Havok: “Imago” – dense and intense progressive metal!

Founded 2003 in southern Sweden, progressive metal band Havok is now a two-player outfit with Mahan Haddad (Ahmadi) on guitars, bass and keys, while Johan Cronqvist plays drums and writes orchestral arrangements. The recording of their latest 5-track EP, “Imago”, was completed with the services of session vocalist Robert Ahrling. This EP is a metal-bending masterpiece, and it will open some serious doors for you to seek new avenues of progressive musical exploration. “Imago” is at once beautiful, bone-crushing, melodic, aggressive, and technically superb; a truly diverse and timeless recording. It should be experienced in its entirety to truly appreciate the genius within. Havok crosses so many metal and progressive flavors on this EP it is hard to even name them all.

From the harsh growling voices to the more melodic vocals, all things perfectly meld together, never once feeling forced; all flowing flawlessly together into one monumental piece of music. “Imago” is dense and intense, but at the same time has a strange accessibility to it; the soaring string and horn arrangements are unforgettable, as is the poignant acoustic interludes and the brutally punishing guitar riffs.

This EP is a gateway to progressive metal and various tangents for those just starting to explore the genre. I think anyone who enjoys all the sub-genres of Progressive, be it rock or metal will find something to love in “Imago”.

From the opening track, “The Seed King”, Havok sound incredibly inspired and audacious. Starting off with a slow piano and string, cinematic intro, the track bursts into a crushing riff-filled monster with harsh vocals driving the metal verses. A series of richly layered guitar tracks and a soaring melodic chorus keeps the six minute duration extremely tense and interesting.

This segues into “Lady of the Largest Heart”, with its stomping riffs thundering alongside an ultra-catchy synth. The vocalist belches fire and brimstone to augment the metal assault. This is one of those songs that you will listen through the whole way every time you pop it in.

Havok really have a broad sound that can be very technical at times and wild and crazy at others, but it never sounds like they don’t have any focus on where they want the music to go. On “Calamity of Compassion” is where they mix their most defining elements.

Here they flex their progressive muscle even further – stop-start tempo changes, complex and challenging flourishes of speed, and deliciously harmonic guitars, flow fast and furiously throughout. Fluid, grandiose and winding, “Phoenix Lights” rides in on a mother-lode of guitars and growling vocals.

Its rhythms allow the drummer to shine through with some exceptionally nifty, deft, and inventive fills and machine-gun double bass slamming. It begins as a piece of full-on metal, and ends up all over the place with epic guitars and melodic choruses.

“The Star of Tabetha Boyajian” is the EP’s centerpiece, with its nine and a half minutes of emotional excitement. This is a truly labyrinthine composition that rarely repeats itself and which refuses to dwell on any idea for long. It falls into an endlessly shifting series of tech-metal riffs and growls, highlighted by atmospheric melodies and orchestral cadences.

The band sure fires on all cylinders on “Imago”, doling out punishing guitars, mean and brutal – and sometimes even monstrous – vocals, pummeling blast beats, odd-time signatures, and numerous mathematically-calculated tempo changes.

But in no way should that imply that Havok overdo it. All of these elements combine into a whole more impressive than its remarkable parts. The result is one hugely innovative, original, and brilliantly mind blowing wall of sound.


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