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Mat Sinner takes this unknown band and goes BANG - 80%

TrooperOfSteel, January 20th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2013, CD, AFM Records

El metal pesado de Argentina! The South Americans love their heavy metal, they go crazy for it; just look at the concerts held in places like Rio, Santiago and Buenos Aires for proof of that. The singing, chanting and pure emotion that goes on in concerts needs to be seen to be believed, as it is just completely amazing. And of course this passion for heavy metal has resulted in the formation of thousands of South American metal bands, whether they are from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, or in this case; Argentina.

I was surprised to find that melodic power metal band Helker have been around the metal scene since 1998, as I had never heard of them before until now. Upon further investigation I found that Helker’s first three full-length releases were all written and sung in their native tongue, Spanish. Also being with a local unknown label, it’s no wonder that basically only the South Americans knew of this band previously.

However the metal community loves to help out their own and in an opportunity of a lifetime, Mat Sinner (bassist for Primal Fear, vocalist/bassist for Sinner) involved himself with the band by co-writing the latest album and also produced the record, making Helker’s latest CD ‘Somewhere in the Circle’ their first release to be written and sung in English. Mat didn’t stop there as he also got Tim “Ripper” Owens (Charred Walls of the Damned/ex-Iced Earth/ex-Judas Priest) and fellow band mate Ralf Scheepers to sing together on a track, while the final jewel in this crown was Helker signing a deal with AFM Records. Not bad, eh.

Helker’s melodic power metal sound is traditionally what you’d hear from European bands of the same genre and are quite similar to groups like Mystic Prophecy, Firewind, (early) Bloodbound, Inner Wish, Circle of Silence, Brainstorm, Primal Fear, Crimson Cult and Nostradameus; just to name a few. The twin guitar riffs are swift, catchy and beefy, with pounding drums, heavy bass and melodic soaring vocals; just what is required for Euro melodic power metal. Again, there’s nothing new here, but I’ve mentioned too many times that it doesn’t matter anymore when the power metal genre is so massive these days.

The tracks are extremely well written, giving the songs a dynamic and bombastic feel, as well as being catchy as hell while giving the riff and solo lovers something to get excited over. I am very impressed with Helker’s vocalist, Diego Valdez, who metal fans may know from his appearance on the latest Tarja live DVD/CD (‘Act 1’) as the guest vocalist on the song “Phantom of the opera”. A passionate and energetic singer, Valdez has a brilliant range and so much force in his near-perfect delivery. With a slight gruffness in his voice, Valdez has an infectious melodic style where he can reach the high notes with strength and conviction.

The hard ‘n’ heavy tracks flow thick and fast on ‘Somewhere in the Circle’, including the powerful opening track “Modern Roman Circus” which sets the scene and high quality for the remainder of the album, and the mid-high tempo rocking track “No Chance to be Reborn”, with wailing, chunky and deep guitar riffs, and a masterful and emotional vocal performance by the talented Valdez.

The contribution of Ralf Scheepers and “Ripper” Owens comes on the great track called “Begging For Forgiveness”, showcasing all three singers together in a great vocal battle, while other instant winner tracks include the pounding and Sinner-esque “Still Alive”, containing a simple but highly effective beat/riff combo, with heavy bass guitar and a catchy sing-a-long chorus. Lastly, the Primal Fear sounding “Inside of Me” again has a memorable chorus and a great twin guitar battle between Mariano Ríos and Leo Aristu.; while “Just Be Yourself” is the most melodic song on the album, a high-octane track with furious guitar riffs, a very catchy chorus and Valdez showing just how good of a singer he is with a brilliant performance.

While the overall quality of ‘Somewhere in the Circle’ is quite high and I commend Mat Sinner and the band for a great job, there are some slight dips here and there; which I guess is to be expected. With that said, the disc is right up there for excellent guitar work and drumming, the majority of the tracks are explosive to say the least and Diego Valdez is one hell of a talented singer. Fans of the bands mentioned earlier in this review will have no problem whatsoever enjoying this disc, as Helker really epitomises what European melodic power metal is all about. So now being on a big label like AFM, I expect Helker to really take off on a world-wide stage with this CD and high expectations for their next release; while they proudly wave the Argentinean flag for metal in the process.

Originally written for and

Killer heavy/power metal - 82%

Andromeda_Unchained, October 5th, 2013

You can often rely on AFM to dish out the goods, and the latest release from Argentina’s Helker is a particularly tasty treat that will likely have the blood pumping throughout the coming winter. Whilst I can’t really compare this with the band’s earlier releases, Somewhere In The Circle speaks for itself with a collection of really enjoyable, catchy tracks of killing heavy/power metal.

This is definitely by the book, but sometimes innovation isn’t all that necessary, especially when the music is played with as much heart and style as Helker manages to. The vocals are an immediate standout, coming across as a blend of Dio and Tim Owens (who also happens to drop in for a guest slot). Diego Valdez’s pipes are impressive to say the least, and he totally owns the album.

On the instrumental side of things, this is powerful, riff-oriented material. Guaranteed head-banging for all, I assure you. The guitars are somewhat downtuned, and coupled with a crunchy tone, sound really appealing. There is certainly a good balance between thumping riffs and more restrained chord arrangements, which allows Diego to command all attention. Standout tracks would include the wonderfully catchy “Wake Up”, which displays the aforementioned qualities well. “Inside Of Me” is an empowering metal anthem which begs for a fist raised to the sky, although my personal favorite would have to be the excellent “Begging For Forgiveness”, featuring Tim Owens and one of the finest guest slots I’ve heard from Ralf Scheepers ,who completely nails his part (although I am a slight fan boy)!

On the whole I'd say this is a definite must-buy, and a highlight of the first quarter of 2013. Particularly recommended for fans of no nonsense, kick ass heavy metal. At times this plays like an eighties Dio album for the modern age, which is just fine in my book. Those who crave something hyperactive and over the top won’t find that here, but anyone who can appreciate a good metal song should at the very least give this one a listen. Recommended!

Originally written for (albeit ever-so-slightly edited)

One hell of a release! - 95%

Immortally_Insane, February 25th, 2013

Helker, an Argentinean heavy metal/power metal giant has returned with its fourth full length studio album, co-written and produced by Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle, Sinner). The band, which is considered Argentina’s leading metal act, was formed by bassist Christian Abaca and guitarist Mariano Rios in Buenos Aires in 1998. The group would release its debut album, “Legado Secreto” in 2002, but it would not be until vocalist Diego Valdez joined for the group’s 2008 effort “Resistir” that people began to take notice. They would follow this in 2010 with ”A.D.N.” These first three records would be recorded in the band’s native language. “Somewhere In the Circle” marks Helker’s first international release, and the first recorded in English. It also marks the debut album for guitarist Leo Aristu and drummer Hernan Coronel.

With “Somewhere In the Circle” Helker has seriously delivered us with one hell of an album. A relatively unknown name in the power metal scene, the newest release is bound to bump them up the ranks into the ears of power metal fans everywhere. Diego Valdez (Skiltron, Azeroth, and many more) or as I like to call him, the Argentinean Ronnie James Dio, has a voice that alone makes this one band you shouldn’t be skipping over.

Truthfully, “Somewhere in the Circle” is a release straight out of my dreams. Competing with some of the strongest albums I’ve heard in early 2013, Helker, stands alongside new albums from the likes of Stratovarius and Saxon, and readily holds its ground. Beginning with a grooving phased guitar intro, then slamming into the unbelievable and strong vocal presence of Valdez, it’s nearly too good to be true. (Or at least, too good for me NOT to know who this band was previously.) Abaca’s bass is nice and strong, providing for quite a great gallop alongside Coronel’s traditional drum style, though it is quite cymbal/ride heavy at times and can be slightly distracting.

The song structures are typical of those found in most traditional power metal/heavy metal, but the guitar riffs, harmonies, and solos really help the band stand out against the background of the somewhat overplayed style. The lyrical phrasing through verses and choruses are catchy and memorable, especially in tracks like “Just Be Yourself” and the band’s newly released single, “No Chance to be Reborn”.

The first three tracks are just relentless, in your face amazing, metal. However, it’s not all fast paced as the band has some slower tunes on the album, like “Begging for Forgiveness” which begins with a clean guitar intro, and the spotlight is on Diego along with vocal guests Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Yngwie Malmsteen) and Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear). It picks up, but still remains a slower tempo than the earlier songs. There are some quite eerie vocal melodies present in this song, that sent chills down my spine.

“Flying” is the album’s ballad, focusing on acoustic guitar and the heavenly vocal presence and layered choir-like melodies. Bringing on a life-like feeling to the song’s title and theme, though the tempo is slower, this is one of my favorite songs on the album. The emotion is hard to ignore and I can truly feel the song to my core. Who doesn’t love a ballad? As the journey Helker laid out in front of you comes to an end the final tracks “Inside of Me” and “Dreams” bring the album to its close. Both songs feature some amazing guitar melodies, including the solos, but my favorite has to be the main riff in “Dreams”. A short, but fun and moving riff soars above the background music and makes me want to get up and dance. As the album ends, it is just as strong as the album’s introduction, providing a near perfect release for its listeners.

There isn’t a single dull moment on “Somewhere In the Circle“. It’s hard for me to even offer a tiny bit of criticism. I guess my only complaint is that I want to hear more and more, each time I play this record. True heavy/power metal at its core, it’s catchy and unforgettable. I am truly impressed and blown away at the musicianship brought to the table from each of the band members, and suggest that each and every one of you check out this band. Buy the album, support the band!

[Originally written for]