HEATHEN is another one of those 80’s Thrash bands that is of spoken of rather little today. Back in 1987 when “Breaking The Silence” was released, the attention of the Bay Area was busying itself with bands such as METALLICA, MEGADETH and SLAYER. HEATHEN slipped by relatively unnoticed, except for its devout followers who have been with this cult act ever since the release of their “Pray For Death Demo” in 86.
The line-up of the project was under turbulent waters as prior to recording “Breaking The Silence” several slots changed. The final line-up, which would continue to this day, consists of Lee Altus and Doug Piercy on guitars, David Godfrey on vocals, Mike “Yaz” Jastremski handling bass duties and the mighty Carl Sacco providing battery. These five musicians were far from a METALLICA or SLAYER clone and combined their efforts to produce a wonderful slab of unique, melodic Thrash which is more than capable of leaving the listener lifeless in the gutter.
One of the most notable aspects of HEATHEN is vocalist David Godfrey. As soon as he lets loose with “Well, raise ’em high and string ’em up”, during the opening vocal attack of “Death By Hanging”, you know who you are listening to. At times he reminds me of an energetic Mark Osegueda but this comparison is ultimately fruitless as David Godfrey is his own person and shrieks with uncanny ability. The actual technique is a higher pitched approach (don’t worry Bobby “Blitz” haters, Godfrey does not approach that range) which comes across as rather fresh when compared to contemporaries who, in more cases than not, are opting for a snarling pissed off one dimensional style. Godfrey’s voice perfectly complements the melodic leads and acts as an additional injection of adrenaline fuelling this band to grandeur.
Where HEATHEN truly shines is in its musicianship. Carl Sacco beats the hell out of his kit handling tempo changes with the slightest of effort and throwing in fills like this is his last performance and he intends to hold nothing back. Carl Sacco’s excellent work complements the duo of Altus/Piercy immensely, holding that aggressive tempo as the two gurus trade licks till their fingers bleed. The solos are blistering energy directed right to the skull and able to level any Thrash fan. Just listen to the first minute of “Open The Grave” which starts out with that hurricane of sick lead-work before heading that stellar main riff and see for yourself.
Everything stated so far is fine and dandy, but we all know what truly makes a Thrash album is the riffs, riffs and more riffs. Make no mistake; the riff department here is a well-oiled machine which is working on overdrive and pumping out nothing but gold. The riffage redefines the word “shred” and possesses some of the best material to come out of the Bay Area (check the title track as a prime example). Many of the compositions alternate between infectious melodic riffs/leads before diving headlong into a blistering guitar-line which snaps your spine in two.
One of the more important aspects of this band is their ability to control tempo and vary song structures to the point that it keeps the listener interested. “Open The Grave” is another excellent example as it flirts with that melodic bit in the middle before picking back up with that skull-crushing riff assault. This is also outright prominent in “Worlds End” which starts with an acoustic intro leading us to believe we are about to be hit with a ballad. Oh no, this would not be HEATHEN if they did not rip your face off. That tearing of flesh occurs right at when we are absolutely hammered with yet another amazing riff which features blazing speed.
This album is far above solid throughout its hour long duration. The bonus track, “Heathen” as well as the “Pray For Death” demo attached are quite lethal as well and serve as the perfect bonus tracks for an already Metal classic. Particularly the bonus track “Heathen” is of note as it sounds far from a B-side and easily is one of the more rocking moments on the album. If you can not head-bang to this album you are not a fan of Thrash, it is that simple. Support one of the most underrated bands of the Bay Area or…throw your HAUNTED or NEVERMORE albums in instead and act like you know what real Thrash is. (Online July 9, 2005)