HELSTAR - The King Of Hell

Helstar - The King Of Hell

9 songs
50:05 minutes
***** ****


Back in a time when every self-respecting metal band came from the Bay Area, Helstar stood out with their Texan background, but that didn’t prevent them from releasing four of the most important speed metal albums in the Eighties. The Nineties had them back for a mediocre comeback album, and since then they released a few compilations. Especially vocalist James Rivera was never really gone and had more or less successes with the underrated Destiny’s End, Seven Witches and even Vicious Rumors.

The King Of Hell is a comeback to the line-up of Remnants Of War (1986), although the band has been orientating themselves on the Nosferatu (1989) sound. And what can I say? Helstar made a true return to form. As in the past, The King Of Hell is a complex album that demands your whole attention, and it needs a couple of spins before you finally get all its wonders. James Rivera, although probably close to fifty years old, is still one of the most charismatic metal vocalists. His high vocals haven’t lost their range yet, putting him in the same league as a Rob Halford. The guitar tandem consisting of Larry Barragan and Robert Trevino is at par with such duos like Tipton/Downing (Judas Priest) and Holt/Hunolt (original Exodus line-up). They can shred in perfect thrash metal manner, and their complex techniques and the exquisite soloing help making The King Of Hell a varied power speed thrash album.

Highlights include The Plague Called Men and Wicked Disposition, two tracks that wouldn’t have paled on their Eighties albums. Pain Will Be Thy Name is one of the fastest and most aggressive songs I have ever heard from this band, and the nine minute epic The Garden Of Temptation is a perfect way to end this surprisingly great comeback album. Of course it has a very nostalgic feeling to it, but Helstar, who helped define the so-called US metal movement, have every right to refer to that sound.

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