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Album Review

Helstar had gained a new lease on life when Metal Blade Records welcomed them to the family and released their third album, A Distant Thunder, to no small critical and fan acclaim. But a true commercial breakthrough continued to elude the persistent Texan quintet, so they wasted little time before knuckling down to record their fourth career studio album, which was released in 1989 under the promisingly sinister title of Nosferatu. Unfortunately, whatever momentum they'd recovered with the record's predecessor failed to materialize again this time around, never mind reach new heights, despite the solid thrashing and always difference-making guitar solos (courtesy of the Larry Barragan and Andre Corbin tandem) proffered by Nosferatu's opening battle ram "Baptized in Blood." This song set the stage for what is unquestionably Helstar's thrashiest and overall most aggressive album, which certainly made sense in light of that style's worldwide late-‘80s domination, but wound up yielding only numerous forgettable moshers on side two ("Harsh Reality," "Swirling Madness"), and obviously sacrificed some of the band's distinguishing classic metal pedigree and songwriting versatility. Nevertheless, some of those traits still factored in the dramatic mid-section of instrumental "Perseverance and Desperation," as well as the masterfully orchestrated piano-and-synth interlude "Von Am Lebem Desto Strum," whether they felt like album-rounding afterthoughts or not. Furthermore, the semi-conceptual links connecting tracks like "To Sleep, Per Chance to Scream," "Harker's Tale (Mass of Death)," "The Curse Has Passed Away" to a — you guessed it — vampire tale (sound bytes from the 1922 film Nosferatu itself even introduce these tracks), certainly helped keep things interesting in the lyrics department, and challenged King Diamond's superbly evocative early albums in the process. They did not, however, threaten the Billboard charts in any way (not even close), and when they were inevitably released from their Metal Blade contract shortly thereafter, all Helstar could to was retreat back to Texas, never to make another comeback.


Formed: Houston, TX

Genre: Metal

Years Active: '80s, '00s, '10s

Helstar was one of America's better kept heavy metal secrets throughout the 1980s, composing a string of consummate LPs that earned the band many critical accolades, but failed to sell in large quantities. Most likely, the band's constant dealings with unreliable independent labels, combined with incessant personnel turnover, were the chief deterrents. Formed in Houston, Texas, in 1982 by vocalist James Rivera and guitarist Larry Barragan (the only guaranteed mainstays over the years), Helstar was...
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Nosferatu, Helstar
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