Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2021
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

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.