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The Evolution of Heathen - 90%

pinpals, January 11th, 2010

I was fortunate enough to learn about Heathen’s existence back when their first two albums as well as their 2005 demo were available for free download on their site. What I discovered was a sadly overlooked Thrash band that, while quite derivative of Metallica in the beginning, actually got better as the 21st century has come around. Their 1991 album, "Victims of Deception", was an epic/progressive Thrash masterpiece and their 2005 demo (all three songs from the demo appear on this album freshly re-recorded) only pointed to greater things to come.

Heathen was formed all the way back in 1984 by guitarist Lee Altus and ex-drummer Carl Sacco, the former coming off a stint in Angel Witch. David White (aka David Godfrey) has been the band’s vocalist for the majority of the time, including singing on all of their official releases, but the band’s ranks have also included, for a short time, vocal legends Paul Baloff and David Wayne (the demos featuring these vocalists are much sought-after rarities).

I’ll admit that I was rather heavily anticipating this release. Their 2005 demo was just outstanding and I couldn’t wait to hear what else the band had to offer. I was disappointed when the release date got pushed further and further back. I’ll say it now, though, the patience was definitely worth it. The three best songs are the ones from the demo, which are now given stronger arrangements and an improved production job. "Dying Season" is a furious opener with a killer break as well as some wonderful guitar leads. David White has only gotten better with age; his more mature voice makes him one of the better vocalists in the genre. "Arrows of Agony" now has a stronger emphasis on the eastern influences and better guitar solos in the middle. The absolute best song, however, is closing thrasher "Silent Nothingness", which is nonstop awesomeness from start to finish. Riffs this good just do not seem to be written anymore in the 2000’s.

Fortunately, the non-demo songs are enjoyable as well. "Control by Chaos" takes a more modern approach while still being a Thrash song and once again features some superb soloing in the middle. Most of the songs are built upon solid riffs and instead of being full-on thrashers, include both fast and slow sections, while still falling under the realm of Thrash. A good reference point would be Megadeth’s "Endgame", although these songs are longer and somewhat more dynamic.

There are really only two negatives to this album. "A Hero’s Welcome", though well-intentioned, feels out of place musically with the rest of the album, sounding more like an American hard rock song than anything else. It’s not as bad as "Prisoners Of Fate" but it sticks out like a sore thumb. Also, the epic "No Stone Unturned" does not quite work, despite the music itself being quite enjoyable. It feels like two songs tied together by an out-of-place acoustic interlude, perhaps with some reorganization that song could be a winner.

Despite these detriments, I cannot help but be pleased with "The Evolution of Chaos". Heathen is stronger than ever and have written that great 2000’s comeback album that so many other bands have failed at. Lovers of Thrash and Speed Metal would be wise to get this ASAP.

(Originally published at www.metal-temple.com)