Released: 2014, AFM Records
The return of Helstar in 2008 has given the band a second life and led to renewed interest in the often over-looked group formed in 1982. It has been 4 years since the last studio release GLORY OF CHAOS, with the band’s celebratory 30 YEARS OF HEL live album filling the gap between GOC and THIS WICKED NEST. Singer James Rivera has stated that GOC was as heavy as the band would get, but on first listen THIS WICKED NEST comes across as a continuation of that brutal album. The inter-album comparisons are noticeable right off the bat, where album opener and excellent “The Fall of Dominion” features the same melodic, harmonized opening elements seen on “Angels Fall To Heaven”, which led off GOC.
I had the opportunity to interview Rivera prior to the release of THIS WICKED NEST and he summed up the album as a typical Helstar record that continues where GLORY OF CHAOS left off, while incorporating elements of old Helstar and new Helstar. James stated “We finally created the right Frankenstein album, the right Helstar album to embrace all Helstar fans, because there is a difference between old Helstar and new Helstar.” In this respect, James is right. As I made my way through the album a melodic run here, a riff there signaled a roadside and exit to the past, but the band never truly leaves the interstate of the present. Thus THIS WICKED NEST is still a very modern thrash album, with elements and nods to the past dispersed through the album.
Rivera’s vocals are among the most varied of his career, as demonstrated on the alternate aggression and high range on “Eternal Black”, the amazing “It Has Risen” and a return to his mid-range vocals from days long past on the doom-laden semi-ballad “The Curse.” This is one of the best tunes on the album and a welcome respite from the pulverizing assault of much of the album. Miraculously, Rivera has not lost any of his range, and as amazing as his vocals sound at this stage in his career, it is the face-melting riffs of Larry Barragan and Rob Trevino that truly stand out. The duo is unheralded but proves their chops with tight, twisting (progressive) riffs such as on “Souls Cry” and the instrumental “Isla De Las Munecas”, which features contributions from none other than Jeff Loomis of Nevermore fame. Jeff grew up as a fan of the band and was just as excited as the band to have a part on the album.
Sound wise, THIS WICKED NEST is a step up as well, the guitars sounding thicker than on any of the bands albums and receiving a prominent place in the overall mix. Thematically, the band tackles everyday life issues that you see on the TV, particularly political and government dissatisfaction. Minor complaint would be that like most Helstar albums, the songs eventually begin to blend together, though the variety on this album is more noticeable than on GLORY OF CHAOS. In sum, this is pure metal played by regular and down to earth guys that love metal as much as you and me. There is no pretention or will to conform, just in your face heavy metal, and for that you gotta love it.