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Here we have the fourth and last legendary album that Helstar would release in their early days. Four A+ albums in a row, not a lot of bands have been able to pull that off as well as Helstar did. All of these could be considered classics. They always kept a good sense of their own style as well from album to album. Their debut "Burning Star" went to show they were very much like say Iron Maiden and crew, but slightly more aggressive, and you could probably easily argue more technically adept (as they've always been). Their next two releases "Remnants Of War" and "Distant Thunder" sometimes showed their thrashier side, as well as their speed metal side. With this album, the band definitely took a dive into something else. Its very, very different from their previous releases, maybe something you wouldn't expect if you heard their first three albums before this. But guess what? Its still pretty damn awesome.
This album is hands down a lot thrashier than anything they've ever done beforehand, enough that I often compare this release to Heathen's sound. Often this album also seems to come off as a darker release, at least compared to their previous works. This point is also forged by James Rivera's vocals on here. His singing is quite different on here than anything else he's ever done, and pretty much any other band he's worked with as well. He tends to stick to a mid-to-low range throughout the majority of the album, unlike his higher soaring singing that he was known for on their other releases. By no means are his vocals bad here, but if you're expecting a lot of shrieks and lots of high notes that he's known for, you may be disappointed. I'd go to say his singing on here compliments the music perfectly though, and flows well. His lower singing, along with the pace and thrashier sound, gives this album its aggression.
As always with Helstar, the riffs, leads, solo's, and all of the guitar work is completely out of this world. The technical skill displayed by Larry Barragan and Andre Corbin is completely top notch and beyond a lot of other bands at the time. "Perserverence and Desperation" is a guitar instrumental track, very much like stuff you'd hear from Racer X, Cacophony, etc, and its really awesome. The skill is so explosive it truly sounds like something you could hear under Shrapnel Records. Regardless that the guitars definitely stand out on here, as they always have with Helstar, the bass and drums are definitely top notch as well. It all comes together making this a high quality metal venture.
Helstar's always put out a lot of stuff with great production, and that is still the case here. Its extremely well polished, everything from James Rivera's vocals to each instrument is very crisp and clear. There's nothing too over the top here as well, no keyboards or out of place sound effects or anything.
Would I recommend this for someone who hasn't heard anything from Helstar before? Its hard to say. Honestly, this was my first entry into the band and it took me awhile to really like it. It did kind of have to grow on me, and when I finally got to hear Helstar's other albums I saw how more easily accessible they were compared to this. This is definitely more complex than their other stuff, so it may actually not be the best choice for your first album from them. Either way, this album continues to grow on me each and every time I listen to it, and its perfect blend of speed / thrash is just great.
My personal favorite pick probably goes out to "Benediction". Extremely catchy and dynamic song, with some of Rivera's most aggressive vocals out there. And the middle part really gets you going with its galloping rhythm and riffs. All in all, this is probably on my Top 10 Favorite Thrash Albums list, easily. Again, not sure if it'd be the best entry for the band, but if you've heard their other stuff don't shrug this off at all, or if you're a cold blooded pure thrash maniac, this album is definitely a must have gem.