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Symbols of a Superior Race - 92%

GuntherTheUndying, August 26th, 2011

Greece's Heathendom falls into a sophisticated area regarding the group's peculiar take on power metal colliding vehemently into the arms of doom metal doctrines. The blueprint engaged throughout "The Symbolist" is simply an implausible display of pristine musicianship seared between a plethora of premium performances and ideas, which together manufacture a lightless abstraction of sheer mastery from each and every end of the metallic spectrum. Led by an incredibly versatile vocalist and a stormy atmosphere, "The Symbolist" generates a fresh blast of zealous ruin rooted deep in the stygian winds of traditional doom metal while eclipsing the norms of power metal, a combination not completely authentic from Heathendom's hand, yet one that finds itself in prime form throughout this magnificent experience.

As I said, Heathendom circulates between power metal and doom metal and frequently overlaps several aesthetics of both themes. The band's style of execution, however, is certainly rooted in the down-tempo, mid-paced side of the equation, with roasting riffs and crushing heaviness slowly rolling out of the guitars like a bulldozer. It's naturally a very heavy record; George Tsinanis' percussion is quite forceful and dominating, and the remaining production vitally drips loads of weight upon unanticipated ears. This material is more or less simplistic, but that's where Heathendom shines. The opening "Endistancement by the Null Position" sums up the impending onslaught quite well, its massive guitar work and militaristic rhythm section slamming over and over in brutal, poignant precision. And honestly, not a whole lot changes, but Heathendom knows exactly what works.

In regards to the record's atmosphere, "The Symbolist" could not provide a better emission of feeling. Most of this success comes from Dimitris Koutsouvelis' dexterous display of vocalizing various techniques and routines often untouched by the status quo of doom/power metal singers. His overall talent balances between high-flying falsettos and note control that would make Dio and Halford smile, yet at the same time, Koutsouvelis mends eerie choirs and child-like occurrences which conjure similarities to the creepy throat of King Diamond. His performance, despite its multifarious bloodline, plays out perfectly for what "The Symbolist" represents on a musical scope and lifts Heathendom from above-average territory to a top-tier of malevolent superiority.

Variety doesn't play an important role in Heathendom's crusade, but who cares, really? "The Symbolist" is immaculate material from its exciting beginning to the epic, brooding closer which once again provides a two-faced twist on both power and doom metal; it's such a brilliant mixture that I can't even think of a metaphor to compare it with. Not a single part of me finds Heathendom's exploration of dark-dipped metal to be feeble or remotely lacking in any sense, and "The Symbolist" will overthrow the vague, insipid releases coming from the bowels of powerless metal groups worldwide and reign through eternal glory in a place much more intelligent and acknowledgeable than ours. Kids, this is not to be avoided.

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Symbolic of a new direction. - 88%

hells_unicorn, March 30th, 2011

Not much more than 3 years ago my ears heard a sound that redefined any premise I had regarding the concept of intrigue. This rather thoughtful and progressive opus dubbed “Nescience” was brought forth by a new player in the power metal scene called “Heathendom” hailing from the somewhat unlikely nation of Greece. This album was marked by a rather unusual blending of theatrical doom metal aesthetics, catchy melodic hooks, classically tinged symphonic additives, and an extremely charismatic vocalist who covered a number of differing styles and incarnations. While being somewhat stylized in spite of its uniqueness, playing off this dreamlike concept of ghostly choirs in the vain of King Diamond intermingling with dark introspective themes, there came with it a promise of not being bound to one particular craft, and that is what has come to pass with “The Symbolist”, the second manifestation of a fold of ingenious sound sculptors.

This is a rather strong departure from the slowed down, creeping character of the debut, but it definitely retains enough of the former sound to still be recognizable. The tempo has been ratcheted up pretty strongly, the riffs have gone from a trudging drag to a mixture of flashy thrash riffs and pummeling grooves, conjuring up imagery of recent day Nevermore and also some of the better offerings of the early 90s thrash metal scene. But most particularly noteworthy is that the vocal onslaught of Dimitris Koutsouvelis has expanded massively, incorporating deeper and darker characters reminiscent of Geoff Tate when in his occasional bellowing baritone, while maintaining the gut piercing Halford wails and child-like falsetto choirs. This is the sort of vocal character that Warrel Dane could probably pull off if he hadn’t shredded his vocal chords on cigarettes and overdoing the guttural noises for two decades.

As an album, this is the sort of intellectually driven, esoteric blending of social and philosophical themes that one might expect out of Fates Warning or Communic, but articulated in an even more modernistic template that somehow manages to reach back almost as much as it does forward. The songs have a similar duality to them that both unites them all, yet keeps them quite distinct from each other, though at times all the differing elements can start to blend together to anyone who is expecting typical verses and choruses. Some keep the tendencies towards a symphonic expression that merges aspects of “This Godless Endeavor” with something out of latest Danny Elfman composition, particularly that of “Endistancement By The Null Position” and “The Symbolist”, and maybe even “Black Euphoria” though with less of an overt creepiness. “Alternate Sickness” and “My Obedience” differ a bit with a slightly more thrash oriented and guitar emphasized sound, but more in the vain of a post-groove character as opposed to the orthodoxy one might expect from, say, Megadeth.

Part of me is a little disappointed that the doom aspects that made “Nescience” so strikingly original were not maintained through most of what is heard on here, save perhaps the slower paced and slightly Sabbath informed “Die Insane”. But given the continued brilliance coming from all at work on here, particularly that of Koutsouvelis, it’s not a significant downturn by any stretch of the imagination. This is the sort of album that gets it right on both ends, being catchy enough to taste good on the way down, yet also intricate and varied enough to make for a long period of reflection and digestion. There’s a lot here to take into account, as the new drummer heard on here is quite apt at mixing things up a bit, and the guitar work has developed into something that rivals the fancy riff work of Jeff Loomis, though the guitar solo work is much more tame and reserved by comparison. It’s unusual that I’m taken in wholly and completely by a modern revamping of power metal, but Heathendom have done it yet again. If nothing else, this is a band to continue following, because with this big of a shift and still keeping things interesting, there are few limitations that can be placed on where this band could go next.

Originally written for ( on March 31, 2011.

Impressive Greek Power Metal - 90%

Shadoeking, February 28th, 2011

Heathendom is another traditional metal band from Greece. The band's sound definitely has a cinematic quality to it. There is a lot going on musically and it is all very dramatic. This is just the band's second album, but Heathendom has the presence and skill of a band that has been together for far longer. And, in fact, the group has been together since 1998, so the fact that they are only releasing their second album is deceptive.

The whole album is incredibly melodic and majestic. The musicianship is impressive and the songs are all well-crafted epics with a bit of a progressive tint to their overall structure. The band frequently changes tempo within the songs and the riffs are constantly evolving throughout. There are some power metal elements as well, most notably the vocals, but the music is more traditional and progressive style metal.

The vocals of singer Dimitris Koutsouvelis are extremely interesting and are probably the biggest standout element of Heathendom's sound. Previous reviews of the band's material suggest a combination of Candlemass's Messiah Marcolin and King Diamond. I can definitely see the similarity. Koutsouvelis has a very melodic style and uses a lot of vibrato in his voice. He also occasionally switches to a falsetto style reminiscent of King Diamond.

On Heathendom's previous album, the band had more of an epic doom metal sound. The doom this time has been replaced by a more upbeat and melodic, faster style. It is not a massive change as the band is still clearly more of a traditional metal band, but power and speed have replaced the more somber and slower elements. Guitar solos twist and turn within the riffs and the melodies are complex and powerful.

Heathendom is not a band that I was very familiar with before hearing this album. They do not get mentioned much in even the underground metal press. However, now that I have heard this album, I can say that Heathendom should receive a lot more attention. In the somewhat tired and monotonous international power metal scene, Heathendom has crafted an extremely memorable album. This is certainly an album that should get notice.

Symbolizing enormous potential - 78%

autothrall, February 28th, 2011

I don't often hold out hope for finding anything new or interesting within the realms of traditional or power metal, but Greek outfit Heathendom presents a sound argument against such obstinacy, with a fusion of old and new aesthetics that takes the listener by complete surprise. Describing their precise sound is complicated, but I'd place it at a nexus between Nevermore, Helstar, Eldritch, Omen and Fates Warning, modernized machinery that is well aware of its roots and explores them with the enthusiasm of dynamic riffs and no fear of deviation from classic tropes where it suits the songwriting. Vocalist Dimitris Koutsouvelis is quite the find, his numerous tones creating a schizoid interface that ranges from dark asylum whisperings to Halford or Warrel Dane-like shrieking.

He's backed by some serious riffing potential, and The Symbolist more often than not creates a vortex of traditional power chords and busier thrash riffing into its philosophical ramblings, not to mention the swelling and theatrical orchestration often used as a gateway into tracks like "Black Euphoria" or "The Symbolist" itself. No two tracks here sound quite the same, and that's to the album's credit, though I did find that some were more hooky than others. "Sanctified" is a highlight, a crawling power morsel evoking traces of Morgana Lefay and Tad Morose, where "The Concept of Reason" truly experiments with its lurching structure, Koutsouvelis shrieking off its heights like a forum of gargoyles debating the nature of mankind. "An Angel, a Demon, and a Dying God" also deserves mention for the excellent bass and leads, and the choir-like crowing vocals that cast the listener into a desperate struggle in which his/her soul seems to lie in the balance.

That said, there are a few tracks which do drag behind the others in terms of their overall impact. "Die Insane" and "Prescience of the End" feature more of the band's slow, methodical plotting dynamics, but they left almost no impression, and also I felt like the initial volley of "Endistancement by the Null Position" was not entirely memorable. Heathendom always seems to hover at the edge of genius, but The Symbolist never seems to take the decisive plunge into its waiting arms. In addition, though their mix of thrash and power here perhaps precludes a strict necessity for climactic chorus parts, they do seem to be lacking through most of the material here. But these traits are easier to forgive when confronted by such an invigorating band, and even if The Symbolist is not their magnum opus, you can be assured that such potential lurks just beneath its skin, so don't be surprised if these Greeks evolve and explode rapidly in the right direction.