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Recommendable for speed metal fans (and not technical). - 60%

criscool623, July 25th, 2020

Before talking about this album, let me introduce you to my perspective of the things: Heathen is catalogued as a technical thrash metal band, and the only "real" technical thrash band that I have listened to is Toxik; Toxik is a band with a very frenetic, fast as hell and complex performing style (proof of this is their opera prima "World Circus"), so when I first listened to Heathen, I was looking forward to hearing something similar, something that blew my mind due to the complexity of the music. Other bands as Megadeth and Artillery have made some technical stuff without being catalogued as such, so I thought "dang it! Heathen should be something really astonishing!". This background made that the final product didn't fulfil my expectations in the end.

Talking about the riffs, they're NOT technical AT ALL; instead, they are mostly made out of tremolo picking and power chords with really few variations, which kind of disappointed me due that if everyone is labelling the band as technical thrash, there must be more effort in their riffs. The only riff that I considered sort of technical was the main riff from "Worlds End"; it's the most "varied" riff of the album and made me think that this is the kind of riffs that should prevail more in the album (dang it, I repeated several times the word "riff").

Now, ignoring the genre label, is it a bad album? I'd like to say no, but the truth is that I didn't enjoy it as I wanted.

I felt the songs insipid and with no much grace. With no identity. Exchangeable between them. And it's sad because the most recognisable and enjoyable song is a cover. Yes, A COVER! The rest of the songs feel like a rip-off of Bonded By Blood or even Kill 'em All, but lighter. The repetitiveness of the drum rhythms and structures is notorious and make feel the album as devoid of strength and power. Also, the guitar distortion does not help very much, as it sounds more like a speed metal performance rather than thrash.

However, opposite to most of the albums that I have "destroyed", I found some good things on this album.

The voice is very good. David Godfrey's voice is different to most of the vocal styles that predominated back in those days in the thrash scene; Joey Belladona's and this were different in this aspect, which feels like a fresh air blow amid several aggressive and harsh vocals. Another good aspect are the solos. Altus and Piercy showed their shredding skills since their first release and is a strong point to the music. It´s a delight to the ears listening to such talented guitar players.

To finish, I noticed something curious. "Breaking The Silence" is another of the few enjoyable songs for me, but mainly due that it sounds like a kind of proto-power metal song thanks to the guitar melodies and the voice. I know, back in those days, the first "Keeper of the Seven Keys" was already released at that time, but power metal was not completely developed then, so this song feels like one of the first songs of the genre. Check it out and prove it for yourself.

To conclude, "Breaking the Silence" is a personal deception. It's infinitely inferior to its successor album as it feels powerless, repetitive and insipid. However, the reason why I don't give a worse rate to it is because it's a more speed metal-oriented album, and as I'm not very into this genre, I feel unable to destroy it completely. I recommend it to the fans of this genre; maybe you can find something memorable in it. "Breaking the Silence" is an album that I will possibly never listen to it again; it's nothing special for me and I prefer listening to another kind of stuff (such as their later full-length release).

Cool riffs - 75%

Felix 1666, February 9th, 2020
Written based on this version: 1987, 12" vinyl, Music for Nations

1987 is long ago. The year saw a military coup in Burundi, Ronald Reagan had reached retirement age but played President and Greta Thunberg was less than a vague thought in a hopefully not warmed up galaxy. Thrash / speed metal was still young and Heathen’s debut presented an over-averagely melodic kind of this fascinating style. The album consisted of seven own compositions and a cover. So far, so good. But due to whatever reason, these dudes thought it would be a good idea to present their edition of Sweet’s “Set Me Free” and this choice showed that there was no clear line between the establishment and the band. This fact hurt my juvenile “thrashing outlaw pride” and, even worse, the number sucked. Thus, the nadir of “Breaking the Silence” is obvious, but what about the other side of the quality scale?

Heathen had a knack for cool riffs and the debut shows this feature impressively. A very good example kicks off “Open the Grave”, a song that unites all velocities of thrash metal after a mid-tempo beginning. It’s a dynamic headbanger with a nearly perfect mix of melodic and metallic elements, although its silent break with the dreamful guitar would not have been necessary. The voice of David Godfrey also finds the balance. His voice does not mirror brutality, but he cannot be blamed for a half-hearted performance as well. He does not fascinate with an overdose of charisma, but he gives all that he got and that’s what can be expected; everything else is a stroke of luck. Anyway, let’s get back to the music itself. (Not only) the A side of the vinyl is dominated by clearly defined, speedy guitars and up-tempo drumming. “Pray for Death” and “Goblin’s Blade” deliver very solid and robust lines, the guitar work reveals a certain affinity to early Metallica. “Death by Hanging” puts the two aforementioned songs in the shade due to its immediately memorable chorus and this means that the songs of the entire A side formed a strong unit.

The production offers a prototypical eighties sound. The guitar tone does not lack sharpness, the vocals are on a par with the instrumental performance and the overall picture of the sound is neither voluminous nor flat. However, the mix was and still is good enough to make songs like the title track to a very positive listening experience. (And I am speaking of a truly positive thing, not of a positive pregnancy test which is sometimes not that positive.) Its chorus glitters with a profound heaviness, the instrumental part surprises with strong melodies and all different sections go hand in hand. Yes, it might be that every metal track is a saviour after four minutes of torture called “Set Me Freeee-eeee” (this crappy chorus!), but we don’t need to discuss this here. The energetic “World’s End” combines rasping guitars with catchy sections once again and the closer crosses the finishing line without showing any signs of serious weaknesses. Heathen probably did not pen an ingenious work and presumably it is no coincidence that nobody picked out this album for a review in the last five and a half years. Nevertheless, it is still worth listening and I am sure that most friends of Forbidden, Testament or Vio-lence will share my point of view. Only the opinion of Reagan, Thunberg and the generals of Burundi is not known.

Strong Start - 85%

StainedClass95, August 1st, 2014

This is Heathen's first album. This is an interesting mixture of thrash and certain power elements. This is also a good length album, a major player in the burgeoning second wave of thrash. There's some aspects from other bands, but this strikes me as largely original. The songs and performances are mostly on, but the production somewhat betrays it.

This is largely a thrash album, but there are moments from other directions. The guitars and the vocals both have elements that I would associate with power metal. The vocals are higher-pitched with a slight rasp. They remind me more of Kai Hansen than any of their Bay Area cohorts. The guitar playing is also very melodic and doesn't seem as distorted as usual, they may well be but they seem less. This all comes together on a song like Goblin's Blade. The guitars are at their most melodic, and the Hansen-like vocals go on about a goblin-troll stopping people on a bridge. This song definitely would not have been out of place on Walls of Jericho.

As thrash evolved, the second wave split into various portions of the original sub-genre's legacy. Heathen aligned themselves with the melodic and progressive variations, which were usually linked anyways. This put them in with the debuting Testament, Paradox, and old stalwarts like Metallica. Many fans of thrash aren't as fond of this style, so you should keep this in mind. Amongst the second-wave bands who practiced this style, Heathen were one of the more well-thought of. This is evidenced by their ability to comeback with a new album to any fanfare. They also were from the area associated with thrash, which helped them out a great deal.

From other bands, I can hear a little Megadeth. Their melodic sense strikes me as somewhat similar to Killing's, just amped up several notches. I also suspect there is some Metallica influence in the song structures. This isn't quite to Master of Puppets length, but they ended up at And Justice length just a few years later. This came out the same year as the Legacy, but Testament had been demoing for a few years by then. I imagine Heathen were familiar with them, and that that partially explains a few of their similarities. Their music as a whole is fairly distinguishable, this is simply the things that I hear going into it.

The guitar playing here is pretty superb. The riffing is good on most songs, but it does occasionally descend into the generic. Altus' soloing is pretty good as well, but he would improve on the next album. The bass is occasionally audible, but he does nothing really special. The drums are somewhat better. Occasionally, there is a good fill or roll. This isn't truly unique or gifted for 1987, but he gives a good foundation and is much better than the bassist. I touched upon the vocalist, and he really does sound like Kai Hansen on many of these songs. The lyrics are never particularly good, but they're never horrid either.

The songs are mostly good, but the title track isn't good. It takes a while to get going, and the riff screams generic. The cover has a great chorus, but the rest of the song is just average. The quasi-bonus track, Heathen, is good here, but their later versions are better. The production isn't ideal for this either. For one, its too rough for something this melodic. Making artificial edges for this kind of music is a very bad idea. The second problem, is the clarity. This has that common mix of quiet and blurry. Keep it at normal volume, and you're going to squint to hear. Turn it up, and it gets blurry after a while. Now through a stereo, this is mostly solved. The rub with that though, is that you don't have near as many opportunities to blare this through a good stereo, as just in your headphones.

Between all of this, this album is very good. This is somewhat long for a thrash album, but it keeps my attention. As I mentioned earlier, there are many people who don't enjoy the later thrash. That's fine, you may not like this. In general, a thrash fan should like this. Personally, I prefer their sophomore, but they're both quality. I would recommend this to fans of thrash and power metal.

The Silence is Broken - 87%

Evil_Carrot, January 3rd, 2012

Released in 1987, Breaking the Silence is a great debut by Heathen, a band fairly popular in the thrash realm, but didn’t really get the attention of a Slayer, Megadeth, or Metallica, or even the somewhat “overlooked by the mainstream, but well known in the metal community” attention of an Overkill. That said I first came into contact with this band after hearing he Blind Illusion demos with David Godfrey on vocals, who I would say is up there with Joey Belladonna and Bobby Blitz on the list of ‘Great Thrash Vocalists,’ a list which, to my experience, isn’t incredibly long, at least as far a well-established acts. David sings with a somewhat clean voice, with a rather impressively high range, but a certain raspy edge that separates him from that kind of established “Power Metal Singer” sound.

The riffing is, aside from an acoustic intro on Worlds End, and a slow part on Open the Grave, fast and furious, as would be expected from a thrash metal band, and stays within the realm of your traditional thrash metal. Think Overkill, Early Metallica, Testament, and not so much Second-album-and-forward Slayer or any of the extreme thrash bands like Kreator. A lot of palm-muted E string chugging. The solos good. I listen to a good bit of thrash, and a lot of the musicianship here is solid thrash fare. There’s some good double bass drumming, impressive soloing, and good speedy riffs. But the album also doesn’t have any of the progressive elements found on their follow up album “Victims of Deception,” leaving this album sounding a lot like a slew of other thrash albums released around this time. So, why such a high rating if, even if the musicianship is good, I consider it somewhat standard fare? What sets it apart for me from many other thrash albums would be David Godfrey’s performance. In addition to the fact that I already stated he was among the most talented thrash vocalists I’ve heard, the vocal lines are catchy as hell. You can put on any song on this album, and just listen to the way he sings the lines. They’re catchy as hell.

There one weak spot. Set Me Free. A Sweet cover. They aren’t a band I particularly have a problem with, but this cover doesn’t fit in at all. The chorused vocal effect on the track is just silly, and the track just doesn’t kick as like the rest of the album. And the overall sound is way out of place.

Anyways, the rest of the album is solid musically. The production is a little muddy, and the vocals and drums are buried just a bit under the guitar. Not to the point you can’t hear them happening, but you might not make out lyrics, or you might hear drumbeats, but not really what kind of drum is making the sound. There also seems to be kind of a very quiet hiss on the album. None of this is necessarily a bad thing. It actually sort of adds character to the release. The quality is low enough to be considered… fairly not good, but not bad enough to take away enjoyment.

All CD versions seem to include the song Heathen. It’s more midpaced than anything else on the album, and actually kind of feels like a bonus track. It doesn’t quite fit in, but it’s a decent song, or at least better than the Sweet cover. Some versions also apparently include some demos, but all of them are of songs already on the album.

This is a solid thrash album with a great singer to help carry the band, who, although there’s really nothing bad to say about them, would otherwise make a good thrash metal album that sounds like a lot of other good thrash metal albums. Godfrey just kind of kicks it up to the next level for me. And this is the kind of album I’d show to someone who is unfamiliar but interested in thrash.

Disturbing the peace since 1987. - 91%

hells_unicorn, May 16th, 2011

Some might lament the idea that there tends to be a huge crowd of followers at the onset of a new development in metal, and circa the mid-80s thrash was at the top of the list for anyone looking for a more extreme alternative to the mixed bag that was the NWOBHM and comparable affiliates in America and Germany. Usually this objection will rest upon a lack of significant stylistic development brought about by 2nd and 3rd wavers. But is violently sudden mutations in sound really the only measure of a great band? Could it be just as possible that a measured variation on an existing paradigm can yield some bone crushing, heavy as an anvil greatness to rival the original pioneers?

Probably the best equipped band to answer this question is Heathen, a band that is largely seen as a moderated middle ground between the fringe darkness of Slayer, Dark Angel and the emerging death metal scene, and the more conservative speed metal work of Anthrax, Overkill and Exciter at this juncture. While their debut “Breaking The Silence” doesn’t look ahead to the coming beast of extreme evil of the former bands and their Teutonic counterparts, it resembles their earliest material in terms of speed and intensity, while having a more consonant and catchy melodic contour that is very conducive to the NWOBHM tendencies of the latter 3 bands. In essence, this is an album that provides the best of both worlds from both a 1983 and a 1987 thrash metal context.

The biggest draw of this band is their unique ability to bridge the gap between the technical brilliance of fellow Bay Area mainstays such as Testament and Vio-Lence, while still maintaining the accessible simplicity of general song structure that makes Anthrax and Metallica easy to get into. The riff work is pretty fancy, though more of a cohesive mold in line with “Ride The Lightning” rather than an all out riff after riff barrage, while the lead guitar work is where the band’s technical prowess really comes through. It’s a bit more fancy and out of the blues box than the Tipton/Downing model, yet also organized and methodical enough not to slip into utter chaos as with the King/Hanneman approach. Rounding out the arrangement is a capable bassist who occasionally pipes in with a distorted fill in homage to Cliff Burton while otherwise keep the bottom end, a powerful battery out of a very capable drummer, and a mostly clear and occasionally gravely vocal display out of David White, who is among the more traditionally heavy metal oriented of thrash’s vocal personalities in the mode of Metal Church’s David White (who actually filled in for him in Heathen in the late 80s).

The overall collection of songs found on “Breaking The Silence” is largely within the 1983-84 paradigm, though this sound was still common circa 1987 as a number of Bay Area bands were releasing debuts at this time containing material from much earlier. Right from the opening free for all that kicks off “Death By Hanging”, it’s clear that the rapid paced riffing of “Kill Em’ All” is a major influence at work here, though the lead guitar attack is about twice as ambitious. “Pray For Death” and “Save The Skull” also cater to the formulaic and mostly fast tendencies of early pioneering thrash works, though with a guitar tone that is chunkier and more in line with the later 80s Metallica/Megadeth sound. Things get much more technical and more in line with later 80s practices on “Open The Graves” where a frenzied splash of lead guitar brilliance and a slightly darker and grim atmosphere remind of later 80s releases by Overkill, and “World’s End” ups the ante further with a brilliantly gloomy acoustic intro that sounds remarkably similar to a number of early USPM ballads before ramming down even more thrashing brilliance.

Ironically, though Heathen’s uncanny ability to put together top notch original work together is their strong point, one can’t help but be taken in by their practice of modernizing older rock and metal songs. The cover of Sweet’s “Set Me Free” has a little bit of a Queen aesthetic to it, particularly in the spacey sound of the harmony vocal parts on the chorus, but the overall drive of the song is early 80s speed/thrash, incorporating a bit more of a Judas Priest character yet also having a guitar sound more in line with 1987 thrash practices. While “Save The Skull” and the somewhat Iron Maiden-like title song “Breaking The Silence” are the strongest highlights on here, this album will probably be more readily remembered for the cover song, mostly because of its striking difference in character and somewhat lighter feel.

It’s pretty difficult to go wrong when dealing with the vast array of polished and powerful acts that flowed out of San Francisco in the later 80s, but the more nostalgic crowd who likes a faster and more furious version of the creepy, druids in the darkness character of early 80s NWOBHM in the mold of Satan and Venom will find this among the more inviting acts to come out of that era. The only thing that holds this album back apart from maybe a somewhat dated production is that it was followed by one of the more auspicious classics of all things thrash “Victims Of Deception”, both of which are quite forgivable.

Bay area thrash's most beautiful moment! - 100%

cravingforvenom, February 18th, 2011

Bay area styled thrash was one such phenomenon that had taken the metal world by storm in the eighties. Exodus and Metallica played a very pivotal role in forging this style, both releasing some very influential and essential thrash albums in the eighties. Around the mid eighties, there were many underground bands that were creating a lot of buzz and were just waiting for a chance to get noticed by record labels. The most notable ones being the often talked about Testament, the Filipinos Death Angel, speed freaks Vio-lence, Defiance, Ulysses Siren, Blind Illusion, death metal inventors Possessed and lastly Heathen! Among the several bands that came out, Heathen were probably one of the most technical and their influences from the NWOBHM scene were most prominent and this debut album shows exactly what a massive worldwide appeal they could have garnered had they got more support from their label. Was this band really underrated? Sadly, yes.

Formed in 1984, Heathen were another one of those bands whose members had deep ties with many seasoned Californian bands. Although they were playing many gigs around the bay area, opening for more accomplished acts, it wasn’t until 1986 when they released the promising “Pray for Death” demo. They finally saw the light of day when Combat Records decided to sign them up to release the cover of Sweet’s “Set Me Free”, a video for which was also recorded that got regular play on Headbanger’s Ball. Subsequently the much awaited “Breaking the Silence” was recorded that became one of the best debuts by a band from the second wave of bay area thrash. Heathen had pretty much paved the way for thrash metal with a keen sense for melody and song structures, not too far removed from the magnum opus that was Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning”.

Listeners these days often complain that the production on this is just a bit fuzzy and could have been worked upon a lot more. Although I completely respect their opinions, my take on this is that when you are working on a tight budget making use of every cent in hand to record a full length album, you can’t really expect too much production value. And besides, it’s the year 1987 when present day technology was not invented then. The raw sound actually sounds pretty good even though the drums and bass are eclipsed by the magnificent guitar attack by the talented duo of Lee Altus and Doug Piercy. Carl Sacco, one of the co founders of Heathen plays drums here and he does a very good job indeed. The bass duties are handled by none other than bay area legend, the late Mike “Yaz” Jastremski who also played on epic power metal unit Griffin’s cream of the crop debut. As for the vocals, the band couldn’t have relied on anyone better than David White aka David Godfrey.

The initiation starts with one of thrash metal’s best songs ever written, “Death by Hanging”. The drum thuds followed by the melting pot of punishing E major riffs and furious solos set the stage for this brilliant thrasher. The main riff and the chorus are highly catchy and summarize the brilliance of this opener. The thrash fest continues with the swing of the “Goblin’s Blade” and when you get to hear the stunning lead guitar work on “Open the Grave”, you can be rest assured that you’re in for a lot of good stuff to follow. The middle section of the album comprises of the pummeling “Pray for Death” and the popular Sweet cover whereas the title track is another feast chocked full with a scintillating riffs and awesome solos. “World’s End” is the most beautifully written song on this full length with a gorgeous intro solo, godly vocals and a superb main riff while the album finisher “Save the Skull” just gives the album the perfect finishing touches in the most energetic way. The vocals in the finale would probably remind one of Steve “Zetro” Souza’s performance on “Pleasures of the Flesh”.

This release pretty much signified that Heathen were definitely a reckoning force and their arrival had meant a threat not only to the pure thrash bands out there but also the ones that injected a lot of technical exuberance and progressive structures in their music (Blind Illusion, Watchtower, Realm, Toxik etc.). Very few thrash metal bands can mix aggression with copious amounts of melody and Heathen have this penchant of doing that seamlessly. This debut is a must have in every thrash metal fan’s collection and is highly recommended.

Need riffs? - 75%

Nhorf, September 5th, 2008

Heathen are, and will always be, one of the most underrated thrash metal bands ever. Their catalogue can be freely downloaded from their website, still there aren't many people out there who know who they are. “Breaking the Silence” is their debut, and I've got to say that it is a killer album: it's very consistent and solid, all the songs flowing well together and sounding great as a whole. I got to congratulate them for this album, since there are not so many bands out there that can release an excellent album like this one as their debut.

“Breaking the Silence” is, first of all, a nice piece of thrash metal, at times even showing some progressive elements, songs like “Open the Grave” and “Worlds End” containing intricate structures and lots of different parts and riffs. Like on the sucessor of this album, the more technical “Victims of Deception”, there's a cover present; it is “Set Me Free”, a melodic little song, converted into an addictive speed metal tune, thanks to the fast riffs and solos.

Returning to the riffs, this album has plenty of them, and that's extremely important, since the riffs play an essential role in thrash metal. They are all pretty damn heavy and catchy and are divided into the fast ones and the midpaced ones (there are no slow riffs to be found here). The best ones? Well, it's hard to pick, but there's a great midpaced one played during the middle section of “Open the Grave”, right before the clean guitar break... The main one of “Death by Hanging” is a great fast riff, the same thing going for the one that dominates the middle section of “Save the Skull”. As for the solos, they are all pretty damn competent, not awesome but still very good. The majority of them are very melodic, which is, at least for me, a plus, since I hate those chaotic solos a la Slayer (well, sometimes they work well, but I dislike the majority of them).

Highlights? Well, it's hard to choose, the songs are all very good and solid in their own way. “Death by Hanging” is an amazing opener, with its furious riffage and frantic vocal approach; the vocals are, in fact, very good, the singer can sing very melodically at times (see the beginning of “Worlds End”) or in a pretty aggressive way (check out the chorus of “Save the Skull”). I still believe he reached his peak on “Victims of Deception”, though. “Worlds End” and “Open the Graves” are both awesome too, containing many different sections; “Pray for Death” and the title track are straight-forward thrash songs, even though the latter contains a midpaced chorus. They are, unfortunately, a tad weaker than the other tracks. Finally, “Set Me Free”, “Save the Skull” and “Goblin's Blade” are all very strong, the latter containing some power-metal-ish lyrics (“all fear the goblin's blade!”, yeah!).

So, as you can see, the album is also very varied, thanks to the more melodic “Set Me Free” and to the two long tunes, both containing nice calm segments. All the tracks are very catchy too, which is, in my books, a plus. The drumming is also very competent, not that technical but still damn strong, and you can't go wrong with the furious guitar work. All in all, a very good thrash metal record and highly recommended. Ah, and don't forget, you have no excuse for not getting this album, you can download it from the website of the band! For free!

Best Moments of the CD:
-the beginning of “Death by Hanging”.
-the middle section of “Save the Skull”.

First Strike by Heathen - 90%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, August 21st, 2008

My personal excursus through the most underrated bands ever in metal continues with another thrash one that, back in the 80s, never received the right credit for the music its musicians were able to do. The name is Heathen. They’ve always been on the edge between the semi-underground state and the final, deserved consecration as one of the greatest acts in this genre back in those years. As you know, lots of times “luck” doesn’t go well with “value” and, when lots of bands were conquering the scene with their weak and dull music, this valorous band never gave up, continuing in doing what was the best for them: thrash metal.

Breaking The Silence is the first output by this group of valid musicians and features a very good blend of speed metal and thrash. The technique level of these young guys is unbelievable for their age and helps in making always good and catchy compositions that take inspiration from thrash for the tempo parts and from the speed metal when it concerns the vocals and some riffs, united to the use of melody. The various tracks are quite long and they show a considerable maturity because there are not fillers and everything is studied to be as catchy and dynamic as possible.

For example, check to galloping, melodic and fast main riff on “Goblin’s Blade” that is repeated more or less all over the song. It’s never boring or derivative and the guitars solos are perfectly stuck, in their melody, in the song’s heaviest rhythmic guitars part. It’s perfect to break the impact. Other interesting things to notice are the introductions to the first three songs: they are always quite mid-paced or, at least, not a part that is repeated during the effective length. They are all particular and quite similar. Personally, I love these parts because when the fast tempo enters immediately after, it conquers more power than if it was done immediately.

“Pray for Death” is the first simpler song here because the structure is dry out from all those technical parts to point on the pure straight riffage and the speed of the always melodic vocals. They are always precise and compact but this time the riffs are more “in your face” like the one in the middle that prepared the solo. By the way, even if the structure is simpler, the quality and the technical side of the band is always well shown through the not so simple riffs, plus added to speed.
The Sweet cover “Set me Fee” is not band but not necessary if we want. The chorus is very good but the Iron Maiden style guitars duet at the beginning of the title track is far better.

As we go on, the intensity grows and the galloping riffs are always precise and intense, thanks also to a production that, even not being so exceptional, is always pounding and perfect for the devotees of the 80s sounds. “World’s End” is one of those awesome thrash ballads with the melodic beginning by the guitars (arpeggios and lead guitars) and the return to aggression in the second part with fast parts and good, catchy speed metal melodic lines. “Save the Skull” is a massacre under the sign of thrash metal but it is always filtrated through technique and the sense of melody that binds together all these songs. The guitars duets in the middle are perfectly done.

The last “Heathen” can be considered the most introspective song here. It features arpeggios by the beginning and mid-paced tempo. It’s good like this because when a CD pointed on the speed for all the length (except for “Open The Grave” song), a calmer song is required. Anyway, even if it lasts for almost 7 seconds, it’s always quite enjoyable. What I found a bit naff are the melodic choirs but the music is always great and the fast part to sustain the solo is well done. All in all, a very good debut by this band. The first three songs are the best ones but generally, the entire album is enjoyable and never sinks.

Heathen here were not already so “technical thrash” as on their second album but they rock anyway. I recommend this album to anyone who wants to hear good music, first of all, and of course to all the fellow thrashers!

Technical, catchy, but not always at it's best - 88%

SilenceIsConsent, January 23rd, 2008

I heard of Heathen through Exodus, after looking to see their new guitarist Lee Altus was in both Heathen and Angel Witch. I checked out Angel Witch, which was alright. Then I checked out Heathen. Really amazing. Like undoubtedly some of the best thrash metal I have ever heard. Those first few songs I heard by them were off their 2005 demo, but after hearing them I wanted to hear earlier material. That's when I set out to find some albums, and got Breaking The Silence.

Well, Breaking The Silence is a good album, no doubt about it. This album is mostly everything you'd expect to come from the Bay Area around this time. It's heavy, fast, technical, loaded with neo classical leads, and NWOBHM esque vocals. But that's not to say Breaking The Silence is a perfect album. I think more then any other album, Breaking The Silence shows the transition in the bay area going on that the time of it was made, from thrash metal going from just a run of the mill "I can sing more about Satan and Armageddon then you" genre to a musicians genre, when the music started becoming more important then the lyrics of the music. Breaking The Silence is a middle ground to this, as lyrically the album seems to be more fit among earlier thrash metal material from the early 80s and even NWOBHM at times, but musically it is much more comparitive to the late 1980s.

As a band, I got to admit that Heathen have never had any really bad musicians. Every single member of Heathen has more then a clear knowledge of how to play their instruments, they actually have a better grip on it then just that. It's way better and provides for some, mostly bonecrushing and bodysplitting heaviness while retaining melody, catchiness, replay value, and everything else you want to have on a record without sacrificing any of the heavy stuff. They are all just that good at playing.

Vocalist David White/Godfrey (whatever the hell you want to call him) is just plain amazing as a singer (in my opinion, one of the best metal vocalists ever). Operatic and like a mix of Dio and Bruce Dickinson with more balls. All the time though he sounds emotional, providing emotion to the lyrics to make them seem a bit more interesting. Now when I say emotion, I don't mean angsty. I mean that he makes lyrics on songs like Death By Hanging seem more cynical and cruel with his clean and incredibly well harmonized vocal patterns, and then uses this same skill but in a different range and key to make songs like Open The Grave seems like true cry for help,. His range is impressive, and his clarity is positively stellar. Few metal vocalists have the ability to create such great vocal patterns while retaining amazing clarity, but White has a true talent for it. Just plain amazing stuff. You just can't really get any better then David White/Godfrey when it comes to metal vocalists.

Guitar work. Okay that is the highlight of this album and every other Heathen song. The guitar work is always amazing. Lee Altus and Doug Piercy are positively amazing guitarists, truly amazing and powerful. Their riffs are a tad rudimentary on this album, but they are very catchy and never go out of time at all. They are also stunningly clear and use lots of really great chords and stuff. Just plain awesome. There is also plenty of clean stuff on this album that comes from both of them, both in the form of acoustics and clean electric guitars. These also sound great, providing loads of depth and power to the songs that utilize them. Their harmonies with David White are also amazing and further adding depth and flashiness to the music. But what these guys are really good with is not guitar riffs but guitar leads. These guys must have gotten lessons from Yngwie Malmsteen himself, because their neo classical guitar work is amazing. Blistering neo classical shred that moves ahead at light speed with great use of the whammy bar for accents and expression. Lee is the better of the two guitarists, but Doug's solos are far from bad (he just use less shred but still lots of it). Either way, you really can't ask for better guitarists if you want shred.

The bass can't be heard very well, bassist Mike Yastermenski is still pretty nice. It can be heard the best at the end of the Set Me Free cover, when he does a quick little bass solo at the end. This shows is talent pretty nicely. He's above average, but not the best bass player money could by. Then again, he's fine for Heathen. Though his lines are rudimentary and follow along wtih guitar parts, he doesn't go out of time or tune so he's pretty good. Not bad at playing the bass, but not really the virtuoso at his craft like White, Altus, and Piercy are.

Our man behind the drum kit is Carl Sacco. Sacco's drum skill is great, as he is truly a perfect time piece for the band. His work his hard hitting and always in time. Lots of rapid double kick work and amazing fills that are fast, technical, and highly unique. Just plain amazing. Like really one truly great drummer. He's just a tad too rudimentary, and he often uses the same beat for some songs in certain sections. But all in all, it's not too bad at all. In fact it's quite good, just not the best. Still Sacco is a great drummer and is a true master of his craft when it comes to being a thrash metal drummer.

The lyrics are one part of the album that to me really make it fall short of greatness. Many of the lyrics here are reminiscent of early thrash metal lyrics (as I stated before), lyrics that really aren't too interesting. Death, demons, occultism, religion, really I mean like unless Heathen was bored and couldn't think of anything better or David White didn't have a ton of lyrical influence, they could have been better. I mean they are not really thought provoking or very amazing at all. Better then lame Slayer lyrics, but nothing really great about society, politics, or anything like that. The only song that I could say has a good lyrics is Pray For Death, which has a mix of both religion, occultic, and some political views in it. Basically it's sort of a more thought out version of a song that has the message "a false god can't save you", that kind of thing you can get from Slayer, just a tad less thought out.

The production also kind of hurts it, but this is really some of the best "old school" metal production ever. Very guitar heavy but not so much to the point where the guitars are overpowering everything else (like on Artillery's album Terror Squad). However the drums sound kind of flat at times and the bass is not easily heard at many times throughout the album. This doesn't necessarily make it bad, but for those who have never heard this kind of production used before (like I had when I first got this album) it may get in the way of the listening experience. Give it time though and it'll grow on you, or you'll just like past it. If you are used to it, then well that's good to because you won't have a problem listening to this album at all.

Breaking The Silence, while lyrically imperfect is a truly amazing album that is well worth looking for. Without question it is positively hard hitting, powerful, loaded with shred, and is what you'd expect from the bay area for the most part. But if this album hooked you in, just wait to hear what comes next.

Quite good melodic thrash! - 85%

Human666, August 31st, 2007

And it's very catchy at the same time! Don't get me wrong, this album is still heavy but it's also pretty melodic with it's riffing and especially with the high tone vocals of 'David Godfrey' (former 'Blind Illusion'). However, I can't say that this is a unique or different album, the vocals are one dimensional and not emotional at all, but the vocal range isn't monotonous and the melodies are quite simple yet catchy. The riffing is very precise and flows greatly with the vocals, there aren't any moments at breakneck tempo however, the riffs are quite fast but don't expect for outstanding technical tremolo picked riffage. We don't have any complex puzzles here, it's a simple thrash album which is very catchy and straightforward and also pretty well constructed.

'Death By Hanging' explodes in with some nice leading guitar shredding and then it settles down with the main riff. This song flows pretty well and the chorus is very powerful and leading to another well executed soloing. I think that this track has the most solos here, it's not the best track however, but it's a proper opener and kickass at the same time!

Then we have 'Goblin's Blade' which opens with topnotched dual guitar harmonized melodic riff which leading to the first verse. This is a quite impressive song, the riffing is very tight and there is a bit archaic feeling with it, the vocals flowing amazingly with the riffs and the guitar soloing is great.

Overall, I would recommend this album to anyone who likes his thrash with a good melodic sense and with tons of catchiness. I don't find anything bad with this album, it's not a brilliant thrash mastepiece but it's one of these easy listenable albums that you can dig for a lot of time and never get bored of. Worth listening!

The Emerald of Thrash - 98%

Khagan, January 21st, 2007

Thrash is an uneasy genre to appreciate as a metalhead. Its relentless aggression and macho attitude have been staples for many bands of this genre. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Overkill, Slayer, Testament, Kreator, and the like have just about exemplified these concepts. Unfortunately, these concepts can turn off a lot of those who wish to seek melody in their music. However, Thrash can mix its aggression with the melodies that is Speed and/or Power, and most of the time they're executed well. Heathen is no stranger to this hybrid of Speed/Thrash and they do their work diligently and carefully. They paid it off with Breaking The Silence, a masterpiece of Speed/Thrash. It sounds a lot like Metallica, but it's safe to say they are a more refined version of them. If only Metallica hadn't been crap after Ride The Lightning and sounded this good, they would've been much like Heathen. Heathen, in this sense, corrects the problems that plagued RTL-era Metallica by performing balls-out Speed/Thrash on this album, not resorting to any wankery whatsoever.

This album is full of unadulterated Speed/Thrash; everything from the get-go is 49 minutes of pure ecstasy. The duo of Lee Altus and Doug Piercy prove themselves to be godly masters with their state-of-the-art riffs and solos. Carl Sacco easily schools Lar$ Ulrich with his carefully executed but venerable drumming. Mike Jastremski's bass can barely be heard in this album, but on the next LP after this one, he can be noticed on Fear of the Unknown and Heathen's song, and he does a better job than Cliff Burton. And as for the vocalist, David Godfrey (AKA David White), he is no Joey Belladonna, but he proves to be worthwhile on this album. His range lacks a little punch, so that keeps this album from being perfect.

On to the music, we start off with Death By Hanging and it features a powerful finale-like crescendo in the beginning and then kicks off to some raging Speed/Thrash. The chorus is excellent. DEATH... BY HANGING! DEATH... FROM THE GALLOWS!! After that, around 3:14, a kick-ass solo proceeds. The song closes with a wonderful drum-and-guitar decrescendo. Goblin's Blade is a solid thrasher of a song that also features a nice chorus, a winning solo in the middle, and a thunderous finish. Open The Grave is the highlight of this album, with a great mid-paced number, a well-done soft section in the middle, and then it becomes relentless towards the end. Pray For Death will take you from the throat from beginning to end, as it is no-frills Speed/Thrash that never shows any mercy at all. You WILL headbang to this song. The Sweet cover of Set Me Free remains somewhat faithful to the original, and although it isn't up to par with the other songs, it is still quite good. The title track is yet another memorable Speed/Thrash song that doesn't transcend to any form of suckage at all. World's End is by far the best song here, as it beats Open The Grave by a margin with an even better display of balls-to-the-wall Thrash, though the beginning starts off soft and somewhat reminiscent of Stairway To Heaven. Finally, we get to Save The Skull which seals the deal with a large slab of Speed and Thrash that picks up the tempo quite a bit in the middle. A nifty solo begins here, and the end closes with possibly the grandest drum-and-guitar finale to be heard. You really have to hear this album to believe it.

Yes, the band is even generous enough to let you download their songs in their website for free! Just go to www.heathenmetal.com and check out their discography. It's rather uncommon for a Metal band to mark their songs available for downloading, but with a band so undeniably good as Heathen, you won't be disappointed at all to see their songs.

You thought Holy Terror was godly? They are nothing compared to Heathen. Heathen may possibly be just about the best Speed/Thrash band in Metal history, and this album has hit the nail on the head to prove it. And with their recently released demo in 2005 that has nothing but good ol' 1985-sounding Speedthrash songs, Heathen will strike again with their (hopefully good) new album. There have been tons of Speed and Thrash bands that try to be impressive with their music, be it Slayer, Kreator, Sodom, Agent Steel, Annihilator, or what have you. But none can be as venerable and masterful as Heathen. Metallica wishes they could sound this good. Recommended for Speed and thrash fans alike.

Very catchy thrash - 85%

Milo, February 13th, 2005

Nothing bad can be said about this CD. What Heathen gives us here is a all out blast of 80’s thrash metal with influences of Metallica (mainly the solos), Exodus, a little bit of Testament in the acoustic parts and the competence of Ulysses Siren.

It has a pretty distinct melodic sensibility. It’s more melodic than Anthrax, Metallica and early Slayer. The riffs, although not as varied as I’d want them to be, are pretty good and they also have that catchiness that only some slight melodic touches can give. That kind of riffage coexists with the harsher variety, represented by the full speed and palm muting use. Sometimes, the predominant ultra-fast riffage can make you wish a little more variety but it’s nothing as unidimensional as some other bands tend to be.

The soloing is reminiscent of early Metallica. They are long and usually divided in two parts: The first is ultra fast shredding, followed by a more melodic and controlled section. They do have a big role in this album, being always present in every song. Very good indeed.

Catchiness is also a very strong point of the album: After listening to it, you will sure have something to remember after: The choruses are very elaborated with nice vocal lines and good riffs underneath. Almost every song has great sing-along choruses, but my favorite is the one in “Death by Hanging”. The verses are pretty well strut rated too: The main example is “Goblin’s Blade” The Sweet cover, “Set me Free” even borders the pop-thrash! One might even find it a bit annoying! The music is always fast and intense. It should be beneficed by a more distinct double bass tone. It’s pretty much totally muffled here. I’d like it to have a clearer production, something in the lines of the Ulysses Siren LP, “Above the Ashes”. Heathen even shares some similarities with that band. They are not as technical or as calculated as US, but everything seems very well connected, without random parts floating around.

Highlights? It’s all good but my favorite songs are “Death by Hanging”, “Open the Grave”, with its acoustic interlude reminiscent of Testament, “Breaking the Silence” with its screaming soloing and “Set me Free”, which is so fun to listen to. All in all, a very underrated CD by a great band. I’d recommend every thrash fan to download this gem at Heathen’s website, free of charge.

Very accomplished debut - 75%

OlympicSharpshooter, September 3rd, 2004

You know, if you were from the Bay Area, were in your late teens to early twenties, and played thrash metal in a band, it was not hard to make a "legendary" band. If you believe the press releases from record labels every single dude who ever picked up a guitar and formed a band called Swordsman or something of the like (is there a band by that name?) could conceivably be called a metal god on par with Glenn Tipton of James Hetfield. However, that legendary Bay Area Thrash moniker wasn't always just a big shot of hyperbole to spice up an otherwise boring press release.

Metallica, Exodus, Megadeth, Death Angel... Heathen. Yeah, I would put Heathen right up there with those hallowed, well-worn and much-loved names on the strength of a miniscule two releases (more so the second of the pair), because these guys were that good. From track one, side one, album number one of the catalogue Heathen was on the ball, at the top of the thrash sweepstakes, promising as hell and more than deserving of the chance to have a run as long and varied as a Slayer or a Metallica (on this site I'm alone in considering Metallica's variety a good thing, but so be it). Alas, it was not to be.

Still, Breaking the Silence was a hell of an auspicious start, propulsive and catchy lead single "Set Me Free" cutting a swath through the competition and getting some significant airplay on MTV's Headbanger's Ball, the band fairly prescient in releasing a video at that stage, something Metallica would wind up capitulating to a few months hence with "One". The record moved around 100 000 copies, a significant number of dented skulls, more significant as it was a debut record and the only street momentum would've come from a few demos rather than an established catalogue.

The music within is a clean and nimble brand of speed, quite polished production-wise (compared to the audio-terrorism of some of the less venerable thrash LPs), rather finessed and epic like Flotsam, yet still able to go to the gut (or lower) with some heavy, heavy riffs like Overkill. The leads a combination of Hammett, Maiden harmony leads, and outright shredding, this potent thrash proposal not so much hurled like a brick through the window of the club and taking over like a band of swarthy bandits (Reign in Blood, Darkness Descends, Bonded by Blood) as quickly building a way better bar right beside it and bringing in all of the deserters from the old one to hear the thoroughly brainy, fist pumping wunderkinds next door.

Breaking the Silence isn't really one of those albums that cruises along at a number of different speeds, each track a total about-face from the preceding track like Suffering Hour, but more of a steady thrash assault, only "Open the Grave" and the beautiful melodic intro to "World's End" really deviating from the rest in this regard. However, each song sounds unique and it isn't one of those situations where the songs all blend into this foggy abyss wherein you can recall maybe a riff or a chorus here or there, but for the most part is totally forgotten moments after the CD leaves the player and goes back on the rack.

The Sweet cover "Set Me Free" is insanely catchy, easily one of the best thrash updates I've ever heard. While Sweet isn't exactly the Mecca of stone-faced metal seriousness, singer Dave Godfrey handles the rather silly lyrics with an intense, boastful quality that does the song a world of good. Furthermore there is a blistering lead break, Heathen cramming more duelling leads and harmony riffs into about forty-five seconds than you can shake an Iron Maiden at, the cover itself being a cagey move ripped right out of the Anthrax play book, that act done one better by Heathen's ability to make a great cover right off the bat (compare to 'Thrax's "I'm Eighteen"... bleech).

Often there are just little precision parts that push this album to another level, the homicidal vocals and neck-wrecking outro on "Save the Skull", the Yngwie like proto-power intro soloing on "Breaking the Silence", the waver-y Belladonna-like vocals over the first verse of "Pray for Death"... there's a certain style and grace of execution here that hints at the brilliance of Victims of Deception, this willingness to really work on making excellent songs wherein all the parts really work, this crafted approach that comes spilling off of every hot solo burning into the night skies, even the crushing breaks on "Pray for Death" and "Death by Hanging" undertaken with a professionalism that belies the band's youth.

Ultimately the downfall of Breaking the Silence is that it's not Victims of Deception, that album just cloaking all else in the shadow of it's sheer magnitude. The sometimes light-weight, less serious vibes of the earlier LP almost making one want to just go listen to the shining neon genesis of Victims and it's futuristic cover and it's hyper-advanced epic progressive monster thrash.

Here's a tip of the mug to Breaking the Silence, one of the best albums to come out of the Bay Area movement... but if it's a tip to BTS, it's a full out keg-stand and a half for what follows.

Stand-Outs: It's all damned good, but "Set Me Free", "Death by Hanging", "World's End"