Written by Alex Stojanovic
This Rotting Sphere
Empire Of The Blind
Dead & Gone
Sun In My Hand
Blood To Be Let
Shrine Of Apathy
A Fine Red Mist
The Gods Divide
Monument Of Ruin
Release Date: September 18, 2020
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
David White - Vocals / Lee Altus - Guitars / Kragen Lum - Guitars / Jason Mizra - Bass / Jim DeMaria - Drums
Lee Altus has been with Exodus for 15 years now, and so much of his touring and recording schedule is taken up with Exodus commitments. For much of the last decade, while Gary Holt was playing with Slayer, Kragen Lum was filling in for Gary while Exodus was on the road. They released their classics: Breaking The Silence and Victims Of Deception in 1987 and 1991, then broke up when the grunge scene exploded, and reformed in 2001 for Thrash Of The Titans, and released their comeback album The Evolution Of Chaos in 2010, and played a bunch of shows in support of the album. After 10 years with no new music, they are finally ready to release their long-awaited new album Empire Of The Blind.
In a brand new interview I recently did with Kragen Lum (which you can watch here), he revealed that all the music and lyrics on the new album were written by him. First off, I just have to say that Kragen did a phenomenal job, because the album is one word: "awesome", and I will tell you why. First of all, the production is stellar, the guitar tone is really nice and punchy, the riffs and solos are very memorable, and David White's vocals are on point. David is one of thrash's most underrated vocalists. Lee and Kragen are on fire in the guitar department, and the new rhythm section of Jason Mirza on bass and Jim DeMaria on drums, have proven that they are excellent new additions to the band.
The record opens with "This Rotting Sphere", a short melodic instrumental intro track with an epic guitar melody, and transitions into the thrash attack of the first single "The Blight". I will admit that many of the riffs on this album sound very much in the vein of Exodus, which shouldn't be all that surprising, given how much Kragen has toured with them in the last decade filling in for Gary, so it's no surprise that some of the Exodus influence has rubbed off on Kragen when he was writing songs. I have to say that the production also sounds a little in the Exodus vein. Kragen also revealed to me that the song which will have a music video is "Sun In My Hand". This track is a little on the slower side, but it's not a ballad. With its relaxed pace and big melodic chorus, I could actually see this track receiving some radio play on rock radio when the DJs feel like playing something with heavy guitars.
In a way, when you compare Empire Of The Blind to The Evolution Of Chaos, one of the biggest differences between the two albums is that the band took the attention spans of a lot of people into consideration this time around, and made the songs shorter and more concise. The Evolution Of Chaos featured several songs that went over the 5-minute mark, with one song reaching over 11 minutes. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, and I can handle long songs. However, given that a lot of people have short attention spans these days, it was a smart move. The songs are more concise and they flow very nicely. There's only two songs on here that reach over 5 minutes, which are "Empire Of The Blind" and "A Fine Red Mist". The latter is the album's instrumental, with an amazing combination of heavy riffing and some pretty tasty and maniacal solos.
"Shrine Of Apathy" is the power ballad, and without a doubt, one of the most memorable moments on the record. If you love guitar harmonies as much as I do, you will definitely find yourself whistling to the harmonized guitar section at the 3:45 mark. Right after the ballad, it jumps right back into some serious heaviness. "Devour" is currently my favourite track because it contains the album's heaviest riff, which I refer to as "the riff from hell", that makes it impossible not to headbang, and the chorus is nice and heavy. Just when you thought the thrash had left the building after all those mid-paced and slower songs, we come to the "The Gods Divide", a furious thrasher with an awesome Exodus-meets-Slayer vibe. This track will get the mosh pit started in an instant. It's the last full track on the record, while "Monument Of Ruin" is a really short 37-second instrumental that closes out the record. If I may add, it sounds like a bit of an homage to Aerosmith's "Dream On".
After a decade of waiting, Heathen return with a stellar slab of melodic thrash that will have you smiling and headbanging. The only flaw is that people who love their speed will be a bit put off because there's more mid-tempo and slow tempo songs. Other than that, Empire Of The Blind shows that Heathen deserve a lot more recognition than they already have, and that they still have a lot to offer after all these years. There's a lot to love on this record, whether you like your metal slow and epic, mid-paced and groovy, fast and raging, or all of the above. Pick it up when it's released.
Highs: "The Blight", "Empire Of The Blind", "Shrine Of Apathy", "Devour" and "The Gods Divide"
Lows: Speed lovers will wish there was a couple more faster songs on here.
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