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Helker – Firesoul

by Harry Green at 04 July 2017, 2:23 AM

Formed in 1998 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, HELKER sound a lot like a poor latter-day Mystic Prophecy and/or Primal Fear if they had Narnia’s vocalist Germán Pascaul. Alternately, imagine Dokken on PCP. There’s a grand total of maybe six good riffs on this album, their latest effort after “Legendo Secreto” in 2002 “Resistir” in 2008, “A.D.N.” in 2010, and 2013’s “Somewhere in the Circle”Valdez does a good generic Dio impression, and as the man responsible for carrying half the songs he is perhaps the only band member that deserves particular credit. The drummer and bassist don’t stick out, but then I’ll not penalize them for that either since they perform their basic function and there’s not much more to ask in this genre. It’s not structurally interesting, but then it’s traditional power metal – all it has to do is create some memorable melodies and some strong riffing and it’s more or less accomplished its goals.

They do not accomplish these goals. The album has scattered glimpses of decent material, “Fight” and “For All The Eternity” have serviceable enough choruses, the latter song having an acceptable solo section. “You Are In My Heart”, also having a good chorus, features some of the band’s more soulful guitar work. It’s not until the eighth track – the ballad – that the release wakes up. “Empty Room” is the first song I might hesitantly call good. Abandoning all pretense and letting Valdez just show off his voice works pretty well. The slower pace and uncomplicated riffing is forgivable here, and the guitarist pulls out some decent leads. The piano accents and brief string section on the chorus is about as token as it gets, but it’s at least something different.

The songs after “Empty Room” largely see the band struggle to be exciting. “Stay Away” is a more coherent showing, probably the best track on the album. It’s an energetic, minimal chorus focused on the riffing, and it works in the classic power metal style. “Break Your Chains” is also relatively good. The subsequent tracks are serviceable – “Firesoul” has a good opening riff and verse sections, and “Rise or Fall” has a fun lead in the middle of the song, and then the album’s over.

I discovered through the course of this review that it’s simply unfair to listen to this at merely audible volume, and I think that may be its problem. Listening to this album at anything less than loud sucks out the impact of some of the loud power chords and lays bare the technical shortcomings. More importantly, it belies the energetic image. A band like DYNAZTY will still sound enthusiastic at such a volume, but HELKER very decidedly do not. Unless you crank this sucker up, it’s extremely difficult to pick out the high points. In conclusion, this album doesn’t appear to be for anyone other than people with little to no familiarity of metal or hard rock (the blatant ripoff of MEGADETH’s “Symphony of Destruction” on “Playing With Fire” being particularly heinous). It’s not for fans since HELKER have done better, and it’s definitely not for anyone who’s heard any traditional power metal. To finish my instrument-by-instrument assessment in the second paragraph, the guitarists don’t sufficiently pull their weight; the credibility of a traditional power metal relies on its axemen, which makes their shortcomings fatal to this album. The band ill-advisedly include their well-executed cover of BLACK SABBATH’s “Neon Knights”, which incidentally wipes the floor with pretty much every track on this album and rather cruelly underscores its shortcomings in a potently ironic fashion that even this relatively scathing review can’t hope to reproduce.

Songwriting: 4
Originality: 2
Production: 8
Memorability: 2

1 Star Rating

1. Genesis
2. Fight
3. For All The Eternity
4. Playing With Fire
5. The One
6. Where You Belong
7. You Are In My Heart
8. Empty Room
9. Leaving Out The Ashes
10. Stay Away
11. Break Your Chains
12. Firesoul
13. Rise Or Fall (bonus track)
14. Neon Knights (Black Sabbath cover)
Diego Valdez - Vocals
Mariano Ríos - Guitars
Leo Aristu - Guitars
Christian Abarca - Bass
Hernán Coronel - Drums
Record Label: AFM Records:


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Edited 08 December 2022

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