

Wake up, sheeple

Another day, another boring modern thrash band releases another boring album. Once upon a time, Havok were a band with promise, but the depths they plumb with this release are new lows for a fairly notable and respected band such as them. This is a release that commits the cardinal sins of anything you might want to be entertained by – it’s boring, unmemorable and grating. I don’t know how anyone who critically evaluates musical substance could get any real enjoyment out of this beyond the primal response of head nodding and foot tapping.

This album has almost nothing going for it in the musical department beyond the most basal qualities of having lots of riffs, being somewhat aggressive and being metal. I expect more from an album than these barest traces of personality and/or identity, and Havok fail to deliver completely. There’s nothing special about the sound Havok employ here in any way, all this album amounts to musically is a restatement of the modern thrash metal template, with chugging yet brisk and slightly aggressive riffing and completely nondescript drumming and soloing, all wrapped up in a slight technical flair. It’s competently executed on a technical level, but that is what any listener would consider to be the pass mark for an album, and at no point does this aspire to be anything more. The album is at its core, completely generic and uncaptivating, which is a theme that runs through it somewhat. The sound of the album is problematic as well – the bass is a bit too prominent in the mix to the point where at times this album takes on completely forced-sounding funk-infused overtones like the first half of ‘F.P.C.’, and in fact the production in general is polished and slick. While the sound isn’t offensive it’s far too tame and sterile, which becomes apparent upon listening to how gutted the Pantera cover at the end of the album is (but any song will demonstrate this.) In addition, given that once again this is the standard for modern thrash albums the production doesn’t help this release in the identity department. The lack of identity and the lack of memorability that results banishes this release to the land of average modern thrash, deep within that oversaturated heap of a genre.

That said, there is one element that is distinctive (for the wrong reasons), and that is the vocal performance. It is far worse than on any album Havok have delivered. The vocals are a weak, thin and throat-splittingly raspy shout that sounds garbled and outright bad. One could argue that he sounds vitriolic and angry but he tries far too hard here and becomes difficult to take seriously. I wince at the pain these shrieks must cause him while performing, never mind the fact that despite the distortion of his voice the lyrics come through quite clearly. The album’s lyricism is intolerable, as the completely non-descript music on this album makes it come across as a vehicle for preaching as opposed to music for the sake of art, and intentional or not this feeling is impossible to shake. The problem is also in the message being delivered – it’s basically tinfoil-chewing new world order conspiracy theorist nonsense that every fractally wrong individual loves to blather on about combined with shallow non-conformist attitudes, and at no point does this album try to say anything remotely intelligent or interesting. The dumb message combined with the album’s condescending and preachy feel, the ubiquity of the lyrics and the blandness of the other performances shoves the lyrics to the forefront. This makes them very hard to avoid, and the album is quite a bit worse for it.

For an album that seemingly prides its own individuality this really does follow the pack; not just in terms of its music, but also in terms of the message it tries to convey as well. It is musically stale and lyrically reads like the ranting of an edgy 13 year old, two things any metal fan on the internet has had far too much experience with long before this came along. This combined with the appalling narrator makes for a listening experience that can be charitably described as ‘dreadful’. This is an unpleasant album that no one should really have to listen to for reasons other than deriding it. It is a totally uncaptivating and inconsequential work; a shameful display.

Rating: 28%

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