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A Star Is Born - 70%

VirginSteele_Helstar, April 7th, 2013

Helstar's first album "Burning Star" is hardly the stroke of genius "A Distant Thunder" is and neither is it the intricate masterpiece that "Nosferatu" is. Instead, it is a portrait of a young and hungry band that would be capable of delivering much more after they found their feet.

The biggest complaint anyone can have with this record is how untogether it sounds. Musically, the band leap from brazen simplicity to overzealous complexity and it is only the moments in between where they truly shine. "Toward The Unknown" is a case in point-it opens with some Judas Priest type riffing and carefully juxtaposes that against harmonically rich but incredibly technical leads. The resulting song is one of the finest Helstar have ever recorded. On the title track, James Rivera (appearing here as Bill Lionel) sings, "I see a new star rising" and indeed most of the material on the Texan quintet's debut feels and sounds like a grand preamble; a potent but rather precocious presage of the admirable metallic devastation that was launched thereafter, "Remnants Of War" onwards. Consequentially, you have the band more concerned with showcasing their prowess than writing immediate and catchy songs.

Some like the mega thrasher "Possession" work wonderfully but others like the proto tech metal piece "Witch's Eye" might leave one impressed yet unmoved. Where the balance is struck as on "Toward The Unknown" and "The Shadows Of Iga" is where the band is revealed as perhaps one of the more important groups to ever emerge from the American power metal scene. Ultimately, though, it is one of those debuts whose force can only be assessed in retrospect. I'd recommend it to anyone getting into Helstar only after they've heard "A Distant Thunder" where there's better method to the mayhem.

"Burning Star' does however remain one of the most astonishing first albums by a metal group because it oozes of ambition and a certain maturity and passion for excellence. And in the same manner as other monumental debuts such as "Ample Destruction", "Alice In Hell", "The Warning" and "Iced Earth", it isn't without a truly classic moment. "Burning Star"'s can be found in the form of "Run With The Pack" a nervy nearly seven minute long speedy anthem that draws you in with its magnetic thrash inspired riffs and catchy hook and one that remains to this day, one of Helstar's more quintessential moments.

Was the band overreaching? Sure they were! Larry Barragan formed the band at the time when metalheads in America were just opening up to the NWOBHM. They were feeding off on that incredibly ambitious yet high energy music as well covering Rush tunes. When "Burning Star"" was recorded, it was to serve as a testament to their skill, a place to place their translation of a scripture already written in far off lands. It mostly went unnoticed because it was so layered yet inelegant but all that daring did pay off eventually. Summarily speaking, this was only the beginning...