While Heathen have hardly been prolific over their near 40 year career, what remains clear is that the old adage of quality over quantity rings true in everything Heathen do.
But where do you start when it comes to their back catalogue? Well, fear not. We’ve re-assessed Heathen’s albeit small body of work and done the hard work for you (full studio albums only so compilation / re-working of old tracks and covers, Recovered, isn’t included).
In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!
4. Empire Of The Blind (2020)
Empire of the Blind was every inch the album you were hoping Heathen would release after 10 years away. It was 100% ‘Heathen’ through and through, with this most recognisable of thrash bands sounding as vital as ever. Heathen may make us wait an inordinately long time for new material but they never, ever disappoint and fans of the band (old and new) inevitably fell in love with Empire Of The Blind after the very first listen.
Renowned for lengthy sojourns into epic thrash territory, it was surprising (and refreshing) to find Heathen in full attack mode; stripped back, succinct and convincingly serving up a prime exercise in melodic thrash with added bite.
Intro aside, opener, “The Blight”, may be as ‘Exodus’ as they come (no surprise as Lee Altus is in Exodus and Kragen Lum fulfilled live duties for ’em for the best part of the last 7 years) but Holt and Zetro would miss the nuance Heathen bring to the song, with their penchant for balancing raw aggression and muscular melody ably demonstrated. 8/10
Silence is broken!
3. Breaking The Silence (1987)
With the progressive / technical nature of future albums yet to fully materialise, Heathen’s debut album instead focused on razor-sharp melodic power/thrash (as sharp as a “Goblin’s Blade” at the very least).
Blessed with supreme riff writers in the shape of Lee Altus (Exodus / ex-Angel Witch / ex-Die Krupps) and Doug Piercy (Blind Illusion / Anvil Chorus / ex-Ulysses Siren), and with the powerful lungs of David White (ex-Blind Illusion / ex-Defiance) at the helm, Heathen were the equal of their Bay Area brethren without ever really receiving their dues. Why remains a mystery as they had a cracking cover in their arsenal (“Set Me Free”), a singer to rival the likes of Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna and Testament’s Chuck Billy and songs – quality songs! – in abundance.
Any perceived lack of aggression was in Heathen’s favour, with the band perfectly mixing melody, muscle and an often mid-tempo stomp to deliver a succession of uber-catchy tracks.
An 80s melodic metal classic….regardless of genre! 8/10
Natural selection pervades….
2. The Evolution Of Chaos (2010)
As thrash comebacks go, The Evolution Of Chaos should be considered one of the finest releases of the modern thrash age.
After nearly 20 years away, Heathen bounced back with the kind of melodic yet technical thrash fans had fallen in love with in the late 80s and early 90s but they’d imbued it with a modern sheen – making tracks such as the nigh on perfect “Control By Chaos”, the power/thrash of “Arrows Of Agony” and the immediacy of frantic opener “Dying Season” so damn addictable.
With guest appearances from such heavy hitters as Gary Holt (Exodus / Slayer), Rob Dukes (Exodus), Steve Digiorgio (Sadus, Death, Testament) & Jon Allen (Sadus), Heathen weren’t against roping in old friends to assist, but they didn’t really need them; the quality of the songs was already apparent! 8/10
Perpetrators of near perfection….
1. Victims Of Deception (1991)
Absolutely, mind-bogglingly brilliant.
That’s a fair summation of Heathen’s piece de resistance, a riff-fest of such magnitude and scope that these Bay Area thrashers should be a household name. The fact they’re not is another example of an album of such astounding quality and consistency falling by the wayside while The Big 4 marched on to greater glories.
Recorded by musicians of insane ability – and a singer who could, gulp, actually fuckin’ sing! – this progressive thrash masterpiece practically surpassed Metallica, Megadeth and co. in each and every area.
The riffs were crunchier and the progressive elements better suited to the melodic manifestations that made up this magnum opus; allowing the band to pen heavy, aggressive tunes capable of impressing the most obtuse prog lover!
Heathen ended up being victims of circumstances but hindsight proves they were actually at the forefront of their chosen field. 9/10