Denver's HAVOK impressed this critic with the white hot thrash of 2009 full-length debut "Burn", but it is the heat from superb sophomore release "Time is Up" that will require skin grafts from the face melting. In fact, "Third Degree Burn" may have been a better choice for a title. The fact is that HAVOK continue to wear the Bay Area influences on their collective sleeve in a way that is both passionate and, yes, fiery, while doing so with just the right amount of identity to keep it fresh.
Having established the incendiary aspects of "Time is Up" we can get to the real meat and potatoes of what makes the new HAVOK effort click: assaulting on all fronts with every gun blazing and superb songwriting. If you've heard "Burn" you'll not be surprised at the six-string enormity involved, as well as soloing that cuts like a straight razor across the throat. Also included are a lot of those all-important "little" things that make the familiar seem new again. "Scumbag in Disguise" may seem like a straight ahead mid-tempo riffster when given only a passing listen, but it is one of several that benefits from minor changeups, fantastic lead work, and yet another catchy refrain. The album has quite a few standout moments in fact. "Killing Tendencies" is one that stands tall with its DEATH ANGEL similarities and the slight smoothing of guitarist David Sanchez's typically Zetro-like vocals on the chorus. But opening track "Prepare for Attack" is the album's "holy shit!" anthem. Just a beast of a thrasher, it wouldn't have sounded out of place on EXODUS' "Bonded by Blood". Yes, it's that good. "D.O.A." is right up there with it, based on a skillful construction that slips in some (subtle) IRON MAIDEN harmonies and a nod to a young Tom Araya with Sanchez's midpoint, spot on scream to spice up what turns out to be an intelligently arranged explosion of thrash metal excellence.
But getting back to what really fuels the, um, fire of "Time is Up", it is the pit slamming, precision kill of songs like "Fatal Intervention", one that also represents the band's obvious SLAYER influence, in this case with a dab of DESTRUCTION. Don't lump HAVOK in with the steaming pile of retro wannabes stinking up the scene; the Colorado clan is now a member the Real Deal Club. The case was made and closed with "Time is Up", an album that will end up one of the very best thrash metal releases of 2011.