80′s American power metal is a never ending well. Most of the best stuff has risen to the top but the further you go down, the more elusive and grimier albums are hiding from the light. Helstar fits somewhere in between.
The band has gained critical praise for their first four albums, ending with what many consider their masterpiece, Nostferatu, in 1989. I’m not an expert on Helstar and they’ve always floated around my power metal periphery. They do have some members from Vicious Rumors (remember them from last week) as well as other American heavy metal bands.
As far as the music goes, virtuoso comes to mind. To my ears, and I’m sure to the members, there’s a very classical composure style at work here. Classical music and metal have often been bed partners (especially power metal) so that’s not anything new but the way this album is composed, leaning heavily on the guitars makes it very operatic. It’s like a power/speed metal opera without all the cheese and over-the-top theatrics of power metal bands you would associate with operatic or symphonic elements (Nightwish, Kamelot, etc.). But what makes Helstar stand out is their imagery and content. There’s a large horror element to the band and if the name of the album wasn’t a clue, it’s mostly based on the Bram Stoker Dracula book. Horror isn’t often incorporated in to power metal, at least not with this level of talent. The band makes it fucking work without you every questioning it.
Explore this album. It’s a fucking gem.