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Rivera Still Has It - 77%

pinpals, November 14th, 2010

Out of all the unnecessary and fake reunions out there (“fake” as in it includes only one or two original members), we need to be thankful for Helstar, who not only sport four of the five members that created their classic “Remnants of War” (only drummer Michael Lewis did not appear on that album), but also have not lost an ounce of heaviness over the years. James Rivera is still one of the greatest metal singers out there, in fact, I would posit that he has gotten better with age. He can still hit the high notes, but his lower and mid-range vocals have improved with maturity.

Helstar formed in the early 80s and quickly grew notoriety for their speed-metal attack, opening for bands like W.A.S.P. and Anthrax. After “Nosferatu,” which many (including me) believe is their best album, they split up due to the popularity of grunge and general disinterest in the heavy metal genre. They reformed in 1995 to release the largely forgettable “Multiples of Black” before breaking up again. However, they justified their (re)reformation in 2008 with the surprisingly vicious “The King of Hell.”

“Glory of Chaos” pretty much picks up where “The King of Hell” left off. The riffs are ferocious and James Rivera gives a fine performance. They waste no time with “Angels Fall to Hell.” This song kicks all kinds of ass and proves that not all bands lose their passion and heaviness with age. Although it does not bother me, some purists will take issue with the "modern" production sound for the guitars. Some may find them too clean and digitized compared to how they sounded in the 80s, so that is something to be aware of.

The intensity level is pretty much consistent throughout, although as a whole, the songwriting is somewhat lacking. Sometimes the guitarists will resort to basic chug-chug riffs beneath the singing and aside from the opener, not a lot is memorable. The biggest disappointment was the lead guitars. I assume Andre Corbin was responsible for the neo-classical direction that showed up in the late 80s, but even before he was around, Helstar wrote some bad-ass solos, and sadly the quality of the solos on “Glory of Chaos” is vastly inferior.

The drumming is certainly competent enough, but a more dynamic and interesting drummer could have added an interesting dynamic to some of the more pedestrian sections where the rhythm guitars are not doing anything more than chugging along. As mentioned before, James Rivera is the real hero of this album. He certainly lives up to his reputation and perhaps even surpasses it. My only qualm is that sometimes the choruses could have been better, like in “Pandemonium,” for instance. Otherwise, he’s definitely the most distinctive and memorable aspect of Helstar.

I realize that some may interpret my review as being mostly negative in nature and might be surprised at my rating, but in all honesty “Glory of Chaos” is a solid album that is worth owning. The reason that I seem so critical is because it pales in comparison to what Helstar accomplished in the 80s. In reality, it’s refreshing to hear a band that has reunited and has not lost their edge. I simply think that this lineup is capable of more. Here’s hoping that this lineup will continue, because the potential is certainly there.

(Originally written for www.metal-temple.com)