Sunday, May 15, 2011

Time Is Up - Havok - 2011

Time Is UpLast week I sent away for a stack of new metal, all of it from bands I had never heard, based solely upon write-ups in magazines and music blogs. A few records showed up late in the week and one has made such an immediate impression that I cannot get the word out quickly enough that Havok's Time Is Up is a must-buy, must-listen, must-share. Of course, reading up this week, those with the fingers on the pulse of the scene beneath the mainstream have been singing Havok's praises since before their formal debut from 2009, Burn. I never claimed to be on the cutting edge of music but am thrilled to be enjoying a band that is hopefully just out of the gate in what I imagine could be a long, fruitful career.

Recently re-enamoured with thrash's "Big 4," I have been digging into my metal library and delving into Metal Hammer looking to feed this addiction. The subject of the the May 2011 edition's Hot Metal feature (pg. 22), Time Is Up's artwork immediately caught my attention. It's old-school but still original - and a hell of a lot more fun than some of the heavy-handed stuff on sleeves nowadays. The band's logo looks like something I would have aspired to design on the back of a spiral-bound notebook in high school - and from someone who spent many an hour writing anything they could in an Iron Maiden font, that's the highest praise. What hooked me in, though, was the band's straightforward acknowledgement of their influences: 
"We wear our influences on our sleeve, but there's variety so we don't sound exactly like anyone else," [vocalist and guitarist David Sanchez] says. "When I write songs I'm thinking 'OK, that riff was inspired by Death, that one by Arch Enemy, that one by Megadeth...' I put all my favourite things about my favourite bands into one song. It's like 'The Best of Heavy Metal' every time!"
"Prepare for the Attack" gives you no time to do just that. Havok roars out of the gate and you're immediately in a glorious '83-'88 timewarp caught somewhere between Kill 'Em All, The New Order and Hell Awaits. Havok reminds everyone why the term "shreds" was applied to metal guitar as they do exactly that with not even a chance to catch your breath until you're blindsided by "D.O.A.," which brings the tempo to just below lightspeed, acknowledges metal's melodic capabilities and serves up a potent alternative to teenage driving's Signal 30.

"Killing Tendencies" seems to serve as the centerpiece from which each member of the band gets to show off their best (and, at a whopping 5:32, serves as the album's epic number) and is centered itself on some totally original guitar work mid-track. "The Cleric" churns and grinds around the obligatory anti-organized religion lyric until it takes a left turn with a minute left to go, doubles up the tempo and morphs into an outright monster. "Out of My Way" provides a riff I predict others will be using as a "Havok-esque" reference point in thrash history (along with "Fatal Intervention," which is nearly bowled over in the opening salvo and deserves revisiting on its own). "Time is Up" closes on the last of many high notes, Havok sentences the listener to their fate and, while in terms of subject matter I cannot help but think of "Devil's Island," all I really want to do is start this forty-minute sonofabitch over and see if the volume will go any higher.

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