|Review: Helstar - Vampiro|
Label: Ellefson Music Productions
Year released: 2016
Review online: November 26, 2016
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Rated 4.63/5 (92.67%) (30 Votes)
The Lone Star state's Helstar has been slugging it out for 35 years non-stop, sometimes in fashion, sometimes not, but never straying far from their traditionally-rooted Power/Thrash brand of Heavy Metal. Most would agree they peaked with 1989's Nosferatu. Singer James Rivera, guitarist Larry Barragan and crew are back in 2016 with the band's ninth full-length, Vampiro. As you might guess from the title, Helstar is looking to try and recapture the Nosferatu magic by returning to the vampire themes of that classic album. How did they do? Pretty well, actually.
I've never been a Rivera fan. I don't know what it is, the man has a set of pipes that can make angels cry but it just doesn't do anything for me. He growls, he screams, he wails; you can almost hear the microphone shitting its pants, so I don't know. To me he sounds like he sort of expects everything coming out of his mouth to be awesome and while some of it is, some of the vocal lines on Vampiro just don't sound very good and even a bit off-key. Maybe it's me. Beyond the singing, you have an album chock full of wicked riffs and face-melting solos. The words making up the band's name are certainly indicative of the metallic fire these guys unleash when they play. Top track "From the Pulpit to the Pit" combines some nasty Thrash guitar work with a chanting Power Metal chorus that should make this song a feature of Helstar's live set for years. The instrumental "Malediction" features some absolutely insane drum work from Michael Lewis, prompting my wife to exclaim, "the drumming!" When your playing grabs innocent passers-by like that, you know you are on to something. I want to say I can recall a lot of other songs from Vampiro but I can't and that makes the nearly hour-long experience a tad tedious even as it is kicking your ass.
Helstar have ramped it up with Vampiro and given their best work a run for its money. I don't think anything will ever equal "To Sleep, Perchance to Dream" but this album is going to sit quite nicely next to Nosferatu in everyone's Helstar collection.
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Interview with vocalist James Rivera on November 20, 2016 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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