Review Summary: All too close to having been a second peak for the band, but let down by some misguided attempts at covering stylistic ground outside of their comfort zone.
It's interesting to look back at the wave of thrash and speed metal bands that returned with albums in the late 2000s/early 2010s and to note just how well they did. The Big 4 all put out adequate albums overall with a couple of slightly superior exceptions (Endgame, Worship Music), whilst most of the next tier of thrash bands generally put out strong albums. Whilst Overkill
pretty much crowned themselves the leaders of the thrash comeback with Ironbound, it's odd to see how close Helstar could have gotten with this album.
Helstar's 80s output is more within the realm of speed metal, but generally excels due to the great lead guitar work and drumming of much of their greatest songs, like Harker's Tale and Bitter End. Glory of Chaos is by comparison vastly heavier and more sinister, sounding far more reminiscent of Exodus
than their older output and with harsher vocals all round. The latter factor is one of the big highlights of this album, as James Rivera sounds considerably more sinister with high register shrieks with a lot more grit than his older ones. The increased intensity also doesn't necessarily mean that the guitar work is any less technical, as on tracks like Alma Negra
speedy licks help to spice up the action.
Honestly, the majority of the tracks on this album are very strong by modern thrash standards, with effective transitions throughout and some great moments, such as the drastic slowdown in the excellent Monarch of Bloodshed
, which goes from a techy Slayer song to a sinister crawl reminiscent of the centre of Sickman by Alice in Chains
. Deth Trap
and the aforementioned Alma Negra
also serve as satisfyingly speedy and aggressive thrash tracks with some great riffs. Sadly, three tracks do let the team down. Bone Crushed
sounds rather messily constructed, often too slow or too speed metally to fit with the rest of the album. Summer of Hate
slows down a lot compared to the rest of the album, but the harsh, sharp palm muted guitars don't carry enough weight to let it truly feel powerful and sinister. Anger
doesn't quite meet the same standards as the other thrashier tracks, and drags somewhat in comparison.
It's a little disappointing listening to this album long after its release and seeing just how close Helstar came to a great album. The peaks on Alma Negra and Monarch of Bloodshed are easily some of the band's best, but the dragging centre portion with a couple of weaker tracks generally halts a lot of the album's momentum and loses the sinister focus found elsewhere on the album. Nonetheless, this is a decent effort with some great tracks mixed in for the average thrash listener.