CD review HEATHEN ‘Empire of the Blind’

Good things will find you, regardless of time. In a way that’s valid for Heathen’s new longplayer ‘Empire of the Blind’ too. The band premiered in 1987 with the stellar ‘Breaking the Silence’ debut in 1987 and after the sophomore smasher ‘Victims of Deception’s has intensified the great impression, radio silence took over. Silence was broken again in 2010 when Heathen returned with ‘The Evolution of Chaos’. The album ended 19 Heathen-less years and it took another decade before the forth longplayer ‘Empire of the Blind’ steps out of darkness and into the light.

Riff-masters Lee Altus and Kragen Lum are busy guys and it was mainly their engagement with Exodus that slowed down work on the new Heathen longplayer. The roots of ‘Empire of the Blind’ go back to 2012, the year when the band signed with Nuclear Blast Records. Work on new songs started back then and 2/3 of the album was already in place as demo in 2014. However, extended touring with Exodus didn’t provide enough time to focus on the next Heathen album. In the meantime work on Heathen’s forth strike is finished and the album will be available Mid-September.

One thing right away, it was worth waiting for the album since it is definitely a highlight of 2020. With the Heathen core-team (Lee Altus, David White and Kragen Lum) still being in place, the rhythm-section had to face some changes with Jason Mirza (b) and Jim DeMaria (d) providing Heathen’s active heartbeat.

Heathen is anchored in Thrash Metal and songs like ‘In Black’ and ‘The Blight’ speaks for themselves, the latter being the blistering opener of the album. The range of influences though is wider than solely Thrash Metal. The quintet mainly plays very heavy and it’s a lot of riffpower that challenges your speakers. Still there are moments where the band gives their sound a twist. ‘Sun in My Hand’ is such a song. The tune is kept in a more moderate pace, has a heavy pounding beat and reminds with a melodic chorus more of a Power Metal anthem. After such an interesting excursion, Heathen find their way back to Thrash Metal rather quickly with ‘Blood to Be Let’.

Next to the musical excellence, the album also has a lyrical aspect that is worth to be mentioned. Already the album title speaks for itself. The quintet addresses relevant current problems in songs like ‘The Blight’ (humans being the plague that destroys the planet) and ‘The Gods Divide’ (politicians using the masses as pawns). Next to these tracks, songs like ‘Sun in My Hand’ are the more personal ones on ‘Empire of the Blind’.

Heathen’s forth longplayer is a next milestone for the band and a pure pleasure for headbangers and metalheads. The band didn’t lose any of its power and relevance over the last ten years. ‘Empire of the Blind’ isn’t follow any standards nor is it driven by striving for commercial success. This album is real and authentic, a record Heathen wanted to exactly sound like that. Strongly to recommend.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Tracklist:

  1. This Rotting Sphere
  2. The Blight
  3. Empire of the Blind
  4. Dead and Gone
  5. Sun in My Hand
  6. Blood to be Let
  7. In Black
  8. Shrine of Apathy
  9. Devour
  10. A Fine Red Mist
  11. The Gods Divide
  12. Monument to Ruin

Label: Nuclear Blast

Genre: Thrash Metal

Release Date EU: September 18th, 2020

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