[ALBUM REVIEW] Heathen Empire Of The Blind

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ARTIST: Heathen
ALBUM NAME: Empire Of The Blind
RELEASE DATE: September 18, 2020
COUNTRY: United States
CITY: San Francisco
GENRE: Thrash Metal

MEMBERS:
David R. White (Vocals)
Lee Altus (Guitar)
Kragen Lum (Guitar)
Jason Mirza (Bass)
Jim DeMaria (Drums)

The sub-sub genre of technical thrash metal is a relatively small and loose grouping of thrashers that
display superior skills on their instruments and compose, well, technical music. Of all the tech-thrash
bands from the classic era, Heathen always stood out head above shoulders on a quality level,
especially with their 1991 album, ‘Victims Of Deception’, an opus that rivalled ‘… And Justice For All’
in the epic stakes.
The band split up in 1993, but reformed in 2001 and released their third album, 2010’s ‘The
Evolution Of Chaos’, to widespread critical acclaim with its modern take on the tech-thrash
template. Clearly always a band that takes its time with every release, 2020 finally sees a follow-up
ten years later with ‘Empire Of The Blind’, and it’s an unsurprising banger of a record.
The overall compressed guitar tone is deep in Bay Area territory with more than a reminiscent
Exodus feel (helped along by both Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt guesting on the album), and it bites
down hard. Altus and Lum are a perfect guitar duo for this kind of meticulous music, and they
bounce riffs and leads off each other with the greatest of ease throughout. Add to this a
metronomic, warm rhythm section and David R. White’s clear, Rob Flynn-esque vocals, and the
whole thing just lifts off effortlessly and soars.
The instrumental album-opener, ‘This Rotting Sphere’, builds layer upon layer of epic guitars to a
gasping climax that throws us straight into the pounding thrash of ‘The Blight’, one of the best songs
that Exodus never wrote (albeit with more melody in the chorus). From there, it’s a fairly unrelenting
bevy of intense metal in the shape of ‘Blood To Be Let’, ‘The Gods Divide’, and the bloodthirsty title
track, but there are deeper treasures to be found.
Both ‘Sun In My Hand’ and ‘Dead And Gone’ attack at a swaggering mid-pace that slows things down
a tad to accentuate the heaviness and infectious catchiness of the songs, and also some extra
breathing room for the tasty leads. Slowing things down even more is ‘Shrine Of Apathy’, pure
power ballad territory reminiscent of Testament’s ‘The Ballad’ from 1989, which may have strayed

from the cut-throat image of thrash but ultimately showed a different, deeper side of the band, and
this does the same for Heathen. The chorus is huge and emotional and you’ll have it in your head for
days, and that is true of the album as a whole – it’s so damn catchy and memorable that the
earworms are out en masse, showing just how talented the band are in the composition
department.
This is prime Heathen, an album that highlights all their talents and shines like the morning star, and
is a perfect addition to their minimal yet lauded discography. It certainly ranks right up there with
the other stellar thrash releases of 2020 (Havok, most prominently), but the level of care and quality
involved ensures that this is set to be a modern classic, which is a Heathen hallmark. Long may they
reign.

Rating: 9/10
Reviewed by: John Morrow
Artwork by: Travis Smith