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Helstar – A Distant Thunder


Last Updated on 08:49 PM by Giorgos Tsekas

written by Penelope Tritou & Gio Tsekas

Whichever Helstar’s first 4 albums you would have pick to write a couple of words or an article about, you would turn your text into a love letter of a fan boy as all 4 LPs are jump close enough to be characterized as a “classic masterpiece”. Definitely their first two may were a fair enough unrefined in some parts and a bit confused (but of course not a mixed bag or something). But its raw nature gave them extra kudos for its aggression that surpassed the poor production as the band’s future standards, were also there in the remarkable vocal lines, the excellent guitar ideas (and a bunch of brilliant solos) and the well-crafted compositions. But it was “A Distant Thunder”; a more guitar-driven and thrashier release that showed that the only way that Helstar would follow was going up, as they were incredibly improve, in less than two years,  in terms of song-writing and performance despite the many lineup changes.

“A Distant Thunder” is the 3rd full-length studio album by US (Houston, Texas) power/heavy metal band. The album was released via Metal Blade Records (the debut for this label) in November 29th, 1988. Prior to the release of “Remnants of War” (Noise Records/Combat Records, 16 August 1986) which sound was a gradual progression from the traditional heavy metal style of the band’s debut album, “Burning Star” (Combat Records, 6 March 1984) towards the power-thrash sound that the band forged throughout the ‘80s, almost the entire lineup was changed, and again on “A Distant Thunder”, there have been a couple of lineup changes as guitarist Rob Trevino has been replaced by André Corbin, and drummer Rene Luna has been replaced by Frank Ferreira.

The album features 8 original songs and as a closer a cover on Scorpions’ “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man”, which isn’t bad at all still it doesn’t add much to an already excellent album regardless of the thrash version of a classic 70’s anthem and the gang vocals. I can’t a find a weak moment, and certainly no filler here! From the very first second that you place the ‘Needle to the Groove’ and let the vinyl spin you hear a Power/Heavy attack! The powerful rolling drumming is into a marching tempo, an almost forging stride that reveal very well what is to come. Nevertheless James Rivera’s vocal performance is once again impressive in its range (as his vocals are soaring and increasing rapidly above the usual level), and fits like a glove to the magnificent Andre Corbin and Larry Barragan technical skills’ demonstration of a barrage of riffs and soloing. The bass lines sometimes bring in mind Steve Harris finger tapping crescendo while the quintet works perfect as a team, as it seems like a well-oiled war machine, or as each member is a finger (of a metallic hand) that together are like an iron fist ready to smash your head (probably the middle finger right in your face is Rivera and his high pitched marvelous vocals…).

Great hymns like the strong opener “The King Is Dead”, the riffmeister ”Bitter End”, my personal favorite ”Abandon Ship” that is the longest song on the album, along with ”Tyrannicide” and ”Scorcher” (what a song really with such a beautiful acoustic intro) stand proud next to ”Genius of Insanity”, the epic instrumental  ”(The) Whore of Babylon” and the highlight just before the end ”Winds of War” blend speed, US power, thrash, into an amalgam of perfection, an LP that is placed to the pantheon of US Power/Thrash Metal releases of all time.

Giorgos Tsekas
Giorgos Tsekas
"Κάποτε Όταν Θα ‘χουμε Καιρό... Θα Σκεφτούμε Πάνω Στις Ιδέες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Στοχαστών, Θα Θαυμάσουμε Τους Πίνακες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Ζωγράφων, Θα Γελάσουμε Με Όλους Τους Χωρατατζήδες, Θα Φλερτάρουμε Όλες Τις Γυναίκες, Θα Διδάξουμε Όλους Τους Ανθρώπους" Μπ. Μπρεχτ

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