Helker – “Firesoul” (AFM Records)
Regarded by many as Argentina’s best heavy / power metal band, Helker return after 4 years with their 5th album that certainly lives up to its name in every sense! Formed in the late 90s by guitar player Mariano Ríos and bassist Christian Abarca, the band have developed a huge fan base in South America, but increasing popularity internationally through playing Prog Power USA has now prompted this English language release (which will naturally have a Spanish equivalent). It’s hardly noticeable given the excellent linguistic skills of vocalist Diego Valdez – widely regarded as one the best metal vocalists in South America which is no overstatement given his star performance here! Also one of the most active live bands in South America having toured with Primal Fear, Hammerfall, Stratovarius, Gamma Ray, Shaman, Sinner and Masterplan, it was a meeting with Mat Sinner that resulted in him producing 2013’s “Somewhere In The Circle” and now here comes the follow up! Ably mixing deep n epic melodies with plenty of raging guitars and racing solos backed by a powerful rhythm, there is loads of heaviness in Helker along with plenty of Latin passion to go with that testosterone! From the hammering ‘Break Your Chains’ with its heavy, chugging guitars and pounding drums, Valdez’s passionate vocals bring home the melodies amid dervish riffing and wild, break neck solos while on the hard stomping ‘Playing With Fire’ the chopping riffs contrast beautifully with some cool bass runs as Valdez this time soars with epic passion before rocking out gruffly to the chorus. Going straight for the soul comes ‘Leaving Out The Ashes’, with its the heavy guitars contrasting beautifully with the singalong chorus and sung tenderly by Valdez. By now clear there is more than a nod in his sound and style to the late Ronnie James Dio, “Firesoul” even has a raging cover of ‘Neon Knights’, going well beyond technically competent to one resonating the pure heavy metal spirit inherent in the band themselves as lovers of the actual music they also play – a great release indeed!