It seems like every time you turn around these days there is a new release by another reunited 70ís or 80ís band. There have been quite a few said CDís out this year, but none that I was looking forward to more than Helstarís 'The King Of Hell.' Although never gaining the popularity that they perhaps deserved, the Texas speed metal legends emerged in the mid-80ís with a string of above-average albums culminating with what many fans consider to be their masterpiece, 1989ís 'Nosferatu.' They might now need to reconsider that honor.
'The King Of Hell' wastes no time reestablishing Helstar as a power metal heavyweight with a potent title track very much in the Nosferatu vein. After an ominous intro, the band explodes into their unmistakable blend of piercing vocals, soaring twin leads, and air-tight, crunching rhythms that made them one of the most underrated speed metal acts of the 80ís. That being said, this is far from a rehashing of old material. This sounds like what would have been the follow-up to Nosferatu had this lineup stayed together while still being relevant to todayís metal. Throw in the fact this is easily the best produced Helstar album and youíve really got a monster on your hands.
This album has it all: impeccable musicianship, creative songwriting, and the chemistry of a band that had stayed together all these years. Even singer James Rivera has found another gear delivering the first few lines of the opener in King Diamond-like fashion. If there is a weakness itís that some of the lyrics are a little clichť, like on the title track and Wicked Disposition, but thatís hardly noticeable when the music is completely kicking your ass!
Iíd have a tough time picking a favorite track here because everything sounds so good. Whether you want to compare 'The King Of Hell' to the Helstar classics, or measure it up against todayís best power metal, this CD not only holds its own but blows most of the competition away.
In the 13 years since Helstar released an original album, the forgettable 'Multiples Of Black,' rangy frontman Rivera has been heard working with several Helstar-ish sounding bands; most notably Vicious Rumors, Distant Thunder, Destinyís End, and Seven Witches. While almost everything Rivera recorded with those bands was solid stuff, most of it was little more than a tasty appetizer for the Helstar purists still craving something a bit meatier. The 'King Of Hell' not only satisfies, but delivers a hearty meal that all metal fans can savor for years to come.
- Tim Carroll