Heathen probably don’t need too much introduction, having been formed in the Bay Area back in the 80’s, and featuring members of Exodus, Metal Church and Die Krupps in their line-up at different times, and now they are back with their first full-length album in ten years. Founder Lee Altus (guitars) and singer David White were there on the debut album, 1987’s ‘Breaking The Silence’, and they have been the mainstay of the band since their reformation in 2001. Guitarist Kragen Lum was there in time for their last release, while there are now two new members in bassist Jason Mirza (Psychosis) and drummer Jim DeMaria (Dukes, Toxik), and some guests in Gary Holt (Exodus, Slayer), Rick Hunolt (ex-Exodus) and Doug Piercy (ex-Heathen).
Right from their early days Heathen have always been a thrash band, and there has been no real change in direction since then, although this album is somewhat slower than many would expect from the genre. The real issue here is the lack of presence and drive, and songs such as “Dead and Gone” sound like a band marking time until they can come up with the next really powerful idea, and this isn’t it. It is always a concern when a metal album can be described as “pleasant”, but that is exactly what has happened here, and the result is an album which is well produced and played but is also somewhat boring. It is clean, professional, and aimed at metal radio stations, yet this is not what I want from a band with the reputation of guys like these. It is the songwriting which lets it down, as the performances from all involved are very strong, and White’s vocals are as powerful as ever, yet there is nothing here to grab the listener and make them want to play it again. “Sun In My Hand” is simply pedestrian, and the way it ends makes one think they have simply run out of ideas. They may be a well-known and important band in the genre and history of the movement but look to ‘Breaking The Silence’ and ‘Victims of Deception’ and pass this smartly by.
6/10 Kev Rowland