A combination of old style Iron Maiden and faster, technical Slayer, this Texas band put out an amazingly played and intensely composed album before getting absorbed into the power metal camp.
flag of Texas Helstar - Nosferatu (1989)

Production: Relatively clear in an eighties metal sort of way: you can hear the voices and the guitars, and in the background are the drums with the bass tucked up into the second guitar track, with thick organic sound.

Review: Take the song structure and harmonies of Iron Maiden, and build in the speed and acerbic riff shapes of Slayer, and you have a synthesis of the elegance of older heavy metal and the effectiveness of the underground. Like Painkiller from Judas Priest, this correctly infuses old school metal with death metal technique, instead of dressing up heavy metal as death metal like most bands do.

Vocals are the precision high-pitched wail that made bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Queensryche stand out from mumblemouth rock singers, and percussion adeptly fits complex patterns between mid-tempo pocket beats. Guitar work while intricate and beautiful avoids becoming either effete in a pseudo-prog way, or a Hollywood caricature like most hard rock. A solid understanding of harmony allows the band to create tonal architectures and then navigate them with breathtaking speed in vocals and lead guitars.

1. Rhapsody In Black (0:58)
2. Baptized In Blood (4:24)
3. To Sleep, Per Chance To Scream (4:36)
4. Harker's Tale (Mass Of Death) (4:25)
5. Perseverance And Desperation (4:16)
6. The Curse Has Passed Away (5:08)
7. Benediction (5:57)
8. Harsh Reality (3:14)
9. Swirling Madness (4:04)
10. Von Am Lebem Desto Strum (1:57)
11. Aieliaria And Everonn (3:46)
Length: 42:45

Helstar - Nosferatu: Death Metal 1989 Enigma
Copyright © 1989 Enigma

While the combination of speed metal and heavy metal with some Slayer-esque technical is the hallmark of power metal, Nosferatu rises head and shoulders above that genre by letting the speed go to its riffs, but not hurry its songs. It never lost the heavy metal soul and has no identity crisis, so is able to put newer techniques in service to a time-honored art, making songs that are mostly circular but develop through layering of guitar and drum technique as well as the intense, operatic vocals of James Rivera. This combination makes this a pleasant listen that only gradually reveals how much intense aggression goes into the sonorous arcs of its songs.

BLACK   |   DEATH   |   HEAVY   |   SPEED   |   THRASH   |   GRINDCORE