Heathen - 28/12/2009

HEATHEN is a North American thrash metal band originating from the Bay Area California. The band was formed in 1984 by two friends, guitarist Lee Altus and drummer Carl Sacco (formerly of Metal Church). After some line up changes the band achieved a stable line-up around 1986 and so Heathen played many shows around the Bay Area and gained notoriety as an excellent act. Their early style largely combined the aggression of thrash metal with the sophistication and melodic vocal style of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement.


Heathen's "big break" came when they released the ‘Pray For Death’ demo, recorded at Doug Piercy's studio. The demo paid off in 1987 when they got a deal with Combat Records. Heathen's debut album ‘Breaking the Silence’ was released in 1987. The album quickly became a thrash classic. It was very well received by the critics who pointed out that the album was unique for, as explained earlier, it's mix of the already existing thrash metal energy and NWOBHM singing and song structures. The album featured one very successful single, a cover of the 1970s glam rock band Sweet's song "Set Me Free". In 1992 Heathen released their second album which was entitled ‘Victim's of Deception’. Just one year after the release of this album, the band split up.


It wasn’t until 2001 that the band got back together in order to play the 'Thrash of the Titans' fundraiser festival for Chuck Billy. The concert was a great success, drawing fans from all over the world. Soon after, Heathen was invited to play in Hamburg, Germany for the 2002 Wacken festival. Heathen received great reviews and has been re-energized. Ending the year of 2003, Heathen went back in to the studio with co-producer Rob Beaton to finish the unfinished material. All of this material resulted in a full-length album, entitled ‘Recovered’ wich came out in 2004 and consists of re-recorded old material and cover songs.


No less than eight years after this special performance at the 'Thrash of the Titans' festival in 2001, Heathen finally recorded a new album. The long awaited album is entitled ‘Evolution Of Chaos’ and is set to be released in January 2010 through Hollands Mascot Records. This album will prove that “mighty Heathen”, as they are referred to by their fans, is still on top of their game as one of the best melodic thrash bands to emerge out of the San Francisco bay area.



It appears that Heathen fans will get more than they bargained for as ‘Evolution Of Chaos’ is expected to have a good shot at becoming metal album of the year 2010 by those who have had a chance to listen to the studio mixes. The band can't wait to bring ‘Evolution Of Chaos’ to the fans and they look forward to seeing everyone on tour in support of the new album and so we tracked down singer David White (aka David Godfrey) to answer our questions. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com


First of all, could you start this interview off with a little update of what’s been happening with Heathen since your previous album ‘Recovered’ (2004) came out?


David: Well that’s a big question. We did a little tour and we were working on the new songs for a new record. We also had some problems with personnel. We were auditioning for a drummer and a guitar player. We had a demo and had multiple guitar players doing solo’s on there. After we filled the guitar spot and the drum spot, we got Mark Hernandez for drums, but he got the opportunity to tour with Forbidden, when he decided to do that, we were fine with that. But we needed a new drummer and so we called Dan back and worked on the rest of the record with Dan. We all had a couple of songs.


Which approach did you choose to create this album, did you go for a more raw exposition.. or something more reminiscent of your previous other works, or something all together different?


David: No it wasn’t so much raw, our approach is always to make the best sounding album we ever made. We want to sound what we always sound like! We wanted to make sure that this record had lots of guitar solos and we wanted to make sure our fans would be satisfied. It had to be a progression of the first 3 albums. After witnessing all the new metal with almost no guitars, we wanted to make real old school metal with lots of guitars.


How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for Heathen?


David: It’s always different. It was kind of a quick process for the first record. It was a brand new band and we wrote together. The second record was very thought out musically but we had not taken the time to work harder on the melodies and lyrics. For the third album we spent plenty of time working on the music and also lots of time on the melodies and vocal elements and moving things around so it would really compliment the music.



What comes first, lyrics or melodies?


David: Melody comes first. Sometimes I write something and it doesn’t go with the melody. Then I do something else, and find a good melody for what I’ve written. We need to put it together and move things around, but it always comes together.


What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘The Evolution of Chaos’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?


David: We wanted to create a better album than the previous albums and let people know that we are still here and so is our music.


Could you describe the implications of the title ‘The Evolution of Chaos’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?


David: There’s a lot of things on the record about what’s going on in the world right now. We are in a state of chaos right now, with the economics and wars in countries and even neighborhoods. Man created this evolution that got us into this chaos. That’s how we came up with the name. We are not political but we do make music under the influence of society. It can be about anything that happens in the world, anywhere and anytime.


What about the lyrics, where do you get your inspiration from and can you tell me something more about them?


David: See the previous question, it’s all about what’s going on today and all over the world.


How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?


David: That is a very good question. I think it’s important but I am not trying to preach or anything. But I have a responsibility to write about something that matters. It also has to fit the flow of what the music is doing.


What is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you?


David: I guess the journey but even more the melody of the music. Certain melodies and lyrics have to flow to draw attention to the ears. It doesn’t always have to be beautiful but it has to make an impact! You have to be able to remember the songs and the melody.



How did the recording process proceed, did you work differently this time than you did with your previous works? How much time did you spend in the studio?


David: We actually spent a lot of time in the studio. Around 6 months. The producer is a friend so we had enough time to write and change things while we were there. That gives you the opportunity to take your time and listen carefully, so you can get everything to your satisfaction. That is a luxury, I think.


What made him the perfect man for Heathen?


David: He is a friend of ours and he understands our music and knows what we want. That’s a good combination. We could take our time and it wasn’t about money.


Which element of this new album are you most proud of?


David: I’m proud of the album as a whole thing!! It’s a nice piece of work without losing our roots. We did it all together and I like every aspect of it.


What have been the highlights and low points throughout your career?


David: Highlights are definitely playing the Wacken festival and playing Japan, with great fans. For us it must be almost all the live shows. Low point is the amount of time it took to come out with a new album.


What do you think of the thrash revival that’s going on right now with all those new thrash metal bands like Evile, Warpath, Bonded By Blood, Gamma Bomb and Municipal Waste? 


David: I think it is awesome and great. I’m very happy that new generations are still interested in making the same kind of music we make. And there are a lot of good new bands out there.


What makes Heathen different from the other thrash metal bands out there?


David: I think because of the melodic vocals and thrashy type of music. Not too polished and not too much shouting and screaming.


What can we expect from Heathen in the near future, any touring plans?


David: We are coming to Europe in March and the record is coming out at the end of January. So hopefully we will come over to Europe in March and we will see all of you at the shows.


Thanks for your time.

Talitha Martijn





David White - Vocals

Lee Altus - Lead/Rhythm Guitars

Kragen Lum - Lead/Rhythm Guitars

Jon Torres - Bass

Darren Minter - Drums


Former Members:


Sam Kress - Lead Vocals

Jim Sanguinetti - Lead/Rhythm Guitars

Doug Piercy - Lead/Rhythm Guitars  

Sven Soderlund - Lead/Rhythm Guitars  

Ira Black - Lead/Rhythm Guitars

Terry Lauderdale - Lead/Rhythm Guitars  

Eric Wong - Bass  

Mike "Yaz" Jastremski - Bass

Manny Bravo - Bass

Vern McElroy - Bass  

Marc Biedermann - Bass

Randy Laire - Bass  

Jason Viebrookes - Bass  

Carl Sacco - Drums  

Mark Hernandez - Drums



(1987) Breaking the Silence

(1991) Victims of Deception

(2004) Recovered EP

(2010) The Evolution of Chaos