Havok is one of the biggest modern thrash bands that have formed since the turn of the century, and rightfully so. With powerful vocals, crazy riffs, and playing speeds that rival groups like Slayer in their prime, they deserve all the recognition they can get. I was stoked to catch them live for the first time at The Rockpile with tour mates Extinction A.D. and Exmortus and some local support.
Running a bit later than intended, Fallen Legion took the stage first. Their relatively different brand of metal was filled with multiple intricate song sections and a lead vocalist who had some solid screams. His uncleans, however, were quieter than his actual speaking voice, which didn’t sit well in the mix when he’d switch between both vocal styles. Their stuff was intricate, so I can forgive the slight rhythmic imperfections, but my biggest gripe was the lack of power. The quiet bass and lone, low-drive guitar made it difficult to create that wall of sound that unclean vocalists need to sound great over top. Although their set didn’t convince me, there’s no doubt that each of Fallen Legion’s members, especially their bassist, possess an impressive amount of talent.
Korrosive was second on the bill. They are a bit of an older band, but they did a great job of introducing a more straight up, thrashy sound to the Rockpile. They had a few slips but got better as their set went on. Their singer had some power to his vocals, and they sounded good in the mix, despite the fact that he cupped the mic in the weirdest way. The band was received well by the crowd, who began moshing by their third song. Korrosive had some pretty forgettable material, but a high energy that set the tone well for the rest of the night.
Hailing from New York, Extinction A.D. were the first of the touring bands to play for the increasingly growing crowd. There’s something to be said about a band when even their quick, pre-show soundcheck impresses you. A talented drummer, impressive screams, huge guitar tones, and a gritty bass all showed themselves off before Extinction A.D.’s set even began. Their crowd engagement was spectacular, confidently persuading the audience to come up to the very front, and go crazy. These guys were on a whole other level and are clearly seasoned professionals. There was not a shred of ‘amateur’ in their set.
California’s Exmortus was the final opener for the night, and they kept the energy going strong. They weren’t quite as thrash, but just as hard hitting and energetic as the previous bands. Speedy, scaling riffs playing at fast speeds added a ton of personality to their music. Their singer had a solid death growl, reminiscent of Jari Mäenpää’s timbre. Although Exmortus’ folk metal influences were minimal, the passion was there. Their original material was consistently solid, and for anyone who wasn’t convinced, their speed metal rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata definitely converted a few. They ended their set by transitioning from Boston’s “Foreplay/Longtime” into one of their original songs. It was the cherry on top of a wicked set, and I look forward to checking out Exmortus’ material.
With all the talent that night, Havok had very few minds left to blow by the time they went on, but sure enough, they managed to raise the bar once again. Two songs in, they got the audience involved in the hilariously-titled “Blender Of Death,” parting the audience to two separate sides. Instead, charging at each other, like they would in a wall of death, they were told to charge around the edge of the pit continuously. So yeah, basically a circle pit. It was easily the biggest display of crowd engagement that night, and I fucking love that name.
Musically, Havok were on point. Shredding as fast as they do on record, and frontman David Sanchez’s vocal performance stayed solid throughout their hour-long set. Pre-recorded monologues would occasionally play between songs, all of which were pretty preachy about the state of the world, and can be summarized to “Hey humanity, quit being a dick!” It was a hell of a show, and Havok brought some amazing bands to open up for them, bands that I look forward to listening to again.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
Photographed by Gabby Rivera
*edited by Danielle Kenedy