Well now that the flurry of year-end lists is over, I'll get back at it!
Heathen - Breaking the Silence - May 1, 1987
If it wasn't already obvious with the debuts of Testament and Death Angel earlier in 1987, it becomes painfully clear with Heathen's first album -- the Bay Area sound has arrived. Much like the two previous bands, Heathen plays an aggressive, technical style with heavy emphasis on melody and hooks -- and they are probably the best example of it so far. Breaking the Silence hits the ground running, with the first three songs being absolute winners packing all kinds of great riffs into wonderfully crafted songs much in the same vein as Metallica's Ride the Lightning years earlier.
Breaking the Silence is a little top-heavy as the real gems are all found in the first half although the album does close on a high note with "Save the Skull". The songs also start to get slightly repetitive as most seem to feature some sort of speedy gallop. The cover tune, a very well done version of Sweet's "Set Me Free" breaks up the flow of the album a little as well. There are no bad songs though as even the worst would still qualify as most other bands' best.
Standouts: Goblin's Blade, Open the Grave, Death by Hanging