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Heathen - "Evolution of Chaos" (CD)

Heathen - "Evolution of Chaos" CD cover image

"Evolution of Chaos" track listing:

1. Intro (1:21)
2. Dying Season (5:41)
3. Control by Chaos (7:09)
4. No Stone Unturned (11:10)
5. Arrows of Agony (6:40)
6. Fade Away (5:45)
7. A Hero's Welcome (6:52)
8. Undone (6:42)
9. Bloodkult (4:31)
10. Red Tears of Disgrace (5:52)
11. Silent Nothingness (6:51)

Reviewed by on February 15, 2010

"This is how real thrash should sound: angry, progressive, rough, and catchy as hell."

When the thrash metal scene exploded in the late 80s, there were a ton of bands looking to replicate the success that the “Big Four” achieved. Most of these bands fell to the wayside, due to shameless copycatting or lack of creativity. Heathen was one of the exceptions, recording two grossly underrated albums. Their 1987 debut “Breaking The Silence” was quality, no-BS thrash, while 1991’s “Victims Of Deception” took the “…And Justice For All” route in delivering a progressive thrash gem. The band broke up, but reformed in 2001 and, after 19 years, has released a proper follow-up to their sophomore album in “The Evolution Of Chaos.” 19 years is a long time to wait, but Heathen made the wait worth it with one of the best thrash albums to come around in years.

The band doesn’t attempt to gloss over their songwriting or write fast riffs like everybody else is doing nowadays. This is “Victims Of Deception” for the 21st century; a modern take on a true classic. The songs are winding and far-reaching, sticking with the progressive/technical route that the band was heading in before the break-up. The songs average around six minutes, but there is so much content packed in that there isn’t any room for filler. The album is over an hour long, but flows perfectly from start to finish. Even when there is a chance for things to fall apart on the unspectacular “Undone,” the old-school thrash of “Bloodkult” kicks the album back into place.

Three of the songs were originally released on a 2005 demo and they still kick as much ass now as they did five years ago. “Dying Season” is the fist-pumping anthem that starts the album off on a high note, as guitarists Lee Altus and Kragen Lum trade off riffs and leads like it was going out of style. While this is the first album with Altus and Lum teaming together, their chemistry is palpable. “Arrows Of Agony” is a slower tune that stomps along a catchy riff and killer solo from former guitarist Terry Lauderdale. “Silent Nothingness” is an explosive closer that floors the listener with its middle acoustic breakdown and awe-inspiring lead guitar work in the outro.

“The Evolution Of Chaos” works because every song has something to offer. Even the obligatory ballads are energetic bursts of emotion that resonate through the rest of the album. “A Hero’s Welcome” has a patriotic tone that is given weight by spoken word passages and gang chants from various musicians, including Rob Dukes of Exodus fame. Considering Altus is a member of Exodus, that isn’t too surprising; even guitarist Gary Holt gets in on the fun with some leads on “Control By Chaos.”

The highlight of the album is the eleven-plus minute opus “No Stone Unturned,” which rivals “Heathen’s Song” as the band’s masterpiece. Of particular note is the six-minute instrumental section that spans from acoustic jam with a fretless bass solo from Steve DiGiorgio to soaring duel solos that feel like being caught in a time machine. David White’s vocals are at their strongest on this song, but he is phenomenal throughout. Over the years, his voice has gotten better, with a lot more power behind his high notes and aggressive tone.

Heathen has always gotten the short end of the stick from metal fans, but that will change with “The Evolution Of Chaos.” There are hardly any weak moments on the album and this is as close as it gets to a modern-day thrash classic. To keep the attention of the average modern listener for close to 70 minutes is a feat all its own, but Heathen seems to accomplish it with little effort. All the so-called “thrash” bands out there churning out faux Metallica riffs and wearing outdated jean jackets with ripped patches should look to “The Evolution Of Chaos” for inspiration. This is how real thrash should sound: angry, progressive, rough, and catchy as hell.

Highs: Progressive thrash sound, great guitar chemistry between Lee Altus and Kragen Lum, White's vocals are still sharp, album is consistently stellar from start to finish.

Lows: "Undone" is the only slight misstep.

Bottom line: After almost two decades, Heathen returns with "The Evolution Of Chaos," easily on par with their earlier classics.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)