Review Summary: Perhaps Helstar's finest outing, A Distant Thunder presents the band's best riffs and may ultimately be their most cohesive work.
Helstar's first two albums were a fairly mixed bag. Both were quite poorly produced and occasionally a little tame by the band's future standards, but they did present some rather impressive vocal work and some entertaining riffs and solos that indicated that they were perhaps a band to watch. Their potential came to evident fruition on the excellent A Distant Thunder, a thrashier release with much improved song-writing that leaves it perhaps at the pinnacle of the band's considerable creative output, alongside Nosferatu.
Helstar's strengths have always resided in the technical skills of their musicians, especially their guitarists. Andre Corbin and Larry Barragan quite easily demonstrate their riff-writing throughout the album, with stand-out riffs on Bitter End
, Abandon Ship
, and Genius Of Insanity
. Only adding to their already fantastic performances are their excellent leads and solos; their leads, such as on the aforementioned Abandon Ship
's intro truly leave them in a league of their own, at least for the time. The rhythm section may not stand out quite so much, but little is left desired as both the bass and drums provide an excellent performance. As always, James Rivera's vocal performance is impressive in its range and adds greatly to the album.
Only adding to A Distant Thunder's strengths is its great songwriting, something that Helstar has remained successful with since its release. The song lengths sit around 5:00 on average, which is perhaps longer than what most thrash-bands would be secure with, but due to their interesting instrumental sections and fairly ambitious arrangements, they make it work well. However, the lengths of some songs such as Wind Of War
can be a dull, and the tendency for songs to start with acoustic introductions is a genuine problem since it does cause some songs to get to a slightly tentative start. Nevertheless, this doesn't effect the album's strengths too much and merely prevents the album from being among the very best rather than excellent.
The King Is Dead
Genius Of Insanity
(The) Whore Of Babylon