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Review: Helstar - Vampiro

Label: Ellefson Music Productions
Year released: 2016
Duration: 57:26
Tracks: 11
Genre: Power/Thrash

Rating: 4.75/5

Review online: September 5, 2016
Reviewed by: Bruno Medeiros
Readers Rating

Rated 4.68/5 (93.53%) (34 Votes)

James Rivera, Larry Barragan and company are back with Helstar's 10th full-length (I'm counting Sins of the Past) album, Vampiro.

The album mixes the good old days of the 80s – especially the Nosferatu era – with the aggressiveness and modernity seen in their last entries, resulting in an obscure, gloomy and transcendent atmosphere with some progressive bits that resonates through the entire experience. There is a little bit of everything here, from the memories of Pentagram and Candlemass on "Awaken Unto Darkness" to full-on Thrash Metal on "Off With His Head", a song so visceral and organic that it would make Hetfield and friends shit in their diapers. The conceptual tendency followed throughout the course of the album flirts with perfection, at least music-wise. The twin-guitars by Barragan and newcomer Andrew Atwood add plenty of power and the two complete each other in riffs and solos, while the bass work by Garrick Smith and the raging drumming by Michael Lewis vastly improve the already rich experience.

"Awaken Unto Darkness" is decadent and depressive in its first three minutes, then bursts into the ghoulish awakening with powerful and raging virtuosity. "Blood Lust" materializes the vampire's thirst for blood with contagious riffs and bloodcurdling atmosphere. "To Dust You Will Decay" is Helstar's promise to the creatures of the night and the perplexed listeners, with galloping riffs and a phenomenal performance by Rivera. "Off With His Head", as I mentioned above, is one of the most vicious tracks of the album and shows the angriness and disposition to chop the vampire's head off. "From the Pulpit to the Pit" and "To Their Death Beds They Fell" follow the demonic and blasphemous aura, while "Malediction" is a lesson in virtuosity and shredding. "Repent in Fire", "Abolish the Sun" and "Black Cathedral" are all unique in their own way and further contribute to the bestial story, and "Dreamless Sleep" announces the soliloquy of a soul condemned to hell, translated beautifully by a ballad played with the cello and violin; a worthy ending to a story with beginning, middle and end.

This is the most gratifying album I've heard this year, and it definitely will stand tall in my best of 2016 list. Vampiro is a gift from Helstar to us in the form of haunting and vigorous music. Highly recommended.

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Interview with vocalist James Rivera on November 20, 2016 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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