HELSTAR - 30 Years Of Hel
Helstar were founded in 1982, so it was a mathematical conclusion that their 30th anniversary had to be celebrated this year. They do this with a fancy package consisting of a double live CD plus a DVD containing the entire set. They took advantage of their home-turf advantage by recording a show in their native Houston in Texas. It should be noted that despite their advanced history, Helstar only released seven studio albums, as the band went twice on hiatus.
Their first period ended in 1989 after their first four and in my opinion best albums Burning Star (1984), Remnants Of War (1986), A Distant Thunder (1988) and Nosferatu (1989). Of course this is my subjective opinion, as I became familiar with their music in 1988 and instantly was enthralled by their technically skilled heavy metal. Back then there were a lot of guitar solos and high vocal parts. The aging gentlemen are still able to reproduce the antics of their youth, even though no founding member is still in the band. Twelve songs from that period made it onto the album, among those highlights such as The King Is Dead and To Sleep Perchance To Scream. Unfortunately they didn’t pack their Scorpions cover He’s A Woman, She’s A Man on the album.
A first comeback happened in 1995 with the divisive album Multiples Of Black, showing the band from a more aggressive and unexpected side. Therefore it seems logical that only one track (Good Day To Die) from that album was taken for this compilation. It doesn’t really disturb, but it’s also far from being a highlight. Helstar mostly chose their faster material for this show, but this piece is without a doubt the most brutal one.
Their latest comeback was scheduled for 2008 and brought forth the two once again excellent albums The King Of Hell (2008) and Story Of Chaos (2010). Seven tracks from these albums can be found here. Especially The Plague Called Man should be noted for its technical finesse courtesy of the guitar tandem. But also Pandemonium, for which they made a video clip, seems to be an audience favourite. The current technical advances have allowed Helstar to reproduce their powerful live feeling intactly on CD.
The DVD contains the same setlist as the two CDs and is absolutely watchable. Only the light show seems a little sparse at times, but whenever it works, the image quality is optimal. The DVD makes it even more obvious that vocalist James Rivera lives for his music. Despite being over fifty years old, he is still in perfect shape and is interacting wittily and without fear of contacts with the audience. The DVD furthermore contains over an hour’s worth of interviews with the band members and a view off-stage which should also interest Helstar’s longtime fans.