Although formed in 1984, Heathen didn’t arrive on most people’s radars until the release of their debut album, Breaking the Silence (Combat Records) in 1987. Part of the legendary Bay Area Thrash scene, Heathen followed established acts such as Exodus and some bunch of relocated no-hopers called Metallica out of the region, joining the likes of fast-moving up-and-comers Testament, Vio-Lence, Death Angel, and Forbidden, among many others.
Disappointingly, things began to fall apart for Heathen after the release of their second album Victims of Deception (Roadrunner) in 1991, the band eventually going on permanent hiatus two years later. Reforming with a different line-up in 2001, the band eventually got back into the studio a few years later for their long-awaited comeback, Evolution of Chaos (Nuclear Blast).
To celebrate its ten year anniversary (already, seriously?), a remastered version of the album is being made available via Mascot Records, complete with a lengthy DVD featuring a Making Of documentary, and a live performance from 2009’s Thrash Domination Japan.
Released in the UK and the US in January 2010 (Japan got lucky and had it a couple of weeks earlier in December), Evolution… was everything Heathen fans could have wished for. Fast and aggressive, but melodic and complex, the band took the next – albeit extremely belated – step from their first two records and added a more modern touch.
Featuring guest appearances from the likes of Gary Holt (Exodus), former Exodus vocalist Rob Dukes, and fretless bass legend Steve Di Giorgio (Testament), the album sounds as Bay Area as it comes – with a distinct shade of NWOBHM. Shifting effortlessly from the speed and groove of ‘Dying Season’, ‘Undone’, ‘Control by Chaos’, and ‘Fade Away’, the band employ different time signatures and Iron Maiden style twin guitars on songs like ‘Bloodkult’, and ‘Arrows of Agony’ while ‘A Hero’s Welcome’ allows vocalist David White more freedom to explore his range. Also included on the remaster is bonus track ‘Seasons in Purgatory’, an instrumental which remained unfinished at the time of the album’s initial release.
A mightily impressive comeback loaded with memorable riffs, Evolution of Chaos made the eighteen-year gap well worth the wait. Now if they could only get around to the follow-up, that would be just great.
8 / 10