Friday, March 19, 2010

Heathen Song

HEATHEN – “Evolution Of Chaos” CD ’10 (Mascot, US) – HEATHEN’s Russian-born guitarist Lee Altus once said something to me that made me truly understand the depth of his metal pedigree. We were speaking via phone back in the days of the band’s last album, “Victim Of Deception” and the topic rolled around about Ron Quintana’s Rampage Radio show. I had mentioned that Spon Q used to play all sorts of great stuff, everything from The Dead Boys to Return To Forever, from Mentors to Legend. And that’s when Lee spoke the words that would be immortal to me: “Oh yeah, he played Legend all the time! They were awesome, just awesome and he played them all the time.” Do you understand how important, how fucking vital a statement like that is? Legend (from the Channel Islands) were not only (in this writer’s estimation) the greatest NWOBHM band but one of the finest metal outfits of all time. Between Mike Lezala’s haunting vocals and Peter Haworth’s dazzling axe work and massive songs, they came over like a cross between Rush, Sabbath & Motorhead. The problem was that few people recognized this. The fact that Lee Altus understood it was enough to make me realize this guy knew his shit. The material on the first 2 HEATHEN albums only confirmed it.

To this day, HEATHEN is my favourite thrash metal band ever. Their ability to concoct ripping, killing riffs and strap them to intricate & memorable songwriting, face-melting lead guitar and throaty vocals that veer smoothly between NWOBHM-styled melody and gruffer aggression puts them in an elite level. The problem was, after 1991’s “Victim…,” they kinda went the way of the Edsel. I knew they’d reformed in some form or fashion in the early oughties but the only “new” material was some sorta recording of old stuff & with Altus’ permanent involvement in Exodus, I figured the Goblin’s Blade would never swing again. I was wrong. And motherfriggin’ how! Some 19 years on, HEATHEN has issued their 3rd album, “Evolution Of Chaos” and brother, it brings a tear of pride to my eye that I once had a magazine called Chaos after hearing this bitch! Let’s be plain about all this, shall we? The new HEATHEN album completely kicks ass. From beginning to end, Altus and new 6-string partner in crime Kragen Lum (Doug Piercy has been gone a long while) plant hacking thrash riffs everywhere like tank treads on your face. And that doesn’t even begin to get into the kind of lead guitar fury they unleash everywhere, shards of Bay Area axe death raining down in a sonic torrent. Are the songs long? Hell yeah, they probably average 7 minutes in length, with “No Stone Unturned” topping the 11 minute mark. Unlike some bands who trod that “proggy-thash” path, however, this crew makes every downstroke, every plundering riff worth it’s weight in gold. Add to that the vocals of David White, which have only gotten better and more emotional over the years and you’ve got an album that makes me feel like going out and knocking a couple poseurs (remember that word, old school people?!) around. The loud, semi-dry production is just what the doctor ordered as well, making it sound like this age-wizened bunch have dragged their Marshalls right into your living room.

Bottom line is this. HEATHEN kicks ass, pure and simple and with their 3rd album have succeeded in making themselves nothing short of a metal “legend.” That Lee guy sure as hell knew what he was talking about! Chaos Realm

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