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Meanders on and on and on... - 39%

MacMoney, December 3rd, 2010

A long awaited savior - that's what Heathen's Evolution of Chaos was. With the Recovered compilation in 2004 and a demo the year after, a full album was told - and expected - to follow soon. However, it wasn't until 2009 that Evolution of Chaos saw daylight and unfortunately a savior it was not. Heathen joined the long ranks of the old thrash guard who should have just stayed disbanded or be content with performing live with their old material. With Evolution of Chaos the band doesn't bring anything new worthwhile to the table. The line-up is pretty much the same, Godfrey/White still in the vocals, Lee Altus writing on the guitar and Darren Minter on the drums. Only the second guitarist and bassist are new faces from their last full-length, Victims of Deception in 1991. The music itself hasn't progressed far from that album either. The band is satisfied to tread those same paths.

So the deal is lengthy compositions with a multitude of riffs, quite often with a melodic bent. The band does have a good ear for writing these more melodic riffs and passages, they rarely go wrong in that department. They're experts on the more soaring and epic sounding melodies that go well with their usually fast pace, but don't lose momentum at the slow intro pieces either like the intro of Control by Chaos. The melodies are always catchy and well though out as well as fitting for their parts. It's a shame they aren't utilized more. This melodicism was a big part of the draw of Victims of Deception. On Evolution of Chaos, the sense of melody has been utilized more in the form of more melodic riffs. A lot of the riffs are that as well as rather intricate, which sounds fairly good at first, but with a lot of these and the rather thin and artificial sounding guitar tone, the album ends up sounding not quite heavy or pounding enough. Often with the riff after riff approach, a certain heaviness is needed to bulk up the salad, but on Evolution of Chaos this is lacking. Especially when the guitars assume a heavily rhythmic and percussive part, they seriously lack punch and crunch, rendering them as just annoying baggage. There are times when the rhythm guitars combine with the drums to create a good rhythmic background for the vocals and lead guitar like in Red Tears of Disgrace, especially on the second half of the song.

David White's vocals form a big strike against the album as well. Previously his melodic vocals had a slight grit to them, like as to give them more roughness and character. However the almost twenty years haven't been so kind. Now his vocals are overpowered with gravel. He is still melodic and he has good control of his pitch, but the grit and gravel is clearly at the center of it. At times he utilizes his voice without it, but for some reason he and the band have decided to go with more attitude rather than what is fitting for their style. This sad fact renders one of the prior strengths of the band a weakness. Mostly his vocals are just an annoyance when it is clear to the listener that a more melodic approach would be far more suitable and that the vocalist could very well do that if he had just wanted to. Mostly he sings in mid-range and it almost sounds like he is singsongingly speaking the lyrics to the mic instead of actually singing. The highs are probably even worse though. He has to strain really hard to bring the gravely sound to the higher notes.

A lot of the time it sounds like the band is doing a re-take of Victims of Deception. The album has a very similar feel with the lengthy epic of Heathen's Song in No Stone Unturned and the ballad in A Hero's Welcome as well as the generally lengthy compositions with constant forward momentum. They've also felt it necessary to make the album over an hour long while clearly the material doesn't hold up that long though surprisingly the stronger songs have been placed near the end. Such lengthy compositions tend to end up resembling each other too much and an hour's worth of it is just too much. As it was with Prisoners of Fate, the ballad is again quite lame with its melodramaticism though Heathen have outperformed themselves in that department this time. A Hero's Welcome is full of sappy melodies in slow paces, but to top what they did the last time, they've added a patriotic speech - which admittedly might strike a chord with listeners of certain nationality - that takes the melodrama and sappiness to a whole new level. On a whole, Evolution of Chaos is not a hopeless album, but the fat really needs to be trimmed. There is good to be found in almost all songs (though forget about A Hero's Welcome), but unfortunately very few can stand a whole listen through.