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Helstar - "Glory of Chaos" (CD)

Helstar - "Glory of Chaos" CD cover image

"Glory of Chaos" track listing:

1. Angels Fall To Hell (5:01)
2. Pandemonium (4:24)
3. Monarch Of Bloodshed (5:15)
4. Bone Crusher (5:04)
5. Summer Of Hate (5:49)
6. Dethtrap (3:54)
7. Anger (3:53)
8. Trinity Of Heresy (4:39)
9. Alma Negra (5:41)
10. Zero One (0:56)

Reviewed by on February 28, 2011

"Add all those things up and there are zero surprises and no points of interest – 'Glory of Chaos' is more straightforward that a drunk fratboy and flatter than the girl he’s hitting on..."

Helstar is another reformed thrash band from yesteryear. Broken up for long stretches over the 15 years from the early-1990s through the mid-2000s, the band reformed to take another stab at glory just a few years ago. In 2008 Helstar’s reformed-debut “The King of Hell” didn’t make any waves, much like the group’s earlier LPs, and in early 2010 the double reissue “Rising From the Grave” was a rehash of old wrongs. Various write-ups around the Internet speculate that label, promotional, and lineup problems were the obstacles that prevented Helstar from making a bigger impact, but your humble reviewer suspects something much more sinister – underwhelming music. Can these venerable thrashers come together for one (finally) triumphant release or will they succumb to the old tropes that held them back in the first place?

It’s the latter. There is little on “Glory of Chaos” that distinguishes it from older material, principally “A Distant Thunder” and “Nosferatu.” That’s bad. The two earlier albums were mostly undermanned Maiden and Priest rip-offs that were “thrashed-up” a bit. Well, more of that is strewn about “Glory of Chaos” like prophylactics the morning after a key party. Limp, gross, and still a little damp.

Most Helstar fans like vocalist James Rivera. He does have some powerful pipes, but you’d better like late-career Rob Halford. With a robust mid-range growl and a soaring falsetto, and not much in between, Rivera sing-talks his way through, abruptly highlighting the bigger parts with the falsetto while not giving much consideration to pacing. Band veteran Jerry Abarca does handle his bass well, and consistently provides the interesting bits on “Glory of Chaos,” when you can pick it out in the treble-heavy production. Check “Pandemonium” and “Bone Crusher” for a couple good examples of his work.

Guitarists Larry Barragan (the veteran) and Rob Trevino (the newcomer) recycle mashups of Priest, solo Halford, and Death Angel riffs, but even combined they aren’t nearly as good or creative as any of the following: Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, Patrick Lachman, Mike Chlasciak or Rob Cavestany. Riffs don’t go anywhere and the solos aren’t particularly exciting, just closely arranged notes. And drummer Mikey Lewis needs two things – production that doesn’t suck and some sophisticated rhythms; as it stands he’s got some 4-2-1 counted whacks on his cymbal-snare-kick on every song.

Add all those things up and there are zero surprises and no points of interest – “Glory of Chaos” is more straightforward that a drunk fratboy and flatter than the girl he’s hitting on; nothing made me stop what I was doing and say “Hrrrmmm,” much less bang my head or throw some horns. So while “Glory of Chaos” isn’t the worst thing in the world - it is competently played and all the boxes are checked for classic-thrash style metal - I think we know why this band never got as big as they “should have.”

Highs: Helstar veteran Jerry Abarca handles his bass deftly, adding what few points of interest there are.

Lows: The guitars just clank - they don’t go anywhere and provide no excitement.

Bottom line: Reformed thrash band shows why it never got that popular.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)