I have to admit I wasn’t very excited about this new Havok album. I liked their first two albums quite a bit but on the third album they left me a bit cold, falling victim to the redundancies of playing a throwback style of thrash, a style that is already so rooted in nostalgia. That and more ground-breaking acts like Vektor and Power Trip sort of put all these retro-thrash bands in their place. However, Havok upped their game this time around. Maybe moving to Century Media Records and the inclusion of new bassist Nick Schendzielos breathed some new inspiration into the band but they sound more crucial than on their last outing.

There is of course the traditional Havok elements on here. It does still feel very retro-thrash and is still recognizable, which is probably a good thing. And of course the album is politically charged, a Havok standard trope. What’s changed the most, that I’ve noticed, is a less punk approach, musically. Vocally David Sanchez goes for a harsher, heavier vocal attack and combined with the overall increased heaviness of the music, they get truly intense on this album. It reminds me of Exodus’s Exhibit B: The Human Condition or any of the more intense albums they did with vocalist Rob Dukes. Havok may not quite have reached those levels of hate filled venom and when they get close a sweet melodic or infectious riff/solo pulls them back to earth.

Heaviness isn’t the only thing added. They flirt with some weird, funky rhythms that wouldn’t be out of place on early Faith No More album. Notably on the intro song, “F.P.C.” a blistering comment on political correctness, for what it’s worth.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this album. There’s been a series of awesome thrash releases lately and this is another one to add to the pile.

Havok’s Conformicide is out today from Century Media.