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Helstar: Clad in Black

Texan power/speed legends Helstar have been at this for a long time now, and since their 2016 release Vampiro they have been thrust back into the upper echelon of the genre. A release that directly harkens back to their legendary album Nosferatu, it" featured Helstar's trademark 700 different technical riffs per song along with blistering speed and James Rivera's wailing vocals. So that brings us to Clad in Black, which is a package deal that includes Vampiro in full as disc two, as well as the titular 6 song EP as disc one. We'll focus on the EP in this review, considering that the entirety of the second disc was released five or so years ago.

Clad in Black features 3 new tracks, and 3 covers from the legendary acts Accept, Black Sabbath (with Dio), and Judas Priest. The 3 new tracks are all somewhat similar in style to what you would find on Vampiro, which makes this a fun little companion to go alongside it. The first of the new tracks, "Dark Incarnation (Mother of the Night)" is a lumbering, stompy beast, with a doomy intro that definitely reminds me of some of Dio Sabbath's slower and more moody tracks (such as the song they cover on this EP, more on that in a bit). "Dark Incarnation" does eventually speed up some, and features the band's patented note dense flurry riff passages as well as Rivera's layered, piercing screams. "Black Wings of Solitude" is a semi-ballad, which is a bit of a departure for the band, but it's very nicely done. Rivera's voice sounds great, with his more melodic side being shown off here. He almost sounds like a young Biff Byford at times. The guitar solo is fantastic and another highlight of the song, in addition to some really nice moody keyboard work. "Across the Raging Seas" is easily the song on the EP that most represents the style that Helstar is known for. Fast and intricate riffs that sound almost like a horror movie transmogrified into heavy metal, and of course ferocious and melodic lead guitar work.

So with all 3 new tracks delivering, how do the covers fare? Pretty damn well, actually. A downtuned version of Accept's "Restless and Wild" starts us off, and it's a great rendition of the early power metal classic. Rivera's voice on these covers are a bit of a mixed bag, but he seems at home on this one. He does his best Udo impression on the verses, but still manages to include his signature screams and vibrato. The next cover is of Sabbath's "After All (The Dead), a great song off of the criminally underrated album Dehumanizer. They absolutely nail this one and make it their own with some little touches such as melodic harmonies during the solo and some keyboards hanging out in the back. Their cover of Priest's "Sinner" is just completely hilarious, but in an endearing way. The band plays the song flawlessly, with tightness and added grit, but Rivera's vocals are completely, hilariously over the top. Not in a bad way though, as I was rocking out and laughing at the same time while I marveled at his vocal delivery throughout the track. He goes from goblin-esque snarls to piercing high screams at the drop of a dime, and you can't help but be impressed at how much effort he puts into the whole thing.

So, we have 3 great new songs, and 3 really good covers to go along with their previous fantastic album in this package. It's hard to argue with that, and with a nifty and striking retro inspired cover-art, Clad in Black should absolutely be in your collection if you are a fan of Helstar, or are into the idea of insanely well performed and written technical speed or power metal.

CD 1- Clad in Black
1. Dark Incarnation (Mother Of The Night)
2. Black Wings Of Solitude
3. Across The Raging Seas
4. Restless And Wild (Accept Cover)
5. After All (The Dead) (Black Sabbath Cover)
6. Sinner (Judas Priest Cover)

CD 2 - 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 Fall
7. Malediction
8. Repent In Fire
9. Abolish The Sun
10. Black Cathedral
11. Dreamless Sleep

Added: March 30th 2021
Reviewer: Brandon Miles
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 994
Language: english

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