The Bottom Line
- Excellent value for the money.
- 'Nosferatu' is a minor classic.
- Underrated, neoclassical power/thrash from the '80s.
- A bit weird to reissue the third and fourth albums without the first two.
- The live album is a bit unnecessary.
- Released July 6, 2010 on Metal Blade Records.
- Contains Helstar’s Nosferatu and A Distant Thunder LPs.
- Originally produced by the legendary Bill Metoyer.
Guide Review - Helstar - 'Rising From The Grave'
Compiling Helstar’s Nosferatu and Distant Thunder LPs (from ’89 and ’88, respectively) is a great idea from Metal Blade, as these efforts pretty much display the career apex from this relatively unknown power/speed metal outfit. Though the band came out of the starting gate with the decent Burning Star and Remnants of War full lengths in the early '80s, it wasn’t until this middle period where Helstar truly found their creative feet, anchored by the soaring voice of frontman James Rivera.
Though Rivera’s sky-high screams and solid mid-range is anything unique per se (a rather typical style for the day), the singer’s conviction and charisma placed Helstar as a cut above their contemporaries, and placed Rivera alongside such solid, second tier '80s metal vocalists as Sanctuary’s Warrel Dane and Metal Church’s Mike Howe in terms of power and ability.
Musically, much of Nosferatu and A Distant Thunder follows a semi-neoclassical song base in terms of riffing and lead playing, although it’s Nosferatu which emerges as the clear winner here—the best album Helstar ever did, and a testament to how underrated the band’s songwriting was overall. Standout tracks such as “Baptized in Blood” and “To Sleep, Per Chance to Scream” display marked progression and enthusiasm for the group, and lend the listener more than their fair share of headbangable moments and devil horn approval.
In addition, Rising From the Grave includes the Twas a Hellish X-Mas live album as a bonus, displaying the band up front and aggressive for a rabid '80s audience. This package as a whole is a nice testament on Metal Blade’s part for their vault and legendary heritage, and both band and label deserve kudos here in 2010 for releasing this for a new audience to enjoy.