Havok: ”It would be a disservice to play those songs live without a huge PA system that shakes your skeleton”

(Image credit: Mark Maryanovich)

Havok vocalist/rhythm shredder David Sanchez forewarns of a rise of the machines on Betrayed by Technology, a meaty thrash rebuke to the oncoming technocracy, but the guitarist concedes that certain advancements have their advantages. 

For instance, with Sanchez in Denver and lead guitarist Reece Scruggs in Winchester, Virginia, song ideas and studio sessions for new album V were tracked remotely and uploaded to the cloud. 

Still, while many metal bands have resorted to livestream concerts as a way to cope and connect through the pandemic, he hints that Havok have no plans of bringing their stage show online. 

“We could spend the time to do some sort of a Zoom thing, or film ourselves individually and stack them on top of each other to make a livestream, but if we’re going to spend that much time and effort doing something creative, I’d much rather come up with new material,” he says, though he’s hopeful for a return to venues further down the line.

“If you want to hear the best version of whatever new song, just listen to the record. It just came out! It would be a disservice to play those songs live without a huge PA system that shakes your skeleton.”

Sanchez’s point is understandable – Havok’s fifth and latest album is demonstrably destructive. Take early single Phantom Force, a 115-bpm blitzkrieg of vicious low-end trilling and warp-drive sweeps, or the wah-powered slash and burn of Merchants of Death.

Scruggs goes supernova on Fear Campaign, channelling both Megadeth and Brad Paisley – with a fiery, chicken-picked chorus melody – before ripping out a virtuosic tapping clinic on his signature Roehrs Apex.


• GUITARS (Sanchez) ESP EX Standard with Floyd Rose, ESP LTD Shadow; (Scruggs) Roehrs Guitars Apex Reece Scruggs signature

• AMP (Sanchez) Peavey Triple XXXii, Peavey 6534+, Kemper Power Rack, Peavey 4x12 with Peavey 2x12 on top (Celestion speakers); (Scruggs) Peavey 6534, 6505+, Peavey Triple X II, Positive Grid powered head w/ Peavey 4x12 and 2x12 on top, SKB racks

• EFFECTS (Sanchez) ISP Decimator G-String II, Peterson Stomp Classic strobe tuner, Electro-Harmonix Soul Food overdrive; (Scruggs) Dunlop Cry Baby from Hell, MXR overdrives, ISP Decimator 2, Peterson StroboStomp tuner

“There’s this gigantic second section of that solo that’s just moving up and down an E pentatonic lick, then taking the G string and coming all the way back up, then doing this E minor arpeggio and following it all up with a slide on the high E. It’s pretty damn ridiculous,” Scruggs says with a laugh, adding that while he strived to better his alternate-picking chops for V, double-handed tapping is second nature for him.

Havok often pushes a frenzied tempo, but V adds dynamism via the Black Album-worthy groove of Ritual of the Mind or the percussion-forward tone poem Dab Tsog.

Havok still brazenly tout their vintage thrash influence, but they’ve brushed up on more than just the fundamentals. “If you listen hard enough, you’ll hear every one of our influences come out on [V] – and it’s not all metal-related.

“You’re gonna hear punk, classic rock, classical movements. With my playing, you’ll hear country, bluegrass, blues, rock and roll, the Shrapnel guys, Dimebag Darrell, all that stuff. You’re getting a metal experience, for sure, but you’re getting a whole lot more.”

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Gregory Adams

Gregory Adams is a Vancouver-based arts reporter. From metal legends to emerging pop icons to the best of the basement circuit, he’s interviewed musicians across countless genres for nearly two decades, most recently with Guitar World, Bass Player, Revolver, and more – as well as through his independent newsletter, Gut Feeling. This all still blows his mind. He’s a guitar player, generally bouncing hardcore riffs off his ’52 Tele reissue and a dinged-up SG.