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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews


Cycle of Pain

Review by Mike Korn

Once in a while, a band makes such a leap in quality between albums that it takes your breath away. This has definitely happened with Havochate. A couple of years back, I got the promo for their debut album "This Violent Earth" and promptly forgot about it after a few spins. It was definitely a good, competent metal album, but without much individuality.

Now Havochate returns with a greatly revamped line-up and a shockingly improved sound.This is great classy thrash metal that ranks with top names like Overkill, Testament and Megadeth. The aggression and head-banging energy is there in every track, but there's an attention to distinct songwriting you don't often see today. The band is taking care to make sure every song stands by itself and has its own identity, which is surely a laudable goal. Comparisons to Testament are more than warranted, as Havochate's new bassist is ex-Testament man Greg Christian.

One of the biggest improvements comes in the vocal department. Former singer Jon Mallek was an energetic frontman with kind of a snarly Udo-like voice. In contrast, newcomer Tim Bouchee has an unbelieveable range and melodic ability. This guy can handle just about any kind of metal vocal you could want, and his talent immediately propels Havochate into the first rank of thrash bands. "Cycle of Pain" is a very welcome surprise indeed and sure to stand as one of the better pure metal records of the year.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
Cycle of Pain
It immediately becomes apparent that you are in for a hammering when this punchy thrasher comes rushing at you right out of the gate. A brutal double bass beat propels this number, and then singer Tim Bouchee show his quality with a really cool, unique chorus.
This ups the ante even more - what a monster! Mixing a blazing thrash approach with choppy, chunky power chords, this is my favorite track on an excellent album. Bouchee's contrast of sinister growls and melodic crooning is superb and so far ahead of the way many trendy metalcore or nu-metal bands do it.
Melody is important on all the disc's songs but especially so on this number, which is a little less bludgeoning than the preceding two tracks. The song is mostly mid-tempo and features plenty of tasty twin guitar work. Bouchee gets to show his more tasteful vocals, but there's still plenty of heaviness here for the rivet-heads. The guitar work is excellent because it shows restraint...a common trait throughout the album.
Still Alive
Much more basic in its approach, this is a punishing double bass monster that hits hard and takes no prisoners. Great drum work from Ron Lipnicki and a killer "mosh" part in the second half really push this one along.
This cut begins gently with acoustic before kicking into high gear with a thrash flurry. There's more of that catchy chugging rifferama and some more superb vocalizing from Tim Bouchee. This track comes across like an effective mixture of the thrash and power metal genres.
This mid-tempo number has a strong Nevermore flavor to it and features some smoking guitar soloing to induce air guitar amongst the faithful.
Cold Embrace
"Absolutely crushing" is the only way to describe the power-packed beginning of this track, which picks up exactly where "Wicked" left off. By now, the Havochate trend of pounding staccato riffs leading into a catchy chorus has become pronounced. This is another tune that effectively contrasts heaviness and melody.
Crack In the Sky
This is the most unusual sounding cut on the album. The band abandons the choppy thrash approach and opts for a more flowing type of songwriting. It's still pretty heavy but not in an aggressive way. The tribal-type drumming drives the song, and Bouchee's singing is mostly in the melodic range, with only one brief burst of harshness in the middle. It's a melancholy sounding cut.
Speak No More
Speed and anger return in force here with a barrage of crunching thrash that is simple but effective. As the song proceeds, the sound becomes more complex and there's even some tasteful acoustic rearing its head.
Buried in Lies
This is a good track, but the resemblance to Testament here is too close for comfort. Inspiration is one thing, but outright imitation is another. I guess some of the Testament cloning can be forgiven seeing as bassist Greg Christian was a part of that band, but I think Havochate can show more originality. Some of the twin guitar work is right out of the Alex Skolnick/Eric Peterson songbook.
Rotting Hour
The record closes with this rabid dose of thrash that jumps at your throat like a pit bull that hasn't eaten in a while. It's just straightforward paint-peeling thrash with maximum crunch and speed. Needless to say, this should be a great favorite live!
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