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An Instant Classic! Welcome back Heathen! - 85%

necroluciferia, June 3rd, 2010

Interesting discussion I was having the other day, the bottom line of which basically being that most thrash bands (certainly of the Bay Area variety) only have two great albums in them. Slayer; Reign In Blood and South Of Heaven. Megadeth; Peace Sells (Countdown is good, though debatably thrash, while some would also put forth an argument for the vastly overrated Rust In Peace). Forbidden; Forbidden Evil and Twisted Into Form. Testament; The New Order and PWYP. Let’s not get started with Metallica…

So if your average pattern is, say, good debut, 2 absolute classics followed by 2 albums that are kind of iffy, a better album but moving in a more mainstream direction and so on so forth…then it’s certainly no bad thing that Heathen have done so little between the release of their fantastic 1991 album Victims Of Deception up until today. With this album ranking reasonably high in my top 10 thrash releases of all time it is easy sometimes to throw out the ‘I wonder why they never did more albums…’ but perhaps when you think about it, rather they be remembered for the two quality albums they did than keep churning out sub-standard rubbish that eventually has us all crying ‘oh no, another X album. They are so past it/ should have quit in 1991, etc.’ Instead, they have made their return some 19 years on with album number three sounding every bit as killer as you’d expect.

The album is brought in with something of an Eastern lick; of course Heathen were never the most straightforward of thrash bands and such progressive nuances are to be quite expected. ‘Dying Season’ instantly comes hurtling through with an undiluted array of speedy riffs and drums that waste no time. David White’s vocals pack a real punch and you get the impression that he means business while there is a rich tone to them that isn’t dissimilar to Chuck Billy.

‘No Stone Unturned’ is the absolute landmark point of this album; at over 10 minutes in length it’s a real epic and practically an album in itself! It commences with a heavy, drawn out dose of Chug that lets you know it has arrived; I shan’t beat around the bush and I’ll just come out and say this is one step away from plagiarism of little known song ‘Walk’ by a band I guess no-one has ever heard of; one of the mightiest and most recognisable intros in metal, and this opens into a hell of a powerful track with crunchy guitars, a groovy bassline and some really purposeful solo guitar work. It’s heavy as fuck and yet there’s no shortage of melody to it especially through the memorable chorus; it works through a prolonged instrumental passage that has that kind of atmosphere of ‘Orion’ with a thick bass until the music picks up again sounding meaner than ever and there’s some Maiden-esque harmonies going on here for sure.

The album is rather varied and certainly don’t expect the two dimensional sound of recent efforts from other bands of their era. ‘A Hero’s Welcome’ is another highlight; it’s slow-paced but incredibly powerful, a crestfallen thrash ballad that pays tribute to the fallen soldiers. The drumming has a nice roll to it, and an almost military feel in parts while the vocals are beautifully done. ‘Silent Nothingness’ has echoes of ‘Timeless Cell…’ especially with the wild, high pitched vocals on the chorus.

This is quite possibly the best new thrash album I’ve heard in a long time, and ought to be an instant classic. It’s worth mentioning also there are a few guest appearances from Altus’ band mates in Exodus and also from Steve Di Giorgio and Jon Allen of Sadus (who play the sitar and chimes on the intro!). Welcome back Heathen!

Written by Luci Herbert for http://www.metalteamuk.net