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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.