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Released: 2016, Ellefson Music
Reviewer: Manos X
What can someone write for a band existing for 35years who has released a total of 10 albums, 4 demos and 1 live? Helstar is a band formed way back in 1981 and ever since they got back together (after a 12-year gap) they’re constantly releasing new music with steady rhythm since 2007. Indeed Helstar isn’t just another band mixing thrash with more classical forms of metal (simply called US metal!). Helstar have become an iconic band who never gave a fuck ‘bout trends or attempted to sound modern, cool or approachable to the majority of the fans. On the contrary they picked the hard way and tried to create their own style and sound.
James Rivera’s voice certainly helped to that direction. His unique phrasing (but at times repetitive) and persistence for utilizing ultra high pitched singing (influence coming straight from the mighty Rob Halford) makes him instantly identifiable in all other bands besides Helstar that he was a member of. However their legacy would never be able to exist without the riff machine that listens to Larry Barragan who is actually the only original member since ‘81. Larry along with former guitarist Robert Trevino created a powerful guitar duo that could easily stand next to the likes of Smith/Murray of Iron Maiden, or Tipton/Downing from Judas Priest. While Helstar never reached the popularity of these bands they managed to make a name for themselves and gain respect & recognition from metal audience worldwide.
“Vampiro” is the name of their latest offering and as the name states it’s a concept about vampires. Metal fans from the 80s will instantly remember an album dealing with a similar story named “Nosferatu” that was released in 1989. And what an album that was!!!! Anyone wants to listen a perfect cross between melody and thrash? then look no further and check this one out. If there is one piece of music that could be considered as Helstar’s peak then that’s the one.
If anyone asks how “Vampiro”stands next to its older brother? Well it stands strong and proud. It’s remarkable how its music is so ferocious and vicious. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a hybrid of black/death/djent/prog mixed with tons of ‘core sub genres. This is an in your face punch of heavy thrash. Awesome & direct guitar work full of riffs and leads from Barragan and new comer Andrew Atwood, cool bass lines from the other newcomer Garrick Smith and frantic drumming from the monster Michael Lewis who has also played in Distant Thunder a side project featuring James Rivera and Outworld’s superb debut released in ‘06.
It’s hard describing Vampiro musically without mentioning the band’s name again and again. This is simply because Helstar have established their own identity since mid ‘80s but if I could mention a couple of names to direct anyone I’d say that “Vampiro” sounds like a darker version of Judas Priest mixed with a healthy does of Bay Area thrash scene from bands like Dark Angel, Forbidden, Heathen and early Testament. I dare saying this album has gone a step beyond from being just a headbanger’s fest. “Vampiro” requires attention from the listener’s part otherwise it might sound a bit too much simply because it doesn’t let up or mellow down at any point (with the exception of beautifully closing tune “Dreamless Sleep”).
Helstar have created a serious and very powerful album here able to stand next to their finest moments and worthy of an illustrious legacy. If only we could have more bands like them out there…..
1. Awaken into Darkness
2. Blood Lust
3. To Dust You Will Become
4. Off with His Head
5. From the Pulpit to the Pit
6. To Their Death Beds They Fell
8. Repent in Fire
9. Abolish the Sun
10. Black Cathedral
11. Dreamless Sleep
James Rivera Vocals
Larry Barragan Guitars
Andrew Atwood Guitars
Garrick Smith Bass
Michael Lewis Drums
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