Heathen - Empire Of The Blind review




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Reviewer:
5.0

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7.38
Band: Heathen
Album: Empire Of The Blind
Release date: September 2020


01. The Rotting Sphere
02. The Blight
03. Empire Of The Blind
04. Dead And Gone
05. Sun In My Hand
06. Blood To Be Let
07. In Black
08. Shrine Of Apathy
09. Devour
10. A Fine Red Mist
11. The Gods Divide
12. Monument To Ruin


This is going to be a very long review but I don't intend to beat around the bush. Instead, I'll give it to you from the very beginning: Empire Of The Blind is uninteresting for general thrash standards and very poor for Heathen specifically.

For a band that mixed Bay Area thrash with Walls Of Jericho in the most captivating way possible with Breaking The Silence and four years later released their own stellar take on …And Justice For All with Victims Of Deception, this album coming out in 2020 is a massive disappointment. But the first two Heathen albums are both untouchable, absolutely 10 out of 10 material. For this review I am only going to make comparisons with The Evolution Of Chaos that came out eleven years ago following the band's reunion.

The most obvious observation is that for Empire Of The Blind Heathen have significantly trimmed the songs' runtimes compared to what they presented on its predecessor. On paper, this should be a good thing because many (including myself) believe that thrash albums should be short. While this is generally true, it is also a big load of crap. We really say this because thrash needs to be exceptional and very creative in order to remain engaging, and very few bands accomplish that. But an album's duration has nothing to do with its quality as it has been proven in the past by - for example - Dark Angel's Time Does Not Heal, Coroner's Grin, Machine Head's The Blackening, Vektor's Terminal Redux or, of course, Heathen's own Victims Of Deception. The Evolution Of Chaos was also a very lengthy package and it is still infinitely better compared to Empire Of The Blind even after taking into account the former's somewhat underwhelming second half (and I will come back to that later).

Q: But what is so wrong with Empire Of The Blind?
A: Unfortunately, more than what is right.

The first track that was revealed before the album's release, "The Blight", was good but already it felt that it was more of an Exodus song rather than a Heathen one. This is understandable since founding member/guitar hero Lee Altus has been part of the Exodus line-up for a long time and second guitarist Kragen Lum has spent the better part of the last decade touring with Exodus while Gary Holt was performing live with Slayer. However, it was the title track which was used as a second single that got me seriously worried; despite its nice dark atmosphere it sounded a bit flat overall and featured a whole 40 seconds (from 03'00'' to 03'40'') of absolutely nothing.

My worst fears were confirmed when I got the promo of the full album: Empire Of The Blind is full of tracks that have nothing to do with the Heathen legacy. The only thing that is still there are the melodies and the solos that the band is so famous for. The riffage and the songwriting on the other hand are generic and uneventful beyond belief. Take for example "Sun In My Hand"; the opening melody is gorgeous but then we get this very banal chugga-chug that kills all the vibe. The same happens with the instrumental "A Fine Red Mist" where the lead guitar is desperately trying to take control of a by-the-numbers, heard-a-million-times-before, machine gun-like riff that is just so repetitive and annoying.

Elsewhere, "Dead And Gone" is nothing more than bog standard groove thrash, "In Black" is already burnt from the beginning due to its severely bloated intro that reminded me of the uselessly long openings of many tracks on Metallica's Hardwired album, and "Shrine Of Apathy" is a ballad that doesn't generate any emotion, just… apathy. Apart from "The Blight", I am only partially positive towards "Blood To Be Let" and "The Gods Divide" mainly because these two are more energetic and break the chain of mid-tempo borefest.

I know I said in the beginning that I will not make any comparisons to the first two albums but Heathen wouldn't let me keep my promise. I wanted to be lenient but it's not my fault that they had the nerve to use samples of Jim Jones speeches on "Devour", in an obvious attempt to insinuate 'continuity' since they had also done that on "Hypnotized" from Victims Of Deception. The analogy is there for you to make up your own mind; you simply need to listen to the two tracks back to back.

So, what the actual fuck happened? There is an explanation for everything in life and in music for that matter, you just have to look for it. In this case, the answer can be heard in this interview. Heathen's main songwriter has always been Lee Altus, with vocalist David White being in charge of the lyrics. On The Evolution Of Chaos, the - not so great - second part of the album features three songs that weren't written by Lee (and, unsurprisingly, they were the weakest of the bunch). Two of those were composed by Kragen Lum and one by the band's then bassist, Jon Torres. For Empire Of The Blind Lum has done everything himself, he composed all the music and wrote all the lyrics. What I am saying is not an attack on Lum, it just explains why this album sounds the way it does. Both Altus and White agreed for this to be released, so no one can argue that it is just one person's fault.

What is wrong about Empire Of The Blind is not that it sounds more like Exodus and very little like Heathen. That might have been acceptable. I will quote another Metalstormer who put my own feelings into words as concisely and accurately as possible: "I was looking forward to a new Heathen album, but what I got is a poor man's Exodus ripoff".

Strong contender for disappointment of the year.


 



Written on 09.10.2020 by Only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud!


Comments

Comments: 7   Visited by: 63 users
09.10.2020 - 12:15
musclassia
Seems a bit of a drastic change for all songwriting duties to have shifted from two individuals to a third person; maybe suggests Altus and White weren't that invested/interested in this album to not be making contributions? I don't have enough interest in thrash these days to listen to anything that's not getting at least some substantial buzz, so I'll steer clear of this, but really great review
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09.10.2020 - 12:36
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Most negative review you have written. I have same thoughts about this one, but I comment softly. Its just an album. I never been Exodus fan.
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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09.10.2020 - 13:39
Jope of Steele
Either I have forgotten how Exodus sounds like or I don't think this album sounds very much like them, maybe two or three songs do. But yes, to put it short, the album compares as dogshit to their previous works
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09.10.2020 - 16:23
Daniell
_爱情_
I was just about to paste my comment from this album's thread when I noticed that you did it for me
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10.10.2020 - 02:45
nikarg
Mod
Written by musclassia on 09.10.2020 at 12:15

Seems a bit of a drastic change for all songwriting duties to have shifted from two individuals to a third person; maybe suggests Altus and White weren't that invested/interested in this album to not be making contributions? I don't have enough interest in thrash these days to listen to anything that's not getting at least some substantial buzz, so I'll steer clear of this, but really great review

I have no idea how they decided to leave everything to Lum but it was a bad decision. I put a lot of time into this review and it was not easy to write something so negative. I love Heathen, their debut is one of the first vinyls I ever bought, I still have it. And yes, you don't have to try it at all, there is much better thrash out there (not a lot, but there is).


Written by Bad English on 09.10.2020 at 12:36

Most negative review you have written. I have same thoughts about this one, but I comment softly. Its just an album. I never been Exodus fan.

I am an Exodus fan. This is bad Exodus. It is even blander than the latest Testament.


Written by Jope of Steele on 09.10.2020 at 13:39

Either I have forgotten how Exodus sounds like or I don't think this album sounds very much like them, maybe two or three songs do. But yes, to put it short, the album compares as dogshit to their previous works

The guitar tone is very Exodus, I think. The quality of the songs isn't.


Written by Daniell on 09.10.2020 at 16:23

I was just about to paste my comment from this album's thread when I noticed that you did it for me

Well, I wrote almost 1000 words only to further support that particular comment.
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10.10.2020 - 15:07
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
I need re listen Exodus to judge, 90s did not worked to me, missed 80s in a time, so i need re listen to judge. I like toxic waltz song a lot.
----
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
Loading...
12.10.2020 - 16:56
omne metallum
I agree it's easily one of their weaker efforts but I would say it's better than a 5. I think given the level of expectation this record has on its shoulders it seems worse than it is. Though saying that I can't see myself listening to this often especially when I could be listening to Victims Of Deception instead.

Written by Bad English on 10.10.2020 at 15:07

I need re listen Exodus to judge, 90s did not worked to me, missed 80s in a time, so i need re listen to judge. I like toxic waltz song a lot.


Tempo Of The Damned, enough said
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Just because I'm not listening doesn't mean I don't care
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