30 YEARS OF HEL
After 30 years, you could safely assume that a band still existing but having never had mega-success might just be a tired shell of their former selves. We've all seen these second tier bands reunite and embarrass themselves from time to time because it becomes more about hanging with their buds than it does to being serious about their music and their craft. After 30 years though, it's clear that Helstar might actually have more direction and aggression than they ever exhibited before. Led by diminutive vocalist James Rivera, the ferocity of Helstar is definitely far greater now than it was at any time in their long career. With the release of their new live collection 30 YEARS OF HEL, Rivera and company have proved that they were not only a great band back in the day, but still continue to bring it as strong as any thrasher band out there today.
There's really not much question that Rivera is the leader of this band. He may be small in stature, but his voice is as big as a mountain throughout. To me personally, Helstar has always been a much better metal version of King Diamond, and Rivera was always the key because his voice was always far more appealing. Throughout 30 YEARS OF HEL, he proves in the live setting that he's lost none of his edge; be it in the growling vocals or the much higher pitched screams that permeate each and every song. From the opening of "Angels Fall To Hell" to the closing "Run With The Pack", you quickly realize why Rivera has not only had a great career in Helstar, but has been one of those guys who is always sought out to appear with other bands. He is complimented brilliantly by guitarists Larry Barragan and Rob Trevino, who still have the fire they exhibited back in the mid-80s. Their punishing riffs on rockers like "Harker's Tale" prove that these two axeslingers still have the drive and skills they possessed as far back as the band extends to.
Without question though, the incredible pacing of this show captured on 30 YEARS OF HEL comes from the powerful work of drummer Mikey Lewis and bassist Jerry Abarca. Both are thunderous throughout as they lay in the bottom end of songs like "Burning Star" or "Angel Of Death". For a live album, this is musically one of the most solid things I've heard from a thrasher band such as this.
PITRIFF RATING - 93/100 - Helstar may not have been a breakthrough artist like a Megadeth or the like, but there are few people familiar with them that would deny they were every bit as good. 30 YEARS OF HEL revisits a lot of their classic material, but it also proves that they still have a lot of piss and vinegar to share with those of us that are still into the band. Great release.