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This Is How It's Done! - 97%

heavens_coffin, January 11th, 2010

Thrash metal has definitely experienced a huge resurgence in the last 5 or 6 years. During that time we've had the pleasure of some killer bands like Witchtrap or, more recently, Vektor. We've also had underwhelming, unoriginal stuff like Merciless Death, Municipal Waste, Lazarus A.D. and a host of other bands worshipping the Bay Area Thrash movement, the Teutonic Thrash movement or a combination of the two (such as Warbringer). We've seen some solid but not overwhelming comebacks from bands like Exodus, Death Angel, Paradox, Onslaught et al. When Heathen put out a demo in 2005 it turned some heads. The three songs on that demo mopped the floor with the vast majority of "modern" thrash metal be recorded at the time. Since then, the anticipation of the new album has intensified with each passing month. Finally, at the ass-end of December 2009, Japan is graced with The Evolution of Chaos, with Europe and North America getting it as winter comes to an end in February and March.

I've never been a huge fan of Heathen, but I enjoy Victims of Deception and Breaking the Silence quite a bit when the time is right. I really liked what I heard on the 2005 demo and was very pleasantly surprised when I blasted the full album. After the nifty intro, the album blasts off with 'Dying Season', which was the second track on the 2005 demo. An excellent choice to start off the album, the song twists and turns through a maze of ultra-radical riffage that explodes into an infectious chorus that is almost a mixture of old Metallica and Artillery. In many ways, this album takes you back to the late 80's, with huge ...And Justice for All vibes all over the place. This is best displayed on the epic fourth track, 'No Stone Unturned'. If Metallica would have written this song and this album, the world would be upside down right about now. Well, this is probably as close as you're going to get to that era of Metallica again without spinning your copies of Master of Puppets and ...And Justice for All. 'No Stone Unturned' is 11 mammoth minutes of oldschool power/thrash bliss. The last 3 minutes of the song spiral into an intoxicating and chaotic maelstrom of headsplitting riffage and soaring leadwork. Let's then fast forward to 'Red Tears of Disgrace', the tenth track. Starting out with a soothing melodic intro that makes you think maybe this is going to be another ballad, it morphs into a mid-paced bludgeoner with addictive riffs and vocals to match. A fantastic power/thrash song, 'Red Tears of Disgrace' will probably make Jon Schaffer wish that Iced Earth could sound remotely this good again, or ever did for that matter. Other tracks that highlight this masterwork of modern thrash metal are 'Arrows of Agony', 'Undone', 'Silent Nothingness' and 'Control by Chaos'.

The guitar work on this album is nothing short of spectacular. Like ...And Justice for All, it's impeccably played and surgically precise. Unlike ...And Justice for All, however, The Evolution of Chaos has a bit of a "warmer" feel to it. By the time of ...And Justice for All, Metallica had become a cold and precise machine and that showed clearly in the atmosphere of that record. With The Evolution of Chaos, Heathen still have a similar feeling to that, yet it feels more "human" than ...And Justice for All ever did. The leads on this album simply rip and should be a lesson to modern metal guitar players to step off the gas and play from the heart because the results are much more sincere and much more intense.

The production displayed on The Evolution of Chaos is another pleasant surprise for an album recorded in the digital age. It's refreshing to be able to hear fingers sliding up and down the fret boards as it adds greatly to the acoustic sections of the record--especially the intro and the midsection of 'No Stone Unturned'. A crystal clear production job that does not suffocate the music, but gives it plenty of breathing room. I wouldn't have it any other way for a Bay Area thrash album.

Bottom line: this album is amazing. I expect this to make the year-end lists of many die hard thrash fans in 2010. It's going to be very, very surprising if a thrash album comes along in 2010 that outdoes this thing. In a time when thrash metal has become kind of a shell of its former self, a time when its scene is populated by imitators imitating imitators of yore, The Evolution of Chaos is a huge breath of fresh air. My jaw is still on the floor. Every time I listen to this album, it gets better. This is exactly what thrash metal needs right now: an infusion of fucking awesome. If this doesn't wind up being my album of the year, I'll be god damn surprised. Easily the best comeback thrash album of the last 10 years. Welcome the fuck back, Heathen.

*Originally written by me for http://www.metallusmaximus.com on January 10, 2010