Review Summary: Heathen returns with their first new album in nearly twenty years, creating yet another excellent display of speed and guitar wizardry. One of the best recent displays of thrash.
Anyone who knows metal knows the "Big Four" of thrash. Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer all emerged in the early 80's and took the metal world by storm, releasing such albums as 86's trio of Slayer's Reign In Blood
, Metallica's Master of Puppets
and Megadeth's Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?
and Anthrax's 1987 release, Among the Living
. All of these albums, along with several other classics released by the "Big Four" and other bands like Testament and Exodus, helped establish thrash as the genre to beat in heavy metal. Soon, that faded as the emergence of death metal and black metal in the underground scene and groove metal and nu metal in the mainstream as well as bands like Metallica and Megadeth entering the more accessible realms of metal/hard rock rendered thrash a bygone era by the mid-nineties. However, in 1991, a much-overlooked band named Heathen released Victims of Deception
, combining many of the elements of these bands together along with some terrific Maidenesque vocals. It still went largely unnoticed and Heathen faded into black (no pun intended) for many years instead of giving into the mainstream like many of the other bands in the scene. However, by the 2000's, particularly later in the decade, many of these bands have returned to their roots with several great albums and Heathen showed signs of life with a reunion in 2004. Eventually, they released The Evolution of Chaos
in 2010, which re-hatches past formulas and delivers a tight performance.
Following the middle eastern-tinged, minute and twenty second, instrumental "Intro", the album revs its engine and accelerates immediately into high gear with album highlight, "Dying Season". Guitarists Kragen Lum and Lee Altus unleash aggressive, swift, shredding, thrash riffs in the spirit of Megadeth throughout the entire album. Even more impressive are the solos, many tracks containing more than one of them. With enough shred to leave many in their dust, falling many forests in the process, this guitar duo impress with every display of their mastery on the fret-boards. A few of the tracks also include some well-done clean sections, which show some great emotion within the music (Check "No Stone Unturned", "A Hero's Welcome" and "Red Tears of Disgrace"). Even more mind-boggling is that the shortest song (outside of the intro) is four minutes and thirty-one seconds. These two can display many talents, without boring the listener throughout the lengths of the tracks, something that many bands of this type may fail at.
Composing the rhythm section, drummer Darren Minter and bassist Jon Torres deliver a typical thrash showing. Darren keeps the album moving rapidly, never overplaying, as well as adding some nifty fills and good double bass lines. Jon is somewhat lost in the mix at times, as many bassists are, but he does shine through as well, particularly in the excellent, groovy guitar-bass "question-answer" passage at the beginning of "No Stone Unturned". Last, but certainly not least, is vocalist David White, who conjures up thoughts of Bruce Dickinson and Joey Belladonna throughout the album with his melodic, at times nearly operatic, falsetto-like delivery. His vocals truly are fantastic and make Heathen's sound a lot more enjoyable along with some great lyrics along the way, like "What remains unchanged is the ice in his veins, And the morals he left behind", from "Control By Chaos" and "Cherish each breath until you die, The sands of time have been measured line by line", from "No Stone Unturned". Just an overall exemplary showing from the whole band.
As far as highlight tracks are considered, one of the obvious would have to the the long, winding, epic, eleven minute and ten second "No Stone Unturned". David churns up his excellent lyrics and inspiring vocal work through the whole song. All of the instruments are at top form here, the aforementioned bass line appears in the early moments of the song, as do the solos from the guitarists, which all sound amazing. The clean section is brilliant and adds a whole new level of sentiment to the track. From the groovy beginning, to the thrash-filled ending, this track is magic. Other amazing tracks include the rapid-fire "Dying Season", the spectacular "Control By Chaos", which contains no less than three jaw-dropping solos and two mini-solos through its length, the slow, brooding "A Hero's Welcome", the blasting "Bloodkult", and the two closers, "Red Tears of Disgrace" and "Silent Nothingness", the former being a very melancholy, early Metallica accelerating ballad-like (Think "Fade to Black" and "One") offering and the latter returning to the thrashy sounds to close out the album. All of the tracks, however, deliver a heart-pounding performance and show little signs of weakness throughout their lengths.
In the end, Heathen have churned out a gem of a thrash album here, combing soaring, yet still aggressive vocals and spectacular guitar work that not many within the genre could touch along with thundering drumming and the odd bass line. The Evolution of Chaos
is an effective showing of all of the positives of the genre along with very few flaws, outside of the odd repetitive riff and such. The solos are often "eargasmic" and piercing. If you are a fan of speed metal/thrash metal, this is a must.