HEATHEN – Empire Of The Blind
October 2, 2020, a month ago
There’s something to be said for playing it safe or choosing the path to new territories. Thrash metal titans Heathen are back after 10 years with Empire Of The Blind, a rather smooth and straight-forward thrash record that gets the job done, but leaves wanting for something more. 1991’s Victims Of Deception remains a hallmark of progressive/technical thrash metal, but Heathen takes an approach that resembles modern Exodus and Testament. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it devalues the uniqueness of Heathen.
Singer David White still sounds strong with his vocals, showing a grand maturity similar to Joey Belladonna while also reminding of Disturbed’s David Draiman. The guitar playing is phenomenal on Empire Of The Blind with Lee Atlus and Kragen Lum soloing their hearts out and balancing melody and aggression tacitly, especially on the cruising closer “The Gods Divide” and “The Blight”. Hints of that intriguing, adventurous past appear with instrumental “A Fine Red Mist”, featuring a delectable main riff while maneuvering through some wicked twists and turns, the mid-tempo, ballad like “Shrine Of Apathy”, which includes a White’s best vocal performance, and the melodic stomp of “Sun In My Hand”, that also is a bit different by featuring a more power thrash character. The rumbling “Devour” sounds like it could have been on the new Testament record while “Blood To Be Let” could easily fit on an Exodus platter. Due to Atlus also being a member of Exodus, comparisons to them are inevitable.
In the end, Empire Of The Blind is very solid thrash metal, but it’s just missing that special component to leap it into greatness.