Review Summary: Texans renovate their late ‘80s tech metal galore, to excellent effect.
With the release of Mardraum
(less) and the follow-up behemoth of an album Monumension
(more), Enslaved were part of the first serious attempts in mapping the common ground between black metal and progressive rock. However, at that time, relatively few fans aligned with the band’s newly proposed perspective, and as a result, the Norwegians discretely disclosed their disappointment in promotional interviews. Instantly memorable was the response concluding the Monumension
promotional interview for Metal Hammer Hellas, quote “in this world, there’s nothing better than being fully understood for what you are trying to achieve with your art
”. Enslaved’s quip feels analogous to a similar Bible saying quote “no one can become prophet in his/her homeland
” which makes sense, as soon as the apparent correspondence between religion and the effect of music on people, is acknowledged.
Things were even worse for Helstar, following the release of Nosferatu
in the late ‘80s. In contrast to today, where the album is considered legendary within the tech power/progressive metal circuit, no one liked it at that time, be it the press or fans. In fact, guitarist and founding member Larry Barragan, rivals every fan saying he/she worships Nosferatu
, to show him a positive review for the album from the late ‘80s. Truth is that (and that assessment was reported in early-to-mid ‘90s retrospective reviews about the album in Greek hard copy metal media), while the music and lyrical concept were flawless and downright innovative, the sound production clouded the very content it was supposed to highlight, preventing less dedicated listeners from appreciating what was really under the hood. This is definitely not the case with Vampiro
, in which the Texans have renovated their late ‘80s tech metal galore, to excellent effect.
Sound production makes sure Helstar’s technical/musical aptitude, is explicitly evident throughout the album. Crisp, clear and optimally modern, it forms the canvas upon which the band has painted the (much awaited by die-hard fans) rendition of the neoterism that was Nosferatu
28 years ago, also in terms of its unified lyrical concept. Helstar tread on familiar territory, the element of surprise is inherently absent, and yet Vampiro
prompts for epileptic headbanging the old school way. The awesomely recurring crossover between pure heavy/speed and thrash metal parts, is the album’s main allure, along with a jaw-dropping classical music flair in both lead and rhythm guitars. Helstar’s proficiency brings in mind Germany’s Mekong Delta, only in terms of how seamlessly the classical music element is incorporated in power/thrash metal.
Some die-hard fans waiting for Helstar to revisit Nosferatu
in the full-length releases that followed their 2008 reunion, were irrationally dissatisfied and vocal regarding the direction adopted in the last 2-3 albums, namely the affiliation to more modern (thrash) metal forms. In doing so, they refrain from reflecting on the fact that Nosferatu
brought only mischief to the band in years to come, so it’s only natural that Helstar moved as far as possible, in terms of style. That said, however, time waits for no one, while the same applies for a band’s potential in doing things exactly the way it did during its period of youth; Helstar’s decision to go back to their roots, apart from being timely, it is downright successful, as along with an ensemble of new and old outfits (mostly from the States), they keep the beacons of old school metal lit.