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Helstar And Omen Bring Classic Metal To Austin

The masters of high-pitch heavy metal, Helstar made a rare appearance in Austin, Texas. I last saw the Houston band play about eight years ago. This time they came through with another veteran act, Omen. There is about seventy years of experience between the two bands. Neither of the acts have garnered the popularity of similar bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, but their fans have remained steadfast. Old fans and new fans alike were on hand to witness both bands showcase new material, while dishing out the classics.

Grizzly Hall played host to the event. The venue is new in name and décor. Formally it was known as Midway Field House. I covered the second installment of Housecore Horror Film’s day shows ( read about day 2 ), which weren’t actually in the club, rather outside in the parking lot. Grizzly Hall bears a telling name. The club’s veneer recalls a wooded cabin. Taxidermy animals line the walls including a grizzly bear. The club also has various levels for viewing the stage, TV screens up stairs showing the bands and a patio outside to smoke cigarettes.

Four local artists kicked off the show. Metalriser consisted of a bunch of youngsters thrashing their brains out. Their set was quite impressive. Force of Rage fit the style of the headliners best. They toed the line between thrash and hard rock that, at times, recalled Overkill. Their singer didn’t hit the high pitches of Omen or Helstar, but still pushed to his voice to impressive highs. A Come And Take It Production-promoted show is not complete without one band with concrete grooves. That band was Death of a Dream. I wondered if their style would be out of place among the traditional metal bands headlining the show, but I could look around and see heads bobbing, so the crowd certainly didn’t seem to mind. Apparently, the last local to the take the stage, Black Thorne Halo, plays a similar style, but I didn’t catch their set so I can’t say.

As seldom as Helstar plays, Omen seems even less used to the limelight. Many fans I talked to before the show said they are a bucket list band. After thirty years playing shows, the Los Angeles-based band still has it, especially singer Kevin Goocher. Goocher has been the band’s vocalist since 1998 and still has a powerful voice. The band ripped through classic material like “Death Rider, “Dragon’s Breath” and “Ruby Eyes” but also showcased some new material from their latest opus “Hammer Damage.” The title track (embedded below) was special to their set as they’ve only played it one other time live. The final song of their set got the best response, the title track from their “Battle Cry” album, one that many cite as their favorite Omen song.

Helstar’s performance was on par with Omen. After thirty-five years, this band has not shown any signs of wear. Their set was filled with energy and frontman, James Rivera, still hits the highs with the best of them. His tones are really what makes him such a great singer. While he has a distinct voice, the band’s occult-themes and his range remind of King Diamond.

The band came to town as part of the “Texas Vampyric Summer Tour 2016.” Much of their set was devoted to tales of vampires. James Rivera was decked out Dracula style in a cape, gauntlets and fangs. Their latest recording “Vampiro” is like part 2 of their 1989 classic “Nosferatu” in that each song is about vampires. Horror film clips introduced “Nosferatu” material like “Baptized in Blood,” “To Sleep, Per Chance to Scream” and “Harker’s Tale (Mass Death).” They performed newer sanguinary delights like “Blood Lust," a tale of Elizabeth Bathory, "To Their Deathbeds They Fell" (embedded below), and “Black Cathedral,” a song they used as a single which really brings to mind the “Nosferatu” album.

Helstar’s set wasn’t devoted entirely to vamperic yarns. The group also played songs from their past catalogue like “Evil Reign” from their “Remnants of War” album and “Fall of Dominion,” a political song from their 2014 album “This Wicked Nest.” Theatrics and vampire tales aside, for me, and for many in attendance, their finest moment came last when they played “Run With The Pack,” from their debut “Burning Star.” Rivera held out the microphone to the crowd to sing the memorable chorus line.

The night offered a diverse array of bands. Helstar and Omen showed their veteran status while still playing with the gusto of young bands. It’s not often that a tour of classic metal bands come to town, especially underground artists like Helstar and Omen, so this show was a real treat.

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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