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3 Years Later and Counting, It Still Kicks Ass! - 100%

pinpals, November 9th, 2008

Believe it or not, Heathen was actually a fairly popular thrash band back in the day, selling nearly 200,000 copies combined of their first two albums. Then the 90's happened and Heathen was all but forgotten, their albums long out of print. However, in 2002 or so, the band reformed and released an album of re-recordings and some cover songs, and just to be nice, decided to put their first two albums up on their web page for free (they're still there and still free by the way). Then a year later, Heathen released a demo, humbly titled "2005 Demo" and their reputation in underground metal circles sky-rocketed.

It's not hard to see why thrash purists go crazy about this demo. It has everything that made thrash what it is: the numerous riffs, the downright awesome solos and the crazy thrash breaks just to name a few. The thing is, Heathen has actually gotten BETTER with time. Not only did Heathen stop copying the sound that Metallica was doing at the time, David Godfrey has gotten better with age. His voice has matured and he no longer utilizes the half-singing, half yelping of the earlier days. Here he sings with conviction without relying on the mediocre growling of modern thrash/metalcore vocalists (Imagine how much better modern Exodus would be if they had chosen Godfrey instead of Rob Dukes). Also, Heathen benefits from a far better sound than they had in the 80's. This sounds like it was released on a major label, the production is so good. The guitars are heavy as all hell and everything is clear and crisp.

Lee Altus is still the main songwriter for the band, and there's excellent chemistry between Altus's guitar playing and Godfrey's singing. Altus is a world-class shredder and has crammed more quality riffs on this demo than Megadeth had in the entire decade of the 90's. The drumming is solid; fast yet never showy. Ira Black is a good second guitarist, but Altus is the one that really shines throughout.

The CD copy of this demo that I received from a friend has a different tracklisting than I have seen listed as the "official tracklist." My copy has "Empty Nothingness" first, "Dying Season" second and "Arrows of Agony" third. This order seems to sound the best, as "Empty Nothingness" is the fast kick-ass opener, "Dying Season" is the centerpiece and "Arrows of Agony" is the slightly slower, groovier closer. The reason that there is no set track listing is because the songs can be downloaded on the band's forum, which can be accessed through their website. Best of all, it's completely free!!!

Even though this demo is only three songs, these are arguably the best songs of Heathen's career and "Dying Season" and even "Empty Nothingness" rank among the best thrash songs ever written. And these songs were released BEFORE it was trendy to write Exodus and Anthrax ripoffs and dress like its 1985 again. And Heathen is not just writing songs that sound like they could have been written in 1986, they've added a modern touch to the songs that seperates them from the hordes of neo-thrash bands popping up.

Even though Lee Altus has joined Exodus, the band is currently recording a full-length to be released sometime in early 2009. If this demo is any indication, their upcoming album will wipe the floor with all the "comebacks" of the big-time thrash bands that are being released now that metal is cool again.