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A real 'desert island' disc - 99%

malibuman, August 15th, 2008

Even before I checked out their relative scores I knew that Helstar’s second album ‘Remnants of War’ would be outscoring the debut. I’m not saying that’s necessarily wrong, but it does make me feel that ‘Burning Star’ is maybe being sold a little short. True, it’s only because of one so-so review undermining two great ones, but all the same, I think I need to redress the balance just a little.

Funnily enough, I bought this on vinyl back in 1984 and while I liked it a lot, it wasn’t my favourite album of the time. I was a hardened thrasher back then and this album didn’t quite do it for me. So I traded it with someone else and then changed my mind and then traded it again, and so it went back and forth until eventually I gave up and let him keep it. And that was it for about 13 years, until in 1999 Century Media took the very wise decision to re-release it. Of course, by now I was a complete 80’s metal whore and I snapped it up immediately, only to fall head over heels in love with it all over again.

It was like meeting up with a hot college girlfriend all over again, and realising she was still hot and better in the sack than you remembered.

Party - bonus!

However, listeners coming to this album having already heard ‘Remnants…’ and the other Helstar albums might be slightly surprised by the style on display here, but you have to remember this was 1984 and the whole thrash/speed thing was yet to fully break. Back then your straight-ahead metal was still a viable option. Not that Helstar ever really gave in to the whole thrash thing, but the second album definitely had a more aggressive sound and seemed to court fans of the genre, albeit without compromising too much on the melody. This one however, has a definite early 80’s flavour, particularly in the guitars which have that lovely under-distorted sound which died out by the middle of the decade. Not only that but there’s a few hints of prog rock in the intro to the mini-epic ‘Run with the Pack’, while ‘Burning Star‘ has a great intro of the type you just don‘t hear anymore.

I notice that Metal Archives have posted the original European album cover on the site and that’s a good thing. Why an album this brilliant should have had to suffer the terrible original U.S. album cover is a mystery to me and it surely can’t have helped snare potential fans who would have seen it in the racks next to things like the debut from Armored Saint and wrongly surmised that they were not of (at least) equal quality. Really there isn’t a duff track on this record, and it bristles with quality in every department, and that’s why I have no reservations in awarding at the score that I have.