Abaddon magazine

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Friday, September 17, 2021

Review: Heathen – Empire of the Blind

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date: September 18th, 2020

There’s this saying in Serbian language about spurring a dead horse. Somehow, I find “Empire of the Blind” exactly such a record.

I know the 1980’s have been a golden era of thrash. I know the 1990’s were quite rough on the genre, but it survived and resurrected in the new millennium. I’ve got a feeling Heathen came to the party way too late, when there were only crumbs off the table to pick up. Despite the obvious quality their debut album possessed, it was shadowed by an already widespread US wave of thrash giants. Already the second one came at a time when the genre was slowly becoming a thing of the past. Though still an album to be proud of, “Victims of Deception” was a definite sign that Heathen will never grow into another Slayer, Testament or Overkill. Not to mention Metallica.

Having “slept” through the 90’s, Heathen returned with a record that was just decent, only in 2010. Now, ten years later, only the name remains of the band that was once among the champions of underground thrash metal. Listening to “Empire of the Blind” I can only conclude Heathen have tried to pick up on as many modern influences as possible. All in an attempt to bring the Bay Area into 21st century. And let me tell you something… There’s a reason Exodus and their likes have only adopted the modern ways of producing records, while the creative efforts still draw back from the golden age.

Imagine having the mentioned Exodus playing at the same time as Avenged Sevenfold. Or Bullet for my Valentine. Side by side, interloping. And you’re standing somewhere in the middle, picking up on those wicked riffs in your left ear, while the right one hears a vicious breakdown accompanied by the clean, melancholic vocal chorus. All the while you can hear Annihilator having a sound check (or is it just Jeff’s guitar being tuned though a vicious solo) in the background.

That is the closest I’ve come to actually accepting the new Heathen record. As many as there are parts where you can almost smell the incoming crushing hit song, there are just as many those which just break the expectations. And not in a good way.

The whole point is that “Empire of the Blind” is not a terrible record. Not even a bad one. It is simply mediocre, which now makes for a clear declining line of Heathen releases. To a point where I’m quite afraid about what the next one might sound like. Tread very carefully, fans of thrash from the good old US of A. You might be in for a nasty surprise.