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Havok - Conformicide review


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Band: Havok
Album: Conformicide
Release date: March 2017

Disc I
01. F.P.C.
02. Hang 'Em High
03. Dogmaniacal
04. Intention To Deceive
05. Ingsoc
06. Masterplan
07. Peace Is In Pieces
08. Claiming Certainty
09. Wake Up
10. Circling The Drain

[Special Edition CD bonus]
11. String Break
12. Slaughtered [Pantera cover]

[Gatefold 2LP + CD bonus]
13. String Break
14. Slaughtered [Pantera cover]
15. Claiming Certainty [live]

Stepping out of line off of a cliff.

A lot of events had elapsed since 2013's Unnatural Selection, fertile grounds for bands with a political bent like Havok to find inspiration and an audience less certain about the answers they once held. It was in this landscape that 2017's Conformicide was born. Unfortunately, rather than offering a cathartic release or a soundtrack to the turmoil in their fans' lives, it only added to the questions swirling in their heads; in this case, why have Havok dropped the ball so badly?

It is ironic that in times rich in causes and issues to find inspiration that Havok, espousing a message that veers close to calling people sheeple, flip expectations and produce an album that is uninspiring and reheated both musically and lyrically. Where before the band sounded fresh or did very well at presenting old ideas in a new package to sound inventive and creative, the band must have been holding the monkey's paw when they wished for the sheeple to wake up to reality, because now the illusion of freshness has been shattered.

The band's trademark technical riffs are still very much here, but they fall victim as to what I call prog syndrome; just because it's technically brilliant doesn't automatically equate to it being a brilliant riff. I can appreciate the effort that went into this album (particularly Schendzielos' bass work) but little of the fast riffing is recallable after the following track has played, little sticks out in the mind once it has flown by. "Claiming Certainty", "Peace In Pieces" and "Hang 'Em High" are the tracks I have the best recall of; none are branded on my mind, but like a drunk waking up with a hangover, I have a vague recollection of how they unfolded.

Add into the mix Sanchez's Red Bull-powered (other energy drinks are available), Zetro-styled delivery, you have extra shades of grey to added to what is a very bland offering. Where before his delivery had some (minor) level of variation, here he doubles down hard on going all out, as if he can change the world if he is able to shout loud enough. Only on "Circling The Drain" does some level of change in the vocal delivery occur, but even then it's not a complete switch up.

Politically charged lyrics are as much a component of thrash metal as double bass drumming; for Havok they have been a central piece on which they rest the remainder of the song. However, it is perhaps because this key plank is rotten that the whole foundation of Conformicide is on a weak footing; where the band had often come close to dogmatic protestations on prior records, they had been well counter-balanced by just enough nuance and strong musical accompaniment to overlook this issue. On Conformicide, their Libertarian message takes on the form of someone wearing a sandwich board decrying the government after he had skimmed over George Orwell's 1984. While sometimes there is nothing more effective and cathartic as a blunt protest anthem (say a "Killing In The Name Of" or "Peace Sells"), here songs like "Intention To Decieve" and "Ingsoc" come off as trying to sound more mature than they are, trying to ape Bad Religion but instead coming off like One Minute Silence.

It is with all this in mind that I add the caveat that Conformicide isn't the worst album to be spawned upon this planet; while the bright spots are somewhat dim in comparison to their prior output, they shed just enough light that you can have some fun with this album. Tracks like "F.P.C.", "Hang 'Em High" and "Claiming Certainty" are somewhat run-of-the-mill, but they're still enjoyable. The album is akin to a cheese pizza at a restaurant; it's fairly bland and you wouldn't order it when you could have a vegetarian hot or a meat feast, but if they only have cheese then it's better than having nothing or waiting for something better to come along.

For what it's worth, despite my low opinion of the album I find myself listening to it more than other albums I rank this low; it has plenty of flaws, but somehow I return for more than I would for any other album of this quality.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 7
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 5
Production: 8

Written on 01.11.2020 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 18 users
02.11.2020 - 02:31

Wow I could not disagree with you more. I think this album is an excellent example of modern thrash. Intention to Deceive IMO is an excellent song. I don't think the lyrics, songwriting are generic or cheesy either. Hey it's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. I'd give this album a 8.0-8.2. Hang 'Em High and Ingsoc are both awesome songs, I guess I can just feel them so they speak to me. That's what's awesome about music and why there is so many variations of it. I do respect and appreciate the depth of your reviews though. Please keep them coming.

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