Helstar – Clad in Black (Massacre Records)Thursday, 11th March 2021
It’s been five years since the release of Vampiro from veteran power metal act Helstar. In the interim, they had the chance to tour the globe (this scribe taking in a Poughkeepsie, NY date with Flotsam & Jetsam in November 2016), release a single with “Black Wings of Solitude” and set the stage for Clad in Black. This double CD digipak includes three new songs, three special covers, plus the re-release of Vampiro in its entirety if you weren’t able to track this down the first time. Featuring the originators Larry Barragan on guitar and James Rivera at the vocal helm, the quintet continues to churn out a mix of classic metal with power, speed, and occasional nods to the modern extreme scene which shows that they can still keep things relevant in today’s diverse scene.
The three newer songs that open the first CD contain a lot of the ripping trademarks that put Helstar on the map back in the 1980’s. “Black Wings of Solitude” as a seven-minute plus power ballad traverses that softer to heavier dynamic transformation from verses to chorus, along with a shred-tastic lead break to mirror the best days of Judas Priest and Dio-era Black Sabbath. “Dark Incarnation (Mother of the Night)” has that evil opening riff vibe before accelerating into a semi-power/progressive outing, James going from mid-range chanting melodies to sky high power screams. And for those that love tantalizing Yngwie-style rhythms and arpeggio-oriented scale action, you’ll love the Barragan/ Andrew Atwood attack for “Across the Raging Seas”. Add in covers from Accept, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest (of which “Restless and Wild” and “Sinner” find favor the most) and this gives the listener a bit of a metal history lesson while catching them up to speed on where Helstar comes from in their own approach. Having reviewed Vampiro for the site five years previous, it showcases a mixture of their tried and true classic licks and speed/power tricks with occasional progressive and extreme angles, hopefully aiding the cause for Helstar to gain that second to third metal generation following.
Forty years plus into the Helstar career, with no signs of slowing down or packing it in – Clad in Black provides that pleasing, aural stop gap measure product while the band work on their next studio offering.