HELSTAR came roaring out of the rich oil-producing US city of Houston, Texas in 1982 and quickly built a lasting legacy and a reputation as one of the most technically-skilled and intense power metal groups in the genre. Albums such as Nosferatu, Burning Star, Distant Thunder,The King Of Hell, Multiples In Black (co-produced by MEGADETH's David Ellefson) and more would later go on to help solidify Helstar's niche in the heavy metal fraternity. Despite line-up changes in the band over the years, vocalist James Rivera never lost sight of his dream for Helstar. Helstar would lay the groundwork for the progressive power metal movement without even knowing it. Several words can be said about Helstar throughout the years; the music was and is full of integrity, it is heavy and it is true. The band cut its metal teeth touring along side the likes of W.A.S.P, KING DIAMOND, ANTHRAX, TESTAMENT, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, FATES WARNING, SAVATAGE, MEGADETH and KEEL. The group has also been featured on some of the biggest festivals in Europe including Bang Your Head!!!, Keep It True, Dynamo Open Air and many more.
Now, in 2012, Helstar triumphantly return with their thirtieth anniversary disc released on October 2nd on AFM Records, aptly titled 30 Years Of Hel, a DVD and double CD package recorded live in the bands hometown of Houston, Texas. Vocalist James Rivera recently gave Bravewords correspondent Matthew O'Shaughnessy (WVOX's Metal Mayhem) a closer look into the making of 30 Years Of Hel and more.
Matt O'Shaughnessy: It's a great time to be a Helstar fan and banger as 30 Years Of Hel is a stellar compilation of a lot of your tremendous work. Where does all the time go? Does it really feel like thirty years?
James Rivera: "It seems to me like it's almost gone nowhere. One of the questions that a lot of people ask me is that 'When you started this thirty years ago, did you think you would be doing this thirty years later?' And the answer to that question is, 'I don't know! Thirty years ago seemed like so long ago! I don't know what the hell happened. It's like a time capsule and and all of a sudden, I'm like it's 2012 - I don't feel any different. (laughter).
Matt O'Shaughnessy: Since those thirty years, what are the most prevalent changes and advances you've witnessed in heavy metal?
James Rivera: "Well, I would have to say the technology and the internet has changed it completely. Back in the old days when you did shows, the promoter, a really hard working promoter, would make all these flyers and would blanket the parking lot at the club you would be going to appear at and at every record store. Now, it's like nobody even takes the flyers; they just check out the event on Facebook."
Matt O'Shaughnessy: Helstar's new 30 Years Of Hel showcases the band live in their hometown of Houston, Texas. You mentioned to me several times that Helstar always wanted to have one live album under it's belt.
James Rivera: "Yes, I did. Back in the day, that's what made bands was the live album. There's quite a few bands who had like three or four studio albums out and you really never heard about them until they released a live album. In the late 1970's and through early 1980's live albums were the thing that made bands popular. I think all of a sudden with growing up with live albums, I said to myself, damn it! I want an official live album for Helstar. Everything is meant to be and everything has a timing to it; and I'm kind of glad the record came out now because the band is in its top most form as far as individual performers and our talent has surpassed what we used to be like in the 1980's. What you are hearing on 30 Years Of Hel is ninety-five percent live; yes, we went back into the studio and remixed it to give it a bigger ambient sound, but pretty much all of it is live."
Matt O'Shaughnessy: It's been a long, long way since Helstar's now legendary eight - song demo in 1983. What do you attribute Helstar's drive and creative juice to for three decades now?
James Rivera: "Well, you know, speaking for me personally; I had no choice once I got wrapped up in the music with Helstar and, of course, you are aware that I also sang for some other popular big bands over my career (SEVEN WITCHES, DESTINY'S END, KILLING MACHINE, VICIOUS RUMORS). For the most part of Helstar, the thing that keeps us together the most is that all of our personalties are like peas and carrots as Forrest Gump would say (laughter). We have a really great relationship with each other; now especially that we are older and more mature about everything - we even click more together. It's like that marriage that's going to last forever; It's June and Ward Cleaver! We might be a little hard on the Beaver once in a while, but he gets over it."(laughter).
Matt O'Shaughnessy: When it came time to choose the twenty tracks to feature on 30 Years Of Hel, what kind of process was it like for Helstar?
James Rivera: "Well, it was hard but basically what made it easy was that we knew that it had to be at least three songs taken from all our records which amounted to twenty. So, one thing that we did was to also pick quite a few songs that we hadn't done in years; and that kind of made it easy and we said let's really kind of surprise the fans that night. We were recording the show in our hometown of Houston and we are making a big deal out of it - we had a thousand people there. We did tracks that night we haven't done in a long time such as Toward The Unknown, To Sleep Per Chance To Scream and Good Day To Die among others."
Matt O'Shaughnessy: In 1982, Helstar burst forth onto the heavy metal scene and fast made a international name for themselves. What is it like to look back on three decades of making Helstar mayhem?
James Rivera: I don't want to get into my personal beliefs about things because I am a little religious; but every morning when I have that cup of coffee I say, 'Thank you God for giving me everything I've done and what I am going to keep doing.' It's been a wonderful life! So, if something drastic happened to me tomorrow, I can say I have really lived out a very nice dream..."