Review Date: September 2020
Released: 2020, Nuclear Blast
I’ve always thought VICTIMS OF DECEPTION was one of the more underrated albums of the early nineties. Fast forward to nineteen years later, and ten years since the release of THE EVOLUTION OF CHAOS, and Heathen are back with their latest release EMPIRE OF THE BLIND. The cover art is by Travis Smith, who has done all of the artwork for Overkill since 1999 among many others.
After a short intro “The Blight” comes charging at you full speed – one of the heaviest tracks I’ve heard from Heathen to date. Vocalist David White doesn’t sound like he’s aged a bit since the band’s earlier releases. He has a very distinctive voice, and he somehow can give his higher notes a touch of his low rasp. Guitarists Lee Altus and Kragen Lum are in top form, and there are some fast strumming parts on “In Black” and “Devour” that would fit right in on an Evile record.
If you’re not necessarily a thrash fan then there’s something here for you too. “Sun In My Hand” and “Shrine of Apathy” take the speed down a few notches, but are still heavy and melodic. I like it when albums include a proper instrumental song, and we get a great one with “A Fine Red Mist.” At first the short outro “Monument to Ruin” sounded a bit out of place after the blistering “The Gods Divide,” but after multiple listens you get a sense of finality, a crumbled empire that brought about its own downfall.
Heathen is one of those bands that just can’t keep any momentum going. I hope that the release of EMPIRE in the midst of the Covid era doesn’t make that trend continue. This is a great release, and I’d love to see an ‘East Coast/West Coast’ tour with Overkill someday. At the time of this writing there are some cool limited edition vinyl sets available, and even a cassette (???) on their Bandcamp page, so act fast – they won’t last long.