(7/10) Helstar isn't one of these bands that releases records on a very regular base. Sometimes it took the guys 1-2 years while the gap between "Glory of Chaos" and "The Wicked Nest" was four years. However, Helstar is back these days with a brand new longplayer called "Vampiro" and I guess the title rings a bell. 27 years after having had released their fantastic "Nosferatu" album, a milestone in power metal, James Rivera, Larry Barragan and Co. worked again with tales about Dracula and vampires.
On the one hand it's a great sign that the guys are looking back to their roots in the nineties while on the other hand there is a risk that they can't live up to the high-level quality fourth album.
Now, after having listened to the new album several times, I can state that both is correct. "Vampiro" is a well-done power metal record that features eleven new tracks, providing fans with almost an hour of US metal. However, there is the 'but', that the new album can't reach the quality level of "Nosferatu".
Let's keep this comparison out of the picture and put the focus on "Vampiro". First thing that stands out is the length of the songs. A lot of them is five minutes and more and this is a bit of a downer. I have the feeling that each of these tracks could have made a stronger impact if they would have been more spot on. The other thing is, that if you've heard the first half of the album you can predict what to expect on the second leg of your "Vampiro" journey. This is a bit of a pity, knowing about the musical capabilities of the band members. Rivera proves again that he's a real metal siren, covering a wide vocal range. Especially the high-pitches are as good as we're used to. Larry Barragan and Andrew Atwood are doing an excellent job and the twin guitars are enriching the album a lot, while the rhythm section with Smith and Lewis is pushing hard.
Anyhow, highlights are the opener "Into the Darkness" with a longer instrumental introduction followed by Helstar-typical vocallines. It takes a while to get into the song, but it belongs to the ones that's gaining over time. The real highlight is positioned in the middle of the tracklist and is called "From the Pulpit to the Pit". It contains all a good Helstar song demands: furious guitars, a heavy thundering rhythm section and raging level of energy.
A song you should also listen to is "Black Cathedral" which belongs with its dynamic and density to the winners on "Vampiro". After this metal strom the final track "Dreamless Sleep" feels more like an acoustic outro .
Fans of Helstar will dig this record but I wonder if the guys can get new fans on their side. "Vampiro" became a robust power metal record with some progressive sideglances and a lot of newcomer bands would be happy having an album like this in their discography. Good stuff with some potential.
- Awaken Into Darkness
- Blood Lust
- To Dust You Will Become
- Off With His Head
- From the Pulpit to the Pit
- To Their Death Beds They Fell
- Repent in Fire
- Abolish the Sun
- Black Cathedral
- Dreamless Sleep
Label: EMP Label Group
Genre: Power Metal
Release Date EU: August 26th, 2016