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Helstar's Sixth Album ... Practically! - 90%

Xeogred, February 9th, 2007

So, here we have legendary vocalist James Rivera's side project, Distant Thunder. Named right off from a Helstar release. And well, everything else from Helstar is in tact here as well. In all honesty, I often wonder why Rivera didn't simply release this under Helstar and put them back on track (though, they're working on a new album here, which I'm sure will rock). I mean, as the previous reviewer stated, and as just about everyone else will say, Distant Thunder doesn't exactly sound like Helstar, this IS Helstar! As stated in Rivera's bio via his website, he does consider this to be a "constructed rebirth" of Helstar.

This album tends to be very similar to that of Helstar's "Remnants of War" and "Distant Thunder" more than anything else, not as thrashy or aggressive as "Nosferatu". Their complex progessive structures are there, the technical form of speed metal is here, the melodic riffs and solo's are intact. Even with different guitarists, they've retained the great riffage and soloing that Helstar's been known for. And when you've heard James Rivera's beautiful voice, its as if he hasn't aged a bit, still retaining one of the best voices out there in metal. Not to mention his background shrieking on here is mindblowing. Occasionally there's some short background semi-growling that flows with the vocals. Its silly, but it doesn't really detract from the album at all. The last two covers are pretty neat too. Although I prefer Helstar's earlier version of "Run with the Pack", its still a great remake. And myself being somewhat of an Accept / UDO fan (though, I don't worship them. I just don't mind Udo's voice and his bands like others), I thought the "Restless & Wild" cover was a blast of fun. Rivera is certainly too good for the song, but its still a great cover!

Surprisingly, this album is pretty badass all the way through. I've heard a lot of recent albums from newer bands over the last few years, and I can't help but notice a lot of bands thesedays tend to lose their touch after the first few songs, or throw some fillers in here and there. This disc however, is very solid from the beginning to the end. The feel of this album comes off as slightly more melodic and less aggressive than Helstar, and even sounds a bit like some European Power at times, but fear not, this is METAL. Its aggressive, there's no sing along choruses to be found here, no cheesy keyboards or themes or anything of that sort, its straight forward Speed/Power Metal in its full glory.

Fans of traditional, melodic, speed metal should definitely grab this album. And it also fits more than perfectly with James Rivera's other works, and fits right along with Helstar. My highest recommendation for legendary metal with a classic edge!

A Distant Thunder cracks the sky - 85%

Agonymph, August 27th, 2004

James Rivera...what can be said about the man what isn't already said? One thing is for sure; one of Metal's best singers has never, ever reached the level of success he had with one of the eighties biggest heroes; Helstar. Maybe he will with Seven Witches, but still, Helstar is his most successful band thus far. James isn't ashamed of this. Why else would he have called his new band after a Helstar album and put a re-recorded Helstar-track on it?

I really wish I could put it in better words than the Dutch Aardschok Magazine already did, but I really can't. To quote them: "Distant Thunder doesn't sound like Helstar...Distant Thunder IS Helstar!" Amen to that. 'Welcome The End' seems to contain elements from every Helstar-period, being the fast and melodic guitar work from the beginning and the slightly progressive structures from the later work. All conjoined by the regognizable and beautiful vocals by James Rivera.

After the short spoken intro 'The Day Upon You', the album blasts off right away with the almost-title-track 'I Welcome The End'. This song contains everything that made Helstar so great in the eighties; melodic guitar work, fast double bass drums, slightly progressive hooks, a beautiful chorus and the fabulous vocals by James Rivera...many people would qualify this as Power Metal nowadays, but for me, it's still Speed Metal with a progressive touch. Nonetheless I advice all Power Metal fans to listen to this album, this is where it came from?

What I said about the first track can be said about almost all of the album. Most of the songs are in the same vein, yet varying enough to keep it interesting for the entire album. Debit for that is, for instance, the clean intro to 'Soulless Inventions', the slightly downpaced 'Hopeless Creator', the beautiful epic track 'Lost In Time' and the progressive instrumental 'Distant Thunder'.

Rivera's current bandmate from Seven Witches, guitarist Jack Frost, does a little guesting on the album and even more important, gets all the credit for the wonderful sound quality on the album, which he produced.

The real trip down memory lane is saved for the last two songs. First up, there is a cover of 'Run With The Pack', from Helstar's debuting 'Burning Star' album. 'Run With The Pack' is in my opinion one of those timeless Metal tracks, which belongs to the best songs ever written. I still think the original version is the better one, but the song definitely profits from the better sound quality. The album closes off with 'Restless And Wild', a cover from Accept. I'm not really fond of Accept and I personally think that James Rivera's voice is way too good for this track. Too bad, the rest of the album kicks some serious ass.

I personally never heard of the two guitarists on this album, Eric Halpern and Gregg Gill, who do a killer job and partly are to blame for the high level of this album (also because Eric Halpern has written all the tracks with James Rivera, except for 'Finding My Way', which is written by both guitarists with James Rivera). The guys deliver some awesome solos and riffs full of firework and if their other band Z Lot Z is just as good, I think I'll like it. Their drummer Rick Ward was also an unknown soldier to me, but fits in the music perfectly. Bassist Mike LePond was of course already a well known power; he plays in Symphony-X in daily life and fits in this totally different musical environment very well.

The message is quite simple and quite clear; if you like old-fashioned, melodic Metal, you should check out this album. If you're a nostalgic Helstar fan, you should too. Distant Thunder brings old times back to life and was a welcome release in the wait for the new Seven Witches album. Maybe it's time for everyone to pull their heads out of their asses and to see who is a true Metal God?