Helstar

Distant Thunder

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Lone Star State metal-heads Helstar attempted to put the troubles that had almost derailed their career behind them by relocating from Houston to Los Angeles in 1987 and promptly signing a contract with Metal Blade Records for the release of their third album, A Distant Thunder, the following year. And although fans will never agree on which of the band's albums they like best, that very indecision serves as a testament to Helstar's general high standards, which most certainly carried over into this latest collection of songs. For one thing, the group's initial speed metal hallmarks had been properly updated to incorporate thrash metal's somewhat more serrated guitar sound -- see opening powerhouse "The King Is Dead," "Bitter End," "Scorcher," etc. -- and with the similarly frantic but more melodic style named power metal simultaneously rising to prominence in Europe, frontman James Rivera's potent histrionics actually felt relatively modern, rather than dating the band to the early ‘80s. Then again, listeners keen to indulge in some serious epic metal from that older time frame could do a lot worse than pumping their fists in unison to the Iron Maiden homage "Abandon Ship" or bowing down to the unequivocal majesty of "Winds of War" (laced with soft/hard altercations, synthesizers, piano parts, thunderous sound effects, you name it!). Finally, since even the less fluid and distinctive offerings ("Tyrannicide," "Genius of Insanity") were generally rescued by the ever-tasteful shredding of guitarists Larry Barragan and Andre Corbin, it's no wonder that A Distant Thunder helped Helstar reestablish their reputation for delivering classic American metal at its most accomplished and criminally overlooked.

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