Immortal Machinery – An Imperfect Storm

Immortal Machinery - an imperfect storm.jpg

Immortal Machinery – An Imperfect Storm                                                 Metal Revelation

Release Date: 07/04/2017                                                                     Running Time: 47.07

Album Review by Dawn “The Metal Priestess” King



I have been giddy with anticipation waiting to write this review and letting you all know just what I think of this album so I think I will write it a bit back to front and say right from the off THIS ALBUM IS FANASTIC!!

I have posted a couple of hints (bloody big ones though, I admit) concerning my feelings of this album onto Facebook recently but now is the time to tell you the absolute truth. And the absolute truth is that this album ticked almost every single box and then some. There is (almost) nothing to fault it for (but I’ll get to that in a bit) and having to write this review means I am sad as I now have to take the album from my car (ready for the next review)

But let’s turn back time a bit to when it all started. The guys met in 2011 and jammed together for a few years before officially forming a band in the winter of 2013. They were “fuelled with a desire to make dark, melodic and uncompromising music” and with singer/guitarist Steph K’s influences listed as bands such as Danzig, Type O Negative and The Misfits, together with bassist Matt G’s jazz sensibilities and drummer Tom S’s hard hitting grooves they soon found themselves making their own brand of metal, dark and melodic with gothic influences.

In February 2015, the band released their first album “At the End of Time” which featured not only a musical guest appearance from Glen Dover, former guitarist with Megadeth and King Diamond, but also his assistance with the production of the album. Drummer Tom S is also replaced by Peter S, completely the line-up they have today.

So, let’s talk about the new album “An Imperfect Storm” which is due to be released on 07/04/2017 through Metal Revelation. As I have previously stated, on a couple of occasions, it is fantastic but let me tell you WHY I think it’s fantastic.

I like metal to be original, to have something that sets it apart from all the other bands churning out the same old stuff. And this album has that little spark that makes you sit up and take notice. Musically, there is nothing to fault. The guitars work well with the percussion section of the band with some superb solos and intricate guitar work. The drumming is tight and on beat and with the addition of stringed instruments (other than the guitar variety), supplied by the very talented Steph K who is not only the bands vocalist but guitarist too, it’s hard to believe this band has just three members. Certain parts of certain songs actually sound like the guys are backed by a whole string orchestra and this results in an incredible sound that creates a dark, gloomy, even sad atmosphere that really does give you goose bumps.

But it’s not the intricacies of the musical instruments and how well they work together that give this band the edge, oh no! Its Steph’s vocals!

I always think that a band can sometimes replace a guitarist or a drummer but they can’t always replace a singer, and this would be very difficult for this band as Steph has a VERY unique voice. Emotional and powerful, yet dark and melancholic, it’s the vocals that give this band their gothic sound. Reminding me a little bit of Tony Kakko from Sonata Artica and Kristofer Dommin, from the American band Dommin, Steph really does make the album his own, and that is by no means taking anything away from his fellow band members.

The whole album is powerful and emotional, dark and melancholic yet still managing to be a heavy metal album. The middle section of tracks 2 (“I’m Not Sorry” – which features Tank from Chasing Dragons) to 6 (“Apocalypse Forever”) is my favourite part of the album but being only 9 tracks long anyway the rest is not far behind and it finishes with the beautiful “Barbituate Blues”, the perfect ending for a not so imperfect album.

I previously stated that there was (almost) nothing to fault the album for but as I have given it 9 and not 10 there are just a few bits to point out.

Steph’s vocals go slightly a bit out of tune towards the end of “Apocalypse Forever” but he can be forgiven for this as his voice is as near perfect for the rest of the album as could possibly be. Track 8 “Call me Cain” features vocals from Kieran McGourty (ex-Sufference) and for the only time on the album there are dirty vocals. This kind of took away a bit of the magic of the album for me as I am not a lover of growls and screams but the previously mentioned beautiful track “Barbituate Blues” soon restored that.

And the only other criticism I can find is that the recording level might have been set a little too high. I found the louder I played the album (and there is no point in playing this quietly) the more distorted it became. This could, of course, just have been the stereo I was playing it on but this album is far too beautiful and far too harmonious to listen to distorted.

All in all, I loved this album, which I think you have worked out by now. It might not appeal to everyone, the individuality and uniqueness turning some people off but if you are willing to give something different a go, then buy this album when it is released in April. I was luckily enough to hear it before its release date and I will continue to listen to it way past the official launch.


  •  1 I’m Not Sorry *
  •  2 Die With Me – a Soldier’s Song
  •  3 Tongues of Fire
  •  4 Nail Me Upside Down
  •  5 I Did it for You
  •  6 Apocalypse Forever
  •  7 Greater Love
  •  8 Call me Cain (He Never Died) **
  •  9 Barbiturate Blues
  • * feat. Tank (Chasing Dragons)
  • ** feat. Kieran McGourty (ex-Sufferance





Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dawn ‘The Metal Priestess’ King and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

High Spirits – Motivator

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High Spirits – Motivator (2016)                                                      Running Time 29:10

Release Date 16-09-2016                                                               High Roller Records

Album Review by Rick Tilley


Just take a look at the logo and artwork of High Spirits third album ‘Motivator’! Does it give you very nostalgic memories of late 70’s and early 80’s Metal and Rock releases? Well it certainly does to me and as Chicago based High Spirits are a new name on my radar it gave me hope that the music contained on the album instilled the same feeling! I’m very pleased to be able to tell you that it does indeed. ‘Motivator’ is a great, up-tempo, uplifting and feel good selection of tunes that skirt the NWOBHM / Hard Rock sound of that era. It may not be the most essential album you’ll hear but if you want a trip down memory lane, whilst listening to a band that manage to make the style feel fresh and fun then you won’t go wrong getting hold of ‘Motivator’!

High Spirits, formed in 2009, is the brainchild and solo project (at least in the studio) of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Chris Black. Chris has been involved in many projects over the years, most notably Pharaoh and Dawnbringer. Yes, everything on this album is done by one man but you certainly wouldn’t believe it from listening, it really does sound like five or six people playing. Of course whilst gigging, which High Spirits seem to do quite a bit of, Chris is joined by other musicians hence the promo picture below! Considering everything Chris does it’s difficult to know where he finds the time but this appears to be a man that can combine quantity with quality.

Musically ‘Motivator’ is a little gem and, at just shy of thirty minutes, is an album that leaves you wanting more. In an era where some bands are releasing EP’s longer than this and albums that barely fit on a CD, it’s tremendously refreshing to have a short and sharp selection of tracks that do exactly what they say on the tin! There are plenty of references to Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Nightwing and Foghat throughout. In fact, if you are old enough to remember the two ‘Metal For Muthas’ albums that DJ Neal Kaye compiled in the early 1980’s comprising of up and coming or underground bands then you’ll love High Spirits because they really do have that authentic feel to them!

Chris may not have the best voice you’ve ever heard but he is more than adequate, in fact it’s quite frustrating, in a nice way, to realise how good he is at every instrument. Some people are so damn talented! Production is also pretty good. Once again it gives the listener an authentic experience but still manages to sound up to date as well. Tracks such as opener ‘Flying High’, ‘Do You Wanna Be Famous’, ‘This Is The Night’ and ‘Thank You’ put a huge, cheesy grin on my face for all the right reasons and I nearly attempted to get back in my skinny jeans until I came to my 49 year old senses and avoided a hernia!

If you are fan of any of the above named bands or just fancy listening to an album that’s pure, unadulterated fun and obviously made with a lot of respect then ‘Motivator’ could be right up your street. I’m certainly going to check out High Spirits back catalogue


  • 1. Up And Overture
  • 2. Flying High
  • 3. This Is The Night
  • 4. Reach For The Glory
  • 5. Do You Wanna Be Face
  • 6. Haunted By love
  • 7. Down The Endless Road
  • 8. Take Me Home
  • 9. Thank You


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Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Richard Tilley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Reproduced here with kind permission from Metal Gods TV

Afterlife Symphony – Moment Between Lives

33b Moment Between Lives Cover

Afterlife Symphony – Moment Between Lives (2016)                                 Running Time 57:29

Release Date 09-09-2016                                                                                   Revalve Records

Album Review by Rick Tilley

4 ½ /10

In more recent years there appears to have been a plethora of Metal and Rock bands emerging from Italy and, to my ears, a good majority of them in the Symphonic, Neo-Classical and Progressive genres are extremely good. Worldwide there has also been an explosion in female fronted bands and that can also only be a good thing, so when ’Moment Between Lives’ by Afterlife Symphony (a female fronted, Symphonic Metal band from Italy) appeared on the MGTV review list I said “yes, I’ll take that one”

I’ve now listened to the album about eight times, mainly in the hope that something will click and it will jump out at me, alas, I have to report that ‘Moment Between Lives’ is a mediocre album and Afterlife Symphony a band that are going to have to work at originality to stand out from the crowd.

At nearly sixty minutes in length ‘Moment Between Lives’ is made up of eleven tracks and on my first run through the album several of those did appear to contain pretty solid riffs (Courtesy of Eddy Talpo), some good orchestral sections and more than competent drumming from Antonio Gobbato, but rather than become more familiar each time they were listened to, they actually melded back into the rest of the album and the whole thing became one long, mid-paced and morose piece of music. What makes things more confusing is that this is supposed to be a concept album and the following quoted passage is taken from the record company’s website explaining the story!

“Moment Between Lives” is a concept album, a mystical journey between the esoteric and the vivid reality, between choices, dreams, loves, fears, anger and introspection. The circularity of the events, the continue question, the hunger for knowledge, these are the elements that form this album. Song after song, you advance, falling more and more in the comfort of the traveller.

” … Choose your life with care … ”

Of course there are going to be some translation issues, but can anybody out there explain to me what is actually being said here? This is, at best, vague and unfortunately matches the music in its direction. Vocalist Anna Giusto has an ‘okay’ voice, it’s mostly in tune, but it lacks feeling and emotion and because most of the tracks are played in the same key and at the same speed it’s all a bit bland. On a couple of occasions she does come across sounding a bit Amy Lee but just when I think she is going to grab the music and take it up a level she falls short. Stefano Tiso plays good keyboards and piano and it’s his orchestral passages that make the best of the music available. In fact if it weren’t for those passages I’d be hard pressed to call this Symphonic Metal, It’s more standard metal with those pieces tagged on and as for bassist Nicolas Menarbin, he really doesn’t have much to do at all.

Only final song ‘Genesis Of Eternity’ shows any signs of really coming alive but it’s still not enough to get me more than mildly interested. If you think I sound mean saying all this then it’s because I’m frustrated. There is no doubt the five musicians here have talent but they are going to have to be much more convincing if there is to be another album. With so much excellent competition around these days, particularly in the Symphonic genre, then words such as mediocre, bland, samey and average really don’t cut it. I was expecting a lot more from Afterlife Symphony!


  • 1. Half-Moon Light
  • 2. The Abyss
  • 3. Under The Sleeping Tree
  • 4. My Existence To You
  • 5. Broken Breath
  • 6. Dreamer’s Paradox
  • 7. Seventh
  • 8. Last Hope
  • 9. Novembre (Part I)
  • 10. Novembre (Part II)
  • 11. Genesis Of Eternity


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Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Richard Tilley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Reproduced here with kind permission  from  Metal Gods TV

Elmo Karjalainen – Age of Heroes

Age Of Heroes Cover

Elmo Karjalainen – Age Of Heroes                                                          Running Time 71:03

Release 03/02/2017                                                                               Independent Release

Album Review by Rick Tilley


Back in the far flung days of my youth I was a huge fan of instrumental albums, particularly those in the guitar shred genre. My love of these was kick-started by the playing of Mr Yngwie Malmsteen, who I thought was amazing. Now I know this will probably alienate many of his fans, Elmo Karjalainen included, but after seeing him live I was less impressed because that’s where I discovered that everything Malmsteen played was improvised, so the wonderful solos and passages he created on his albums were never recreated on stage! This led me to discover other guitarists that planned things out so that, in a live setting, songs sounded similar to their album counterparts. Joe Satriani, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman and, my absolute favourite, Tony MacAlpine blew me away with their technical ability and I spent many happy hours listening to their albums along with many others.

Over the years, whilst still buying the odd Satriani or MacAlpine release, my musical interest moved elsewhere and I haven’t heard an instrumental guitar album, or guitarist of this ilk, that’s really floored me for many years. That changed late last year when I started talking to Finnish guitarist Elmo Karjalainen. I had downloaded his ‘Free Guitar Album’ (Available on Bandcamp), which is superb, and he said that he would send me a copy of his new album ‘Age Of Heroes’ when it was finished and that it included some special guests that I would find very interesting! Elmo duly sent me a fabulous package through the post, which I thank him for most wholeheartedly, and it has been a mainstay on my stereo for about four weeks now. Quite simply, ‘Age Of Heroes’ has completely re-ignited my passion for this type of music. This man is absolutely stunning on the guitar and even though it says in the Press Release and info sent that he does improvise sometimes and that there are a fair few mistakes on show, the songs are so beautifully written that I really cannot see that as a problem and can he please point out the mistakes because, to my ear, absolutely nothing sounds fluffed on this CD.

Elmo doesn’t shred aimlessly like many guitarists, there is such a variety of musical styles evident here and all are played with huge passion as well as magnificent skill that I really cannot fault it. ‘Warm Welcome’ is a beautifully quiet and calm way to start, in fact very Pink Floyd and a perfect counterpoint to the following song. ‘How Can Less Be More’ is that song and the title is a homage to the aforementioned Malmsteen, who is one of Elmo’s favourite guitarists. He throws the kitchen sink at this song and in several places sounds very like the big man, but in my honest opinion better, because there are all sorts of other influences here as well, especially Steve Vai!

Up next is ‘The Colour Of Greed’ and this song includes one of the special guests, none other than Keyboard Maestro Derek Sherinian (Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Dream Theater, Black Country Communion and many more). This is a stunning track and the keyboard/guitar battle is phenomenal. One of my favourite songs on this album is ‘Chikken Noodul’ which is next and this calms everything down again in a very eerie way. It sounds to me like it would be perfect in a 1940’s Philip Marlowe film. I don’t know why that is but I picture it every time I hear the song.

Next is ‘A Fertile Discussion’ and includes the wonderful Mattias IA Ecklundh (Freak Kitchen) on guitar. Their styles complement one another perfectly, in fact so well that he also pops up again later in the album on ‘Falling For Falafels. ‘A Fertile discussion also ends on the melody from ‘The Simpsons’

I could go on at length about all the tracks here because Elmo has supplied me with so much information and the CD Booklet also contains track by track descriptions but I want you to discover this album for yourselves and be taken to any number of places that it might conjure up in your imagination. What I do need to tell you though is that Elmo is also an extremely funny and intelligent man and there are several spoken interludes peppered throughout the album that will definitely make you smile. That humour and good nature also seeps into some of his playing when he wants it to and it’s a joy!

In 2016 Elmo got into the top 8 in Yngwie Malmsteen’s Guitar Gods competition in Miami and the eventual winners Janne Nieminen and Emil Pohjalainen also appear on the song ’A Meeting Of The Gods (And This Guy)’. There must be something in the water in Finland because all of them are utterly incredible. Whilst I love technical ability, which everyone playing here has in spades, what I miss with some of these types of albums is emotion; however, Elmo Karjalainen has got lorry loads of the stuff. Just imagine Vai and MacAlpine playing with Jeff Beck and throw in a little bit of Monty Python and you’re there!

He has said the next album will be purely acoustic and I, for one, cannot wait to hear what is going to happen. In the meantime please go and check out one of the finest guitarists and instrumental albums I’ve heard in twenty years. Absolutely mind-blowing


  • 1. Warm Welcome
  • 2. How an Less Be More
  • 3. The Colour Of Greed
  • 4. Chikken Noodul
  • 5. A Fertile Discussion
  • 6. The Grassy Gnoll
  • 7. Blue Eyes
  • 8. Party Political Speech
  • 9. Age Of Heroes
  • 10. A Meeting Of The Gods (And This Guy)
  • 11. Sunset
  • 12. Return Of The Silly English Person
  • 13. Falling For Falafels
  • 14. Lost In A Foreign Scale
  • 15. Three Days Of Peace
  • 16. Limiting Rationality
  • 17. Breathe


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Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Richard Tilley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Nightmare – Dead Sun

Dead Sun Cover

Nightmare – Dead Sun                                                                                       AFM Records

Release Date: 20/01/2017                                                                      Running Time: 53.26

Album Review by Dawn “The Metal Priestess” King

9 OUT OF 10

As a reviewer I have to be open to all kinds of rock and metal music, but underneath my reviewer’s mask I am a normal person and just like any other normal person, I have my favourite genres. For any of you that know me, thrash is one such favourite genre but, and maybe not so obviously, so is power metal and when the band, Nightmare, came up on our roster for review, I knew I absolutely had to do it.

Having first heard them on the album “Cosmovision” I have since acquired the back catalogue and have not been disappointed with anything they have done.

That, however, does not mean that I went into this review with my eyes shut, blindly liking everything just because of what they have previously done. That is not what reviewing is about. And besides, there have been some huge line-up changes for this album that could have totally altered their whole sound from anything they have ever done.

But let’s start at the beginning… Formed in the French town of Grenoble in 1979, Nightmare  were pioneers in the French heavy metal scene and they released their debut album “Waiting for Twilight” in 1984, with their second, “Power of the Universe”, released in 1985.

And then they disappeared! For fourteen years!

They burst back onto the scene in 1999 with their album “Astral Deliverance” and followed up with a further 8 albums, along with a few line-up changes but in October 2015 they announced their biggest personnel change to date, the additions of powerhouse vocalist Maggie Luyten (Beautiful Sin, Beyond the Bridge, ex-Ayreon) and drummer Olivier Casla (Sandragon, ex-Thalidomide, The Seven Gates)

Arranged in France by producer Patrick Liotard, “Dead Sun” was produced and mixed at Sandlane Studios in the Netherlands by Joost van den Broek and recorded at Noise Factory Studio in Belgium with Gerald Jans behind the desk and is the band’s tenth release.

Having previously been heavily influenced by the NWOBHM sound, this could be classed as their heaviest release to date, leaning towards the heavier, more aggressive side of power metal and the addition of Luyten on vocals has only added to this transition.

Her voice is powerful and rocking, fitting this style of metal almost perfectly. She sings melodically, harmonising fantastically with the backing vocals, her sound strong and clean. But don’t let that fool you. This lady can deliver the grunts and growls along with the best of the female metal singers and I would place her up there with the likes of Veronica Freeman of Benedictum and Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy.

When I first started listening to this album I posted a Facebook status saying “Whoever said women have no place as the singer of a heavy metal band, after hearing the performance of Maggy Luyten on the new Nightmare album, I beg to differ! Outstanding!” Those are words I still stand by. This lady is awesome, amazing and a true talent.

The album opens with an atmospheric instrumental intro to the infectious “Infected” before the riffs are unleashed and the song is launched into a tirade of guitars and drums. This is a great opener and sets the very high precedent for the rest of the album….and it does not let you down. Track after track provide you with an aural onslaught that will have you banging your head the whole way through.

I’ve previously stated in my reviews that two aspects of heavy metal that I absolutely adore are double kicking drums and galloping riffs…..and this album had both!! You know those sort of riffs that you can feel in your belly before they hit your ears, the drumming sounds that launch you into full blown air guitar mode.

This is a band that are capable and eager to move on and grow after big line-up changes, and what bigger line-up change can you have than transitioning from a male to female vocalist? This is something that has been accomplished in the past by bands such as Arch Enemy and The Gathering, and it has been done just as well this time round. The band have re-invented themselves with their own unique sound and identity and there is more power and variation than ever before.

So, albeit with a little bit thrash, a little bit of doom and a children’s choir thrown in, this is a full on metal album from start to finish, and is still very much a power metal album, just roughed up a little!

This is a must for any Nightmare fan, new or old, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed with it. So grab yourself a copy, turn the volume up to eleven and spend just under 55 minutes rocking out to one of the best albums around!



  • 1. Infected
  • 2. Of Sleepless Mind
  • 3. Tangled in the Roots
  • 4. Red Marble & Gold
  • 5. Ikarus
  • 6. Indifference
  • 7. Dead Sun
  • 8. Seeds of Agony
  • 9. Inner Sanctum
  • 10. Serpentine
  • 11. Starry Skies Gone Black


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Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dawn “The Metal Priestess” King and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Cyclocosmia – Immured EP

Immured EP Cover

Cyclocosmia – ‘Immured’ EP                                                             Running Time 17:29

Release 27-01-2017                                                            Self-Released, Doomageddon

EP Review by Rick Tilley


Cyclocosmia are a London based, female-fronted Progressive/Doom/Symphonic/Death Metal project put together in 2011 by producer and musician James Scott who uses guests from around the world to perform on his very personal musical ideas. In April 2016 debut album ‘Deadwood’ was released with vocals from Venezuelan/Italian Lorena Franceschini. However, in August 2016 she departed and Aliki Katriou, a New Zealand/Greek vocalist and film director, who had already directed two of the band’s music videos, took over for the ‘Immured’ EP which was released in January.

I’ve given you that brief history lesson because I’ve read in the blurb sent with the EP that Aliki is a guest vocalist for this release only and I think that would be a terrible shame. I say that because, just occasionally, an album or EP arrives on my desk that really makes me sit up and take notice, Cyclocosmia have delivered the best 17 minutes of music I’ve heard so far this year and much of that is down to the brilliance of the vocals. This lady has 11 years of theatre and film experience as well as 7 years of operatic training and she has one of the most unique voices I’ve heard in years! She was already working as artistic director and vocal coach for Cyclocosmia before taking on lead vocal duties and to lose this talent after just one EP would be a disaster. Not only can she sing like an angel but her extreme growl is immense. She is ethereal, haunting and evil in equal measures and gives me serious Goosebumps every time she sings! Apparently James and Aliki also write and perform together in Alt-Metal band Eight Lives Down but, as of yet, I’ve not heard anything by them so it’s impossible for me to say if that would make up for her not continuing to sing in Cyclocosmia

Of course there is also the music and James Scott has delivered four songs and a concept that is stunning from start to finish. His story here is about the Vestal Virgins of Ancient Rome who were so holy that it was an offence to spill their blood. This meant that if one of them broke their vow of chastity they were buried alive! What a hideously wonderful story and one that works perfectly with the music presented here. James’ guitar work and production is also fantastic and he has said that you should listen to this as one continuous song! It’s easy to do that because each part blends effortlessly into the next!

Musically this is not complicated but it’s so beautiful and well thought out that I find it difficult not to lose myself completely in every single note. To combine the genres they have and to do it so well really sets Cyclocosmia apart from so many other bands. Why this isn’t on the mouths of every Metal website and print Magazine is beyond me. Even the band name and logo has had a huge amount of thought put into it. Everything reeks of professionalism, passion and talent and Cyclocosmia deserve everyone out there to hunt ‘Immured’ down and, at the very least, give it a listen. This really is an incredible EP and the only reason I’m not giving it top marks is it’s just too short. I need more of these two people working together on this project because they are a match made in heaven!


  • 1. Immured Part I
  • 2. Immured Part II
  • 3. Immured Part III
  • 4. Immured Part IV
  • 5. Immured Parts I-IV


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Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Richard Tilley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Helstar – Vampiro

32b Vampiro Cover

Helstar – Vampiro (2016)                                                                Running Time 56:26

Release Date 26-08-2016                                              Ellefson Music Production (EMP)

Album Review by Rick Tilley


Regardless of your taste in Metal or Rock and probably dependent on your age, there can’t be many people who haven’t at least heard of Helstar from Houston, Texas. Granted, they aren’t major league but they have been treading the boards since guitarist Larry Barragan formed the band in 1981 and have a very healthy fan base. I am one of those long-time fans and remember buying their debut album ‘Burning Star’ (1984) and, at that time, being a fairly recent convert to Metal was utterly blown away by it. Musically they were superb but what really set them apart was the incredibly unique and diverse voice of James Rivera. This man did, and does, sound like the illegitimate lovechild of King Diamond and Rob Halford but that comparison still doesn’t quite do his voice justice. Because of that his vocals divide opinion with many thinking he is awful, but many, like me, thinking WOW every time he sings. Either way you certainly cannot mistake him!

After 1989’s ‘Nosferatu’, which many think is their finest moment, Helstar struggled to find a deal due to the emergence of the Grunge movement and after one more studio album in 1995 went on hiatus only occasionally appearing for select gigs. In 2008 that hiatus abruptly came to a halt when they released the fabulous ‘The King Of Hell’ album. Since then they have release a further two very good albums, although, if it weren’t for the aforementioned vocals of Rivera, these could have been released by any number of above average US Thrash/Power Metal bands. All the power and skill was there, but the individual songwriting magic that made Helstar…well Helstar was slightly missing! It is missing no more though because Helstar’s latest and ninth album ‘Vampiro’ (which was released in August 2016) is the album that fans have been waiting for!

Whilst not a direct sequel to ‘Nosferatu’ Helstar have revisited the lyrical themes from that album and presented the story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with aplomb! This could be Helstar’s finest moment and the more I listen to it the more I believe that statement. This is a tour de force of American Power/Thrash Metal that has got me dripping in places I’m not prepared to talk about in public. Beginning with the stunning ‘Awaken Unto Darkness’ you are in no doubt as to how good this album is going to be with the first half of the song building menacingly in an almost doom like fashion before hitting the speed/thrash pedal for the remainder and it leaves you breathless. Rivera’s top range might have reduced slightly over the years but he has looked after his voice extremely well and not many vocalists, even younger ones, could pull off the vocal gymnastics he presents here!

‘Blood Lust’ is up next and solidifies the feeling that this is going to be a very special album indeed. Produced by the band themselves and mixed by Larry Barragan and Bill Metoyer ‘Vampiro’ sounds absolutely huge. Every member puts their heart and soul into this with drummer ‘Mikey Lewis’, apart from sounding like a battering ram on steroids, using the drums perfectly as a proper instrument rather than just a time keeping device with bassist Garrick Smith thundering alongside perfectly. As for the guitar work, well Larry is still firing on all cylinders and along with new recruit Andrew Atwood they present a dual barrage so good it’s almost impossible to believe that this is the first album they’ve worked on together with riffs and solos written to perfection. Together with Rivera’s eerie and, at times, very unsettling delivery this all makes for a wonderful combination!

Song after song hits you relentlessly in the gut and I’m finding it really tough to pick out highlights because, quite frankly, the whole album is one big highlight. ‘From The Pulpit To The Pit’ is a Headbangers wet dream and to witness this played live must be an absolute joy, the classically inspired instrumental ‘Malediction’ is everything a song without vocals should be and pummels you into submission, ‘Repent In Fire’ should be another live favourite with a chorus that demands audience participation and where many albums start to run out of steam Helstar instead give you the menacing ‘Abolish The Sun’ and the simply stunning seven minutes plus of ‘Black Cathedral’ ‘Vampiro is completed by the short but beautiful and haunting ‘Dreamless Sleep’ where acoustic guitar, violin and a vocal that proves beyond a doubt, that James Rivera is one of a kind combine to amazing effect!

I don’t like to gush too much when I’m writing a review but some albums demand it and I’ve run out of superlatives to explain to you all how good this album is. I think only Dracula himself will know what Helstar will come up with next but it’s going to have to go some to get near matching ‘Vampiro’!


  • 1. Awaken Unto Darkness
  • 2. Blood Lust
  • 3. To Dust You Will Become
  • 4. Off With His Head
  • 5. From The Pulpit To The Pit
  • 6. To Their Death Beds They Fell
  • 7. Malediction
  • 8. Repent In Fire
  • 9. Abolish The Sun
  • 10. Black Cathedral
  • 11. Dreamless Sleep


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Reproduced here with kind permission from Metal Gods TV