The American melodic metallers Havoc formed in Charlotte, North Carolina, way back in 1986 by guitarist Mark Weddington, bass player Mark Lyerly, drummer Michael James and lead vocalist Binney Orrell. The band soon started gigging around and very fast became a stable at the N.Y.C. club scene. They built a strong local following by honing their live skills and earned a reputation for always putting on a great show. Havoc recorded and released a self-financed and self-titled EP in 1988 which was very well received by fans, press and the music industry at large. The EP contained six tracks. Without any backing from a record label, the band soldiered on playing regional live shows wherever they could. The band was soon back in the studio and recorded another four songs.
In the early 1990’s the times were changing and Havoc became just another victim to the “new” music where the alternative became the mainstream and all melodic 80’s metal were considered to be a thing of the past. Their story is common to so many other bands and with a twist of fate Havoc was no more. The story could have ended there but 25 years later the American indie label Heaven & Hell Records gathered all the tracks on one CD and released it with reworked artwork by Steve Cobb, a new title Back for the Kill and a beautiful booklet containing the lyrics to some of the songs. The tracks have been remastered by Jamie King at The Basement Studios.
HAVOC – Back for the Kill
So what have we got here? Back for the Kill has got a couple of cuts that will satisfy the true metal fan, a few heartfelt ballads for the girls and enough hooks and melodies to entice the melodic rock fan. All in all, it has something for everybody! A quick listen to the song samples on the label website made me aware of what a melodic monster this album is. I almost immediately hit the “buy” button and a couple of weeks of waiting was now in store for me while the mailmen did what they do best! The album starts off in fine style with the shout-along vocal that is “Pain and Pleasure”. Firmly based in the 1980’s hairspray metal this is a strong mid-tempo cut with an infectious hook. After that flying start, we are treated with the semi-ballad “Only You” and it is easy for me to see why this was well received at the time it was released. This song has a strong vocal performance by Binny Orrell and it’s an overall memorable song. Definitely one of the stronger cuts on the album and it makes me think of the Scorpions in parts. Up next is another melodic anthem called “Hold On” which starts out slow but picks up in tempo as the song goes on. The track listing on the back of the album is incorrect and it is a bit confusing which song is actually played in which order. Song number four on the album, checked by reading the reprinted lyrics, is called “On Your Knees”. It is a slab of melodic metal hitting you in your face with a raw riff and it’s got a great memorable guitar solo part from Mark Weddington. We go on with the fastest song on the album. It kicks off with a furious speed metal riff and with a fast driving beat, this is something for the metal fan showing a heavier side of Havoc. The true metal fan should have a mouth watering experience.
We go on with “Will I See You Again” which slowly picks up with an acoustic part and a ballad like type of intro. It soon turns into a melodic metal fist pumping song with a driving riff to carry the song forward. We continue with another hair metal cut in “Come On” and the parallels to more famous and fellow Charlotte band Firehouse seems very strong to me. “Bloodthirsty Bitch” is a track where we get a little bluesy undertone with a gang vocal shouting the chorus. With a heavier groove and a different vibe, the song stands out a bit from the rest style wise. “Yes I’m Evil” kicks of with a weird drumbeat and a haunting bass riff sending chills up your back. It’s a heavy hard rock track with doomy undertones and the heaviest track on the album. It’s got a great chorus and is one of the stronger songs on the album. The CD closes on a high note with the excellent and memorable “Loving You” that is not the ballad which you are easily misled to think judging by the song title. It is a heavy rocker and a cool anthem. Havoc is too heavy for being labeled glam but not heavy enough for being heavy metal so I guess Hair Metal would be the appropriate term.
Back for the Kill is an undiscovered gem in my opinion and definitely a must have for the 80’s connoisseur. Havoc is heavily influenced by the late 1980’s hair metal wave. Being from Charlotte, North Carolina their sound and songwriting remind me very much of fellow Charlotte band Firehouse. The songs are based around the melodic guitar playing of Mark Weddington and the clear and clean vocals of Binney Orrell. Mark Lyerly and Michael James take care of the beat and lower register in a tight and grooving bottom end. They sure know how to write a pretty good metal tune with a catchy hook, there is no doubt about that.
The downside of this release is the sound quality. It has clearly been remastered from the best possible source but the disc reveals the limitations of the source tape. The production is typical 80’s sounding but that is of course expected. After a couple of spins I have already got some new favorites of mine like “Only You”, “Hold On”, “Pain and Pleasure” and last but not least “Loving You”. I would give this release 8/10 Geeks and it is a real blast from the past. Heaven and Hell Records has done a real great job digging this little baby up and bringing it out of the shadows just like they did with the ESP album. On the downside is also that the booklet lacks the lyrics to three songs, the tracklisting is wrong on the backside and in the booklet. A bit sloppy!
Another annoying thing is the artwork. I don’t really expect to get a slab of hair metal with lyrics on the topics of lost love, relationships, and pretty women when I see that cyber robot attacking the woman that stands in its way. I don’t really see the connection between the band, cover art and the music on this disc. All in all it is a solid mainstream hair metal album and a product of it’s time.
Comes highly recommended!