Once again, in the midst of a revival of interest in Thrash and a growth in new bands practicing in the genre, an under-heralded veteran band releases a new album after a long hiatus and shows all of the new kids how this is supposed to be done. Last year, it was ARTILLERY, with their phenomenal “When Death Comes.” Less than 12 months later, HEATHEN deliver their latest, further demonstrating that the young guys still have a thing or two to learn from their forebears.
“The Evolution Of Chaos” is firmly rooted in the Thrash sound of the late 80s and early 90s, and while some may argue that this area was one of stagnation and decline for the genre, it is worth remembering that several seminal Thrash albums were released during this time – albums such as “...And Justice For All”, “South Of Heaven”, and “Rust In Peace.” Indeed, HEATHEN's own “Victims Of Deception,” was released at this time, and while it did not enjoy the commercial success of the aforementioned, it was nonetheless a powerful example of Progressive Thrash.
This latest release continues in the vein of “Victims” - Progressive, yet still very angry and riff-heavy. After a mellow introduction, the album's opener, “Dying Season,” blasts into a classic Thrash rhythm, replete with chugging riffs and galloping drumbeats. The pattern is at this point established, and HEATHEN stick to their powerful script. Each song that follows is similarly packed with memorable riffs, pounding drums, frantic bass, and catchy hooks that are very reminiscent of “Master Of Puppets” era METALLICA. There are the occasional slower moments, but tempo changes are introduced throughout, and are handled skillfully to avoid the feeling that after a few of the songs, all of the new ideas have been exhausted.
On previous releases, the vocals of David White were a strong point, and such is still the case here. White's voice has always been distinctive within the genre, and his vocal control is undeniable. From the moment he first opens his mouth here, it is his voice that immediately makes this material recognizable as HEATHEN, and it sets the band and the music apart from a crowded field.
If there is a low point on this album, it is the track “A Hero's Welcome.” Frankly, the song is a bit maudlin and syrupy, and its theme of appreciation for the selfless soldier is one that has been done many times before in the U.S. Still, it is interesting to see a band with HEATHEN's socially activist bent take on a position that is generally more closely associated with conservative-minded people, and it demonstrates that they do not fit into a simple mold.
Many years ago, METALLICA came to a fork in the road in after the release of “...And Justice For All.” The road that they chose was the Black Album, “Metallica.” With “The Evolution Of Chaos,” HEATHEN have shown us what the road not taken would have looked like. Well done.
(Online June 13, 2010)