Album Reviews

Helstar – This Wicked Nest Review

helstar_cover

Released By: AFM Records

Release Date: April 29, 2014

Genre: Thrash Metal

Links: http://www.helstarmetal.com/

 

Line Up:

James Rivera – Vocals

Larry Barragan – Guitars

Rob Trevino – Guitars

Michael Lewis – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Fall of Dominion

2. Eternal Black

3. This Wicked Nest

4. Souls Cry

5. Isla de las Muñecas

6. Cursed

7. It Has Risen

8. Defy the Swarm

9. Magormissabib

 

American band Helstar is one of those long running bands I had been meaning to check out for a while but never did until now. They’ve been around for over 30 years, and are widely regarded as one of the elite US power metal bands. They went on an 11 year hiatus after their 1995 release Multiples of Black, but their classic lineup returned in 2006, and in 2008 they released their first full length in 13 years, called The King Of Hell. After that album was a huge success, the band decided to try out a thrash style on their 2010 release Glory of Chaos, and now with their 8th full length release This Wicked Nest, they look to continue in that direction while bringing back some of their 80’s sound.

I’ll be honest, this is one of those albums where I can see that the band has a lot of talent, but the actual music doesn’t excite me as much as I would like. Stylistically this is mostly mid-tempo thrash with occasional bursts of speed, and some little sprinklings of power metal melodies, particularly on the chorus of the opening track. I’ll admit “Fall Of Dominion” is an amazing song, highlighted by an effective intro, fun aggressive, speedy verses and that very melodic chorus. Everything about the song is great, from the impressive musicianship through to some very strong vocals, and on first listen it set my expectations high, but unfortunately the rest of the album never quite reaches that same level of quality.

One thing’s for sure, though: The performances are very strong across the board, with each musician sounding very technically proficient with his instrument, while vocalist James Rivera is certainly an amazing singer, who can fluidly mix together thrash style screams, clean power metal style vocals, and even some high pitched shrieks at times. He excels on that particular chorus, but he’s also just as impressive doing the more aggressive vocals, and he mixes things up very effectively throughout the album.

I’d say this album has two flaws which hold it back from being great. Firstly, it almost seems that the musicians are so focused on being overly technical that nothing else really comes through. Compared to other thrash albums I’ve heard, the riffs here seem to lack a bit of force and power, which is an obvious problem because thrash is supposed to cause an instant reaction from the listener, but aside from the title track most of this album just doesn’t do much of anything for me. It’s like everything is played at an extremely high level, and there’s certainly a lot to be impressed by on a technical level, but for some reason there’s just not much feeling in the music most of the time. My other issue with this album is the rather lackluster songwriting, which when combined with the lack of feeling results in album album that often leaves me in a cold, emotionally void state of mind. I think at times they try so hard to be overly technical that a lot of it just falls flat and fails to resonate. The biggest example of both these problems is the instrumental track “Isla De Las Munecas”, where some of the guitar parts sound impressive, but nothing really gets me excited, and as a composition it just doesn’t hold together at all. All the other songs are fairly enjoyable, but many of them blend together and lack that little spark to make them standout, with “Souls Cry” and the closing track “Magormissabib” seeming especially uninspired.

I’ve been rather hard on this album, but it does have some positive moments. Obviously, there’s “Fall Of Dominion” which is awesome, but a couple other songs are worth mentioning as well. “Cursed” deserves recognition for being the most unique track on the album, as it’s a slow paced and somewhat doomy track with a nice atmosphere to it. As always, James sounds amazing, and the chorus is pretty awesome. While I find the heavier tracks to mostly be a bit too samey, the simplicity and pure intensity of “Defy The Swarm” make it an easy favorite.

On the whole This Wicked Nest is a bit of a frustrating album, in that it’s clear every band member is exceptionally talented, and yet for some reason the music often falls a bit flat. With that being said, there are moments where everything clicks together to result in some very fun thrash, with slight power metal elements, and I suspect long time fans will find a lot more to enjoy. However, based on my listening experience, I wouldn’t recommend this as a starting point for anyone unfamiliar with the band.

 

Written by Travis

Ratings    Travis    6/10

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