I'm really not sure how Havok has done it, but they have once again topped themselves musically and creatively. While creating music with a pretty rigid framework by purposely claiming themselves to be playing "90s era Thrash", Havok finds ways to improve from release to release. On UNNATURAL SELECTION, they just may have peaked. There really can't be much further they can go to get better. A seething cauldron of frenetic rage, UNNATURAL SELECTION finds Havok creating a thrash metal opus that would stand proudly and deservedly next to any Exodus, Overkill or Anthrax release from the past that you want to line it up against. Without question, this Denver band has their shit REALLY together these days.
More than most releases, I've taken a lot of extra time listening to Megadeth's SUPER COLLIDER, if for no other reason than to figure out just why I don't think it's very good. With Megadeth, it's always a scenario where the first few listens remind you of a lot of other stuff they have done. You have to give them more time though, as the Dave Mustaine sound has a way of either sticking with you when it's truly brilliant, or just sounding tired when it's not. Certainly, any metalhead knows the difference between an album like RUST IN PEACE and another like THE WORLD NEEDS A HERO. It's the same guy, and literally the same audio quality of performance, but that spark is completely different between the two albums. With KINGMAKER, Mustaine and company just fall flat, even though it's a well recorded album that's unmistakably Megadeth.
Hammerfist are a no bullshit Hardcore band from Southern California. They are not the kind of guys that will look to explain out the deeper meaning of their songs, or the instrumental idiosyncrasies of their various guitar tones or drum beats. To the contrary, Hammerfist seem like a band that would look you in the eye and say, "here's our shit, so deal with it!" Fair enough. Since I assume this about them, I'll give a little of that back to them. No BSing around here, and no looking for a lot of words to say. ISOLATION is a pretty damn solid hardcore EP that would certainly please the Agnostic Fronts and Integritys of the world for developing their influences into something tangible in 2013. There's a LOT of power here on ISOLATION, and a lot of from the heart energy that's poured into each and every song.
He was the "metal" in Metallica for years and years. He added credibility to a pretty much dead band like Voivod, as well as finances so they could produce a couple of fine albums along the way. Hell, he was the creative force behid Flotsam & Jetsam; a band that I love but clearly wasn't the same after DOOMSDAY FOR THE DECEIVER when he left. And yet, with all his heralded accomplishments, Jason Newsted somehow finds himself at a crossroads where he has to come out and prove himself and his metal merits once again. Newsted told me last month that he keeps the mindset always that he's only as good as his next record, no matter what the past has proven. Clearly, this is one guy that could rest on his laurels and his mountain of money and do whatever he wants. With all that said though, he returns with a simply smoldering EP that's as strong as anything he's done in the past.
Without question, Ektomorf's last two albums, BLACK FLAG and THE ACOUSTIC, are the one-two punch of disappointment that makes me really hate when bands forget what made them good in the first place. To be clear, I'm well aware that this is a band that's never been big and never will be, but every decade I tend to latch onto a few bands that never make it big but just kick my ass each and every time out. Bands like Skinlab and Stuck Mojo have filled that void previously for me, and up until recently, Ektomorf was one of those acts. They were my favorite Soulfly sounding band that filled the rare void between Cavalera albums. THE ACOUSTIC was a disastrous mistake in my opinion, as Ektomorf is just one of those bands that you don't want to hear play acoustically. Back to being heavy with BLACK FLAG, it's apparent there weren't a lot of fresh ideas this time around.