"some music was meant to stay underground..."

70000 Tons of Metal - The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise

Havok - "Burn" (CD)

Havok - "Burn" CD cover image

"Burn" track listing:

1. Wreckquiem (1:35)
2. The Root Of Evil (5:33)
3. Path To Nowhere (3:41)
4. Morbid Symmetry (4:55)
5. Identity Theft (4:43)
6. The Disease (4:27)
7. Scabs Of Trust (4:46)
8. Ivory Tower (3:48)
9. To Hell (4:10)
10. Category Of The Dead (5:36)
11. Melting The Mountain (2:43)
12. Afterburner (3:26)

Reviewed by on June 25, 2009

"If a straightforward blast of old-school thrash is what the doctor ordered, 'Burn' will fill the prescription."

For the past several years, there has been an influx of young bands looking to bring the spirit of 80s thrash back to life. Some bands are taking the task seriously (E.g., Evile and Warbringer), while others are going for a goofy, fun and punk-ish sound (E.g., Gama Bomb and Municipal Waste). From the cold mountains of Denver, Colorado comes a fiery unit by the name of Havok, who specialize in both sides of the coin. Formed in 2004, the band gained the attention of Candlelight Records with their 2007 EP “Pwn ‘Em All.” Their debut album, “Burn,” is an apt description of the album as a whole; for 11 tracks (plus a generic opening instrumental), Havok is relentless in its sonic attack on the senses, providing an outlet for thrashaholics to get their fix.

If a straightforward blast of old-school thrash is what the doctor ordered, “Burn” will fill the prescription. From the first seconds of “The Root Of Evil,” it is immediately clear that Havok was greatly influenced by classic 80s bands such as Testament and Overkill. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Havok isn’t afraid to push the song lengths far. The slow burner “Category Of The Dead” and epic whirlwind “Morbid Symmetry” progress smoothly with the extra time added in. It is mostly full speed ahead, save for a brief and unexpected clean section tacked onto “Identity Theft.” Havok saves the best for last, as the one-two heavy hitters, “Melting The Mountain” and “Afterburner,” close out “Burn” with a megaton explosion.

While Havok definitely knows how to compose songs guaranteed to get head’s banging long and hard, there isn’t anything new or innovative on “Burn.” This isn’t surprising considering it’s the band’s debut album, but it hinders the chance for the album to stand-out amongst their peers. However, to hardcore thrash fiend’s, they will hardly notice. The lyrics are your standard death/destruction/hatred/war jargon that has been written before by hundreds of bands.

Musically, the foursome does a competent job. The solos range from lackluster to solid, but never get to a point where the listener’s mouth will be open in amazement. Guitarist David Sanchez pulls double duty as vocalist and his performance is uneven. His approach is to yell and scream excessively, which is effective, but when he goes into a higher register, the result is grating, as if a cat is getting molested by a blender.

One note of interest is the strong bass work of Jessie de los Santos. A spiritual successor to Jason Newsted during his Flotsam and Jetsam days, Santos dominates the proceedings with his quick and technical flashiness. It's too bad that the bass is way too far up in the mix and actually overpowers the rhythm guitar. It’s as if Steve Harris had a field day with the recordings before the band sent the album off to be pressed.

“Burn” fails to cause any excitement in a slowly-overfilling genre. There are tracks scattered around that will raise an eyebrow or two, and the last two tunes at the end are solid slabs of thrash metal, but most of “Burn” is by-the-books. Fans of thrash will find a few favorites and leave the rest in the dust, a pile of ashes that had the potential to morph into a forest fire of Californian proportions.

Highs: Strong ending, lots of energy, first half is relatively strong

Lows: Bass too high in the mix, lack of originality, mediocre musicianship

Bottom line: "Burn" is an average thrash album that has its moments.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)