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Perseverance and Desperation - 40%

VirginSteele_Helstar, May 24th, 2014

I have faced many humiliations in my time, Mr. Harker but this one is placed above them all!

The most woeful entry in Helstar's rather admirable catalog occurred in 1995 when the band itself was a fallen and forgotten shambles, a ruined house. Only James Rivera remained of the original bunch and although his perseverance is nothing short of commendable, he was clearly not immune to the musical void that bloodied and buried many of his contemporaries in that bleak decade of the '90's. As such, "Multiples of Black" is the absolute sewer if it is to be judged by the monolithic grace and grandeur of its predecessors. It lacks the genius and sheer craftsmanship of Larry Barragan's riffing , the ceaseless stomp and power that the riffing held when combined with Jerry Abarca's slick bass and James Rivera's throat of wonders and all the quirks and idiosyncrasies that made Helstar stand out as a singular force of traditional metallic brilliance. It is a severely vanilla record with the occasional spark but even when that spark shows up, it looks dim and lazy.

Things actually kick off to a promising start with "No Second Chance (In the Angry City)" which although deceptively bland, possesses a bite and energy not unlike the more blunt efforts of Omen and Vicious Rumors. James Rivera gives it as much as he can but it suffers from a lack of any truly captivating riffs and leads. The ghost of Larry Barragabn lingers nowhere and every time Russel DeLeon pounds his drum, it sounds like nails descending into coffinwood. The spiral keeps on in downward fashion from thereon largely fostered by the entirely lacking in charisma and finesse guitar playing of rightly forgotten axemen, Aaron Garza and Michael Heald. There are occasional moments of fun and inspiration because after all this is James Rivera's mind we're talking about. "Lost to Be Found, Found to Be Lost" sounds like something fellow Texans Militia wouldn't disown which means its thrash-isms are cannily placed and indeed it is a slab of fun when compared to the dour counterparts within its realms. Outside of said realm, it would be laughed out of existence. "Good Day to Die" on the other hand stands a chance of survival in the general Helstar cannon mostly because riff wise it exhibits a dynamism akin to the band of old. Only Rivera's pseudo street smart lyrics threaten to doom it. Nothing else is salvageable. Rivera handles "Beyond the Realms of Death" like a pro-adding another layer of despair to Halford's already somber vocal. But where Halford turned blackly triumphant towards the end, Rivera remains feeble and solemn. Not to mention those utterly sinful gang shouts that make "I'm free to speak" sound like a political lyric. The crappy production of course only serves to make matters worse.

In its defense, "Multiples of Black" is truly of its time. It is child of the groovy nineties when bands didn't have much to say and even less riffs to say it with. Besides more bizarre deviations were happening back then, like Queensryche's commercially tilted grunge affiliated "Hear In The Now Frontier" and Flotsam and Jetsam's infinitely absurd "High". When compared to some of the records that came out then though, it still falls short. It lacks the ceaseless charm of "Something Burning" and the character of "Dissident Alliance" and even the selling power of Iced Earth's "Something Wicked This Way Comes". Even to this day, it is still not much to reminisce about. Not for the fans and not even for the band themselves.