If Megadeth were somehow able to make another Rust in Peace in the late 2010s, it would sound a lot like Havok’s Conformicide. The Denver thrash quartet has always taken influence from the Big 4’s second banana among others, but their fourth full-length sees the compositions take a more technical turn and guitarist/vocalist Dave Sanchez mixes some extra Mustaine in with his preset Zetro impression. However, “late 2010s” may have been the real key part of my opening phrase as the lyrics are less “Take No Prisoners” and much more aligned with the crap MegaDave is infamous for spewing nowadays…
At least the band’s musicianship is able to match up to their more technical aspirations. This is the most polished production job they’ve had so far, highlighting the intricate riff work and allowing every instrument to be heard. Bassist Nick Schendzielos ends up standing out the most; his slaps and noodling on songs like “Hang ‘em High” and “Circling the Drain” are certainly a love or hate affair, but they do make the compositions way more interesting than they otherwise would be. It is truly a fascinating time to be alive when one’s favorite part of a thrash album is the bassist from Job for a Cowboy…
The lyrics are predictably the album’s most divisive point. I can handle libertarian conspiracy-isms in my metal (After all, Dystopia is still the best Iced Earth album since the 90s) but Havok just spouts off endless #wakeupsheeple rhetoric that has already become cliché and tired at best. At worst, the lyrics on “F.P.C.” (Behold, a band that wants to defy political correctness so much that they censored their own title. That’ll show those cucks!) and the ‘fake news’ introduction on “Intention to Deceive” lead to otherwise okay tracks becoming cringeworthy dealbreakers. It’s a rare instance when a metal vocalist being able to enunciate every word isn’t a good thing.
It also doesn’t help that the songwriting really isn’t that memorable. A politically-charged album with a vocalist this legible should make for some catchy anthems but there aren’t really any particular phrases that stick out. The lead vocal lines don’t say anything that you’ll be chanting later and the gang vocals are the same basic one-liners as shouted by literally every thrash band you’ve ever heard. The instrumental segments are what end up redeeming songs like “Ingsoc” and “Peace is in Pieces,” but that seems to be the opposite of what you would want from such a message-oriented effort. It’s almost like the band is aware of how unengaging their message is.
Conformicide is a definite misnomer for Havok’s fourth album. A move to more technical thrash and overtly political lyrics may be a logical evolution for the band, but it could hardly be called nonconformist to use such a derivative sound as a springboard for lyrics that aren’t as unique as the band seems to think they are. Hopefully Havok can find a more insightful way to express themselves in the future but I’d stick to Time is Up or Unnatural Selection as far as their best music goes. Also, give the new Lich King album a listen while you’re at it; it’s way more intelligent and actually trying to be funny…
“Hang ‘em High”
“Peace is in Pieces”
Conformicide is now available via Century Media Records.