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Articles Home » 1984 Articles » Helstar - 1984 Burning Star
Helstar - 1984 Burning Star

ARTIST: Helstar
ALBUM: Burning Star
LABEL: Music For Nations, Combat
SERIAL: MFN 20 (UK),. MX-8007 (USA)
YEAR: 1984
CD REISSUE: 1999, Century Media, 66027-2 * 2009, Century Media, 9962202 * 2013, Floga Records, FL36


LINEUP: Bill Lionel (a.k.a James Rivera) - vocals * Tom Rogers - guitars * Larry Barragan - guitars * Paul Medina - bass * Hector Pavon - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Burning Star * 02 Toward The Unknown * 03 Witch's Eye * 04 Run With The Pack * 05 Leather And Lust * 06 Posession * 07 The Shadow Of Iga * 08 Dracula's Castle


Some of you may remember the formative heavy metal scene operating out of San Antonio during the early to mid 80's. Certainly, local radio icons such as Joe 'The Godfather' Anthony and Lou Roney could be attributed to boosting the scene thanks to their commitment to hard rock and heavy metal being played on stations such as 99.5 KISS FM and its sister station KMAC (AM). Many bands can thank San Antonio for giving them a greater profile. From afar, Canadians Mahogany Rush, Moxy, Rush and Triumph were ones to benefit. Not forgetting perennial U.S faves Legs Diamond and Riot. Locally, Texan bands were also able to jump on the bandwagon too. One of these was Houston based metallers Helstar, who recorded two albums for metal label Combat between 1984 and 1986. I picked up on Helstar due to their licensing arrangement with UK indie label Music For Nations. It was here I was introduced to James Rivera and his band of merry-metallers. For some reason, he's known as Bill Lionel on this album. The MFN album cover (the sci-fi) was also an eye-catching sleeve as well.

The Songs
First off, you'll need to get used to James Rivera's high-pitched caterwauling throughout. His high-end shrieks on the opening and title track 'Burning Star' take some getting used to, in the vein of David De Feis from Virgin Steele. The band tend to gallop quite a bit, in that Iron Maiden style, but not as good nor as fast as the Irons. 'Witches Eye' is a good representation of the early Helstar style, reminding me of 'Suicidal Nightmare' from their second album 'Remnants Of War'. 'Run With The Pack' is the longest track here, at 6 min 40 sec, this could be Iron Maiden for a Texan audience, but it probably needs to be a few notches up on the metronome. There's good aggression on 'Leather And Lust' but the production really lets this one down. Finally, the band get the whips cracking on 'Possession'. It does up the ante somewhat, but when compared to bands like Anthrax and other early adopters of U.S metal back in 1984, 'Burning Star' does feel underdone. 'The Shadows Of Iga' tries to do the epic/progressive metal thing without really succeeding, but at least you can see where the potential for the next few albums was coming from. 'Dracula's Castle' is a real mish-mash, acoustic intro, heavy chord work and riffs, a stumbling mid-section and a synchro-challenged timekeeper!

In Summary
Listening to this many years later, I think 'Burning Star' hasn't aged that well to be honest. Yes, it's categorized as old school metal, but I think fans of the band would agree that their best work was yet to come, with 'Remnants Of War' and 'Nosferatu' considered to be far superior to his debut. Oh, the UK sleeve (the one featured) is much better than the American version.

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#1 | david on March 04 2014 02:02:10
Mike Vergane was playing the first demo on Houston's Random Sampler radio show back in early 1983. He sent the demo over to me and at the time metal Forces had just started up. I remember reviewing it and putting the tape on my demo and bootleg list, also giving Bernard Doe a copy of it. It spread around the tape trading community like wildfire. In Sept 83 i went to Houston and was lucky enough to watch Helstar rehearse, play at a friends wedding and just hang out with them for 3 weeks. Gene, Mike and Mitch from the Random Sampler were instrumental in promoting early Helstar and Watchtower.
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