Friday, April 25, 2014

Helstar - This Wicked Nest

Helstar is a band that has been around, in one form or another, since 1981. Vocalist extraordinaire, James Rivera, has one of the best voices in metal and their first four full lengths are metal classics that did not get the exposure that they deserved for whatever reason, which is criminal in my opinion. The 90s were even less kind to this band as their only release in the 90s was scorned by fans and critics alike. In 2001 James put together a Helstar (sort of) band that toured Europe and the USA and it seemed that a spark was ignited for the band again. In 2006 the band was reunited with the Remnants of War line up and they began to write music together once again releasing King of Hell in 2008 and Glory of Chaos in 2010.

So here we are in 2014 and the band's ninth full length album, This Wicked Nest. Now let me get this out of the way here, this is a different era of Helstar and if people were thinking that they were going to get repeats of Nosferatu over and over again, they might be disappointed. I do know that the new direction started with King of Hell alienated some fans of their older material and that's sad because what we have is a heavier and more straight forward band. This band still can write monstrous riffs and ridiculous technical solos of which there is no shortage on this album. This is an angry Helstar and it's that anger that makes this music that much better. Coming straight out of the shoot is the album opener and the song that was released as a teaser, "Fall of Dominion." This is a balls out riff fest with James' screams that are just blood curdling. This song is a straight ahead thrasher but still has good melodies. The chorus is catchy and James' voice sounds great on those choruses. The solos are insane as Larry Barragan and Rob Trevino are two of the best guitarists in the business. "Eternal Black" comes in and is another crusher with some killer riffs that seem a bit more technical in places and there is some parts that are reminiscent of the old days. This is a straight forward headbanger. James sounds evil on this song as his screams are a bit more gravely on this one.

The rest of the album is petty much the same with more fast pummeling riffs but with great melodies provided by Mr. Rivera. The title track is another song that just pounds you with modern thrash riffs and James' signature screams. The solos stand out again...because they just do! As I said before, this is a modern Helstar that was not satisfied remaking their classics over and over and it's very apparent that they wanted a more modern take on their brand of metal. It took me a few listens to really soak in what was actually going on here and as much as I love those classics, there has been many years between them and James has made a lot of music with a lot of different musicians of different styles. This album is a mix of everything that James has ever done. This album is proof that this band is not done yet and songs like "Soul's Cry," "It Has Risen," and "Defy The Swarm" show that they are not afraid to throw in the influences they picked up a long the way. James was flirting with a black metal shriek ten years ago and he has thrown even more of those types of vocals mixed in with his classic screams. These types of vocals actually fit with the aggressiveness of the songs and sheer brutality of the riffs.

I've been anticipating this release since it's announcement and I'm more than satisified. There were a couple of moments that didn't quite grab me. The instrumental, "Isla de las Muñecas" was okay but given that it was written by Larry Barragan and Jeff Loomis (ex Nevermore) I expected more. "Cursed" was a slower song that was almost Helstar doing doom metal and that song took the longest for me to really "get." Nonetheless, this is another solid release from a band that is considered legends in heavy metal and this album is another reason why.


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