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A superstitious journey into strange, foreign lands… a horrifying discovery of gigantic proportions… the ensuing race against the Sun to rid the world of an immortal, diabolic evil… such is the story of Jonathan Harker in the world-renowned Irish masterpiece of the macabre. This phenomenal novel has imbued fear into the hearts of millions; it has left a permanent mark on countless forms of art, not the least of which is the realm of music. Many bands have attempted to do justice to Stoker’s tale of terror, and few have truly succeeded. Helstar stands as one of those few: with Nosferatu, they have crafted a dark beast of an album that remains true to the original vision while adding their own unique touch to the formula.
Melodic music is not something typically associated with something as haunting as the Impaler-inspired novel, but Helstar have proven it a very effective combination. The album abounds with chilling (but enormously consonant and harmonious) riffs delivered at an incredible tempo – yes, faster than quite a lot of thrash metal; a prime example shows itself in the main riff of “Baptized in Blood.” A fair amount of slower melodies also present themselves throughout, including in “The Curse Has Passed Away.” Riffs often become quite complex, such as during the refrain of “Harker’s Tale (Mass of Death),” and even then display a striking level of consistency and quality. Most songs harbor several guitar solos, exercises in minor-key melody that are made even more stellar by numerous trade-offs between the two incredibly proficient guitarists – a whole song, “Perseverance and Desperation,” is devoted to this purpose. The solos evoke a variety of moods, from loss and despair to fury and mayhem. Corbin and Barragan also support each other throughout via switching between melody and harmony roles; the bass, at times, even functions as a third guitar for this purpose. The rhythm section as a whole proves incredibly proficient: the aforementioned “Perseverance and Desperation” contains both a frenzied drum excursion as well as an unbelievable bass solo that puts Dave Ellefson to shame. The vocals, however, form the centerpiece of the album. James Rivera is a truly remarkable vocalist, able to enhance the atmosphere of basically anything put in front of him – and in an album as atmospheric as Nosferatu, he uses his talents in such a way that overshadows the prowess of many other superb vocalists. Rivera’s powerful tenor alternately broods, shrieks, spits venom, and moans to great effect; his versatile voice leaves its best impression in “Benediction,” where he not only invokes almost every style of singing in his power, but also belts out some of the most twisting and complicated vocal lines ever thought up, his presence phenomenally backed up by the rest of the band - take, for example, the bridge of the song:
“Deceitful deceiver, you liar of man
Hear this, our God: make this man pray
Run from him all, he’s not what you say
You will bow down or you’re going to pay!”
All together, the instrumentalists and vocalist form a dark, demonic whole – a presence that makes itself felt long after the album ends. Even with all the complex, proficient riffing and vocalizing at work, everything is insanely memorable – so much so that after a while, entire songs can be memorized. This is one of the most spectacular speed metal album of all time; in fact, this is one of the most spectacular of all albums. This I can safely and assuredly say: an album like this doesn’t come along very often, and another like it will, in all likelihood, never come along again. Revel in the horrific glory that is Helstar’s Nosferatu – and when you’re done, come back for more.