Helker - Somewhere in the circle 4/5
1. Modern roman circus
2. Just be yourself
3. No chance to be reborn
4. Begging for forgiveness
5. Wake up
6. At the end of the journey
7. Ghosts from the past
8. Still alive
10. Inside of me
El metal pesado de Argentina! The South Americans love their heavy metal, they go crazy for it; just look at the concerts held in places like Rio, Santiago and Buenos Aires for proof of that. The singing, chanting and pure emotion that goes on in concerts needs to be seen to be believed, as it is just completely amazing. And of course this passion for heavy metal has resulted in the formation of thousands of South American metal bands, whether they are from Mexico, Brazil, Chili, or in this case; Argentina.
I was surprised to find that melodic power metal band Helker have been around the metal scene since 1998, as I had never heard of them before until now. Upon further investigation I found that Helker’s first 3 full-length CDs were all written and sung in their native tongue, Spanish. Also being with a local unknown label, it’s no wonder that basically only the South Americans knew of this band previously.
However the metal community loves to help out their own and in an opportunity of a lifetime, Mat Sinner (bassist for Primal Fear, vocalist/bassist for Sinner) involved himself with the band by co-writing the latest release and also produced the record, making Helker’s latest CD ‘Somewhere in the circle’ their first release to be written and sung in English. Mat didn’t stop there as he also got Tim “Ripper” Owens (Charred Walls of the Damned/ex-Iced Earth/ex-Judas Priest) and fellow band mate Ralf Scheepers to sing together on a track, while the final jewel in this crown was Helker signing a deal with AFM Records. Not bad, eh.
Helker’s melodic power metal sound is traditionally what you’d hear from European bands of the same genre and are quite similar to groups like Mystic Prophecy, Firewind, (early) Bloodbound, Inner Wish, Circle of Silence, Brainstorm, Primal Fear, Crimson Cult and Nostradameus; just to name a few. The twin guitar riffs are swift, catchy and beefy, with pounding drums, heavy bass and melodic soaring vocals; just what is required for European melodic power metal. Again, there’s nothing new here, but I’ve mentioned too many times that it doesn’t matter anymore when the power metal genre is so massive these days.
The tracks are extremely well written, giving the songs a dynamic and bombastic feel, as well as being catchy as hell while giving the riff and solo lovers something to get excited over. I am very impressed with Helker’s vocalist, Diego Valdez, who metal fans may know from his appearance on the latest Tarja live DVD/CD (‘Act 1’) as the guest vocalist on the song “Phantom of the opera”. A passionate and energetic singer, Valdez has a brilliant range and so much force in his near-perfect delivery. With a slight gruffness in his voice, Valdez has an infectious melodic style where he can reach the high notes with strength and conviction.
The hard ‘n’ heavy tracks flow thick and fast on ‘Somewhere in the circle’, including the powerful opening track “Modern roman circus” which sets the scene and high quality for the remainder of the CD, and the mid-high tempo rocking track “No chance to be reborn”, with wailing, chunky and deep guitar riffs, and a masterful and emotional vocal performance by the talented Valdez.
The contribution of Ralf Scheepers and “Ripper” Owens comes on the great track called “Begging for forgiveness”, showcasing all 3 singers together in a great vocal battle, while other instant winner tracks include the pounding and Sinner-esk “Still alive”, containing a simple but highly effective beat/riff combo, with heavy bass guitar and a catchy sing-a-long chorus. Lastly, the Primal Fear sounding “Inside of me” again has a memorable chorus and a great twin guitar battle between Mariano Ríos and Leo Aristu.; while “Just be yourself” is the most melodic song on the CD, a high-octane track with furious guitar riffs, a very catchy chorus and Valdez showing just how good of a singer he is with a brilliant performance.
While the overall quality of ‘Somewhere in the circle’ is quite high and I commend Mat Sinner and the band for a great job, there are some slight dips here and there; which I guess is to be expected. With that said, the CD is right up there for excellent guitar work and drumming, the majority of the tracks are explosive to say the least and Diego Valdez is one hell of a talented singer. Fans of the bands mentioned earlier in this review will have no problem whatsoever enjoying this CD, as Helker really epitomises what European melodic power metal is all about. So now being on a big label like AFM, I expect Helker to really take off on a world-wide stage with this CD and high expectations for their next release; while they proudly wave the Argentinean flag for metal in the process.
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