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Havok took me a bit by surprise with their debut EP “Pwn ‘Em All” by making a rather impressive appeal to the past. The element that took me in was that in spite of all the tried and true elements, the thing just managed to thrash like an absolutely motherfucker, taking all the better punk and metal elements of Nuclear Assault and a few other New York outfits and distilling it down to its most potent form. Their first LP “Burn” takes a bit of a more contemporary approach, throwing in a heap of technical elements reminiscent of the past couple of Overkill albums and all the speed a crack addict could ever hope to be able to handle.
Interestingly enough, the first sounds that jump forth from this impressive opus are that of a reserved, restful ballad at the start of “Wreckquiem” (yeah, it’s a corny title, but damn does this song work on every level). Once the thrashing starts on “The Root Of Evil”, all of the most radically heavy parts of “Bloodletting” and “Killbox 13” spring forth like a bad habit, pummeling the ears into submission and softening things up for an awaiting beat down session. For a band cut from the retro-scene, there’s a heap of newer, technical devices at work here that would make Jeff Waters proud.
But for all of the incredible thrashing that goes on right from the beginning, it isn’t until “Morbid Symmetry” that things really get going and all the flurries of notes start circling the speakers like a swarm of angry bees. Amid the occasional low end groove is a mountain of impressive lead guitar work and maddened drumming fit to put a crack right in the middle of the earth. There’s definitely a fair share of older Bay Area tricks worked into the lower riff work, particularly in the rapid gallop work heard on “The Disease”, but for the most part things are held firmly in the New York mode, as can be heard in the melodic as hell “Scabs Of Trust” which listens like an outright return to the early days of Nuclear Assault.
There’s plenty more classic thrashing to go around before this thing is through as well, from the somewhat more restrained and bass heavy “To Hell” to the Annihilator on crack technical wonder that is “Melting The Mountain”, taking a good number of cues from “Human Insecticide”. At times it’s almost a wonder that this band didn’t end up writing “Ironbound” instead of Overkill given the more Pantera-like direction that the latter had been going down the past few albums. And leave us not forget the final brutalizing of what is probably already a severed spinal cord in “Afterburner”, a speeder with literally enough grit to the vocals to make Schmier blush.
You basically can’t go wrong with an album like this, it covers all of the essential bases for a truly kickass thrash album. If there’s any weak link to this otherwise unbreakable chain it’s that the drum production is just a tad bit too loud and kind of gives the rest of the album a semi-mechanical feel not all that different from the first Fueled By Fire album. The clicks in the bass drum are not nearly as bad, but their definitely noticeable. Still, if you’re looking for an auditory bludgeoning to seal the deal, this band is definitely hitting somewhere near the weak part of the skull.