Helstar 29/10/2010

HELSTAR is a heavy metal band from Houston, Texas, which was formed in 1982. Their musical style is considered technical speed metal. HELSTAR started out with a more basic metal style in 1983 with 2 demos followed by their first studio album in 1984 entitled ‘Burning Star’ for Combat Records, making them label mates with Megadeth and Exodus. Struggles within the band and management issues broke apart the line-up of that time. After a year or so, the band reformed and released the ‘Remnants of War’ album, also on Combat, the album was produced by Randy Burns. In 1989 the band released ‘Nosferatu’, which many fans consider their greatest achievement. It was based on the early Dracula film and contained spoken sound bites from the movie. Between 1990 and 1993 Helstar released a few demos that failed to receive great recognition. In 1995 Helstar released a new studio album entitled ‘Multiples of Black’ however, it did not have the quality one can find in their earlier albums and fans consider this album their worst release to date.


The members of Helstar, namely James Rivera, cooperated in other bands between 1993 and 2002: Seven Witches for a short time in 1993, Distant Thunder in 1995 and Destiny's End. This was an all-star group which was put together by James Riviera and they released the studio albums ‘Breathe Deep the Dark’ in 1998 and ‘Transition’ in 2002.


Helstar had several reunions, the first one took place in 2001. These reunions were primarily organized by James Rivera and longtime bassist Jerry Abarca. Several live albums were produced in this period, but the band was unable to produce any new material. In 2006, for the first time in over fifteen years, James Rivera and Larry Barragan reunited and Helstar were officially declared musically active again. Along with Jerry, James and Larry also reunited with the ‘Remnants of War’ album guitarist Robert Trevino and Eternity Black drummer Russell De'leon. This lineup has since released ‘Sins of the Past’, a “greatest hits collection" of re-recorded songs. A new album was released with the Remnants of War line-up in 2008 entitled ‘The King of Hell’. Now, in 2010, right in an up-coming renaissance of classic heavy metal HELSTAR are back with a brand new album, entitled ‘The Glory Of Chaos’, which will leave no doubts of their exceptional status.



It appears that HELSTAR fans will get more than they bargained for with ‘The Glory Of Chaos’.  The band can't wait to bring ‘The Glory Of Chaos’ to the fans and they are looking forward to seeing everyone on tour in support of the new album. We tracked down Larry Barragan (Guitar) to answer a couple of questions, here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com


Your latest album ‘Glory Of Chaos’ will be released  in a couple of weeks, so of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it! First of all, congrats with your new album! How are you doing?


LB: Dude, thanks!  Yeah, we’re doing good man.  We’re pretty excited as well.  We’re all hoping for good things to happen from this one. Right now we’re just getting ready to do a couple of shows with Raven here in Texas and then I guess we’ll refine the show after that.

It’s been two years since ‘The King of Hell’ came out, so it seems you took your time to create the new record. How did you launch into writing material for ‘
Glory Of Chaos’ and how much time did you spend on creating the songs?


LB: Well, we had a couple of songs already done, maybe as far back as ‘King of Hell’.  But, you know, we changed them a little and refined them as time went by.  We started really writing, I guess, at the end of May, early June. We’re notoriously slow when it comes to writing songs but we had a couple that just came together quickly.  I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not but it definitely worked to our advantage.


Which approach did you choose to create this album, did you go for a more raw exposition.. or something more reminiscent of your previous other works, or something all together different?


LB: I guess we just focused on doing something really fast and heavy and aggressive. We really don’t look back and say, “hey, that worked last time, let’s do that again”. It’s always about doing something that makes us happy first. Cause if we’re not happy with it, then why should anybody else like it? We just wanted to cut loose and top what we had done on ‘King of Hell’ as far as heaviness.


Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?


LB: No, man, we take our time on them. Maybe to the point where we maybe overthink the songs and arrangements but in the end, you know, we’re happy with them.  Rob’s very meticulous when it comes to the arrangements. It’s like having an in house producer really. And now with Mikey in the band it’s opened up a whole new world for us as far as what we can do. He’s really taken us to a different level I believe.


How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for Helstar?


LB: Typically, there’s a lot of booze and drugs involved. Nah, just kidding. No, Rob and I generally start writing riffs and then we email them to one another. And then when we think we have the song structure complete, we’ll get together face to face and record to a click track and then we email that to Mikey. Sometimes I’ll have the lyrics written by that time. Sometimes. Or at least I’ll have a lyric structure in my head. After Mikey programs the drums, he’ll send the demo back to us and that’s when we get with James and we start working on lyrics and melodies.



What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record Glory Of Chaos, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?


LB: I think we just wanted to make a balls out heavy fuckin’ album! That was our goal. We wanted the element of speed definitely. You can hear that.  But you know, we know that fast doesn’t always equal good. But I think we did a good job in writing and mixing different elements that make us what we are.


Could you please describe the implications of the title Glory Of Chaos, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?


LB: I think every member may have his own meaning for the title. You could take it as just what’s going on in the world today, all the chaos and pandemonium. I came with the title for demo that I was working on. I actually came up with the title during a show, I forget where we were playing but I remember looking out at the kids and they were going nuts. And I thought to myself, “wow, this is the glory of chaos”. 


Of course the main themes of the songs are clear, but can you tell us where you get your inspiration from? Can you tell me a little more about the songs? Any stories behind them?


LB: Well, some songs have serious subjects and others are a little more fun and wicked. “Angels Fall to Hell” is about the Pope and how he’s turned his back on the abuse going on in the Catholic Church. “Pandemonium” is about the media selling fear and chaos. “Monarch of Bloodshed” is about a terrorist’s last day and what’s going through his mind. Or at least what I thought would be going through his mind.  We touched on a variety of subjects. I always try to tell the other side of the story you know. It may not be popular to do but it’s the only way to make people react and think.


How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?


LB: The lyrics are what touch you.The lyrics are the thing that strike the nerve so to speak. I want for people to have fun singing along with the songs but I also want them to come away with their own meaning as well. Sometimes a fan will come up to me and talk about certain lyrics and they will have come up with a totally different meaning than what I had but that’s what makes it so cool. Because then I can look at the song and say “yeah, that’s a cool way of thinking about it”.


If someone was only going to read the lyrics and not listen to the music, what would you hope they would take from them?


LB: You know it may not sound like it when you read some of my lyrics but I would hope they walk away with some compassion for others. Like I said there is always two sides to the story. Sometimes you have to force yourself to look at the ugly side and try to understand why. Why did that bomber blow himself up just to take out a few Israelis? Was it worth it? What drove him to do that? Was it that he was just a religious fanatic or was it that he has been oppressed to the point that that’s the only way he can make us understand? Or think he can make us understand.


What is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you?


LB: I don’t think you can say that one thing makes a song or one ingredient makes a great song.  You have to look at it as a whole. You gotta have the riff and the sick drum beat and the cool bass line and the lyrics have to be cool and the vocals have to kick ass. It’s got to be the complete package. Otherwise, what good is a song if people are saying, “cool riff, too bad the drummer didn’t play something better there”.


How did the recording process proceed and how much time did you spend in the studio?


LB: Mikey came in and crushed it. He finished his tracks in three days. And then he was gone. We didn’t see him again until final mix. Once the drums were recorded we did the rhythm tracks for the guitars and then the bass. Then James came in and started doing vocals and in between that we did solos and whatever dubs we needed to do. We were in there about a month and half, not very long really. I wish we would have been able to record over a period of two months. You know, just to give our ears a break.


What do you think are the most typical differences between Helstar anno 2010 and Helstar back in the eighties?


LB: I think Helstar today is just more punch you in the face. We’re much more aggressive in our writing. I think Helstar in the eighties was a little more finesse.


Who produced the new album? What made him the perfect man for Helstar and can you tell me something about him?


LB: We produced the album along with Craig Douglas. Craig is a great engineer and he has a great way of guiding us. We work really well together. It’s pretty fun even though at times it may get a bit stressful, he can keep us on track.



In which elements on the new album can one clearly hear his vision and ideas?


LB: Like I said we produced the album along with him, so you can’t really put your finger on it since we all have a part in the producing.


How would you describe this album to someone that has never listened to the band before?


LB: I’d say it’s music to break your neck to.


Which element of the CD are you the most proud of?

LB: I think just the fact that there’s no let up on it. Not until the outro do we give you a rest.


Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics? What are you personally into?


LB: Man, I’m just like everyone else looking for answers to the meaning of all of this.  Sometimes I feel like if I can just make you think then I’ve done my job. Personally, I just want to enjoy what little life I have left. You know, I love life. I embrace it. It’s too short to go around not enjoying the good times. You know, because the good times are not guaranteed but I can tell you the bad times are. You’d better believe that.


Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:


Thrash : Love it!

Underground : Heavy

Internet : Life changing

Religion :  Next

Politics : Wake up.

The Netherlands : Beautiful

USA : Home


What have been the highlights and low points throughout your career?


LB: The highs are right now, man. I love where we are right fucking now. These last few years have been the best times. I’ve met so many great people and made so many wonderful friends, I’m blessed. The low points, hey we could talk for hours about the mistakes and the negative choices and paths I’ve taken. No need to dwell on that.


What is your opinion on the thrash scene these days? Is there anything missing in the scene?


LB: There are a lot of great bands doing it. Young bands doing it, but for me I still love the guys that created the genre. Slayer and Megadeth and Testament, all those guys were there from the beginning.


What makes Helstar different from the other heavy metal bands out there?


LB: I think we sound like us. And I think that James identifies this band like no other.  We’ve been doing this a long time too so I think we’ve developed our own sound throughout the years.


With all the touring and over ten albums under your belt, how far has Helstar surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?


LB: I never dreamed that people would still be talking about ‘Remnants of War’ and ‘Burning Star’ and all of the albums that we’ve recorded. It just blows me away that we’ve actually created a legacy for ourselves that no one can ever take away. And I think the most rewarding part of this is when someone just really appreciates the art that we’ve created. It’s humbling, very humbling.


Which goals did you have when the band started out and how do those goals stand now?


LB: Oh man, when we started I was just a kid. I was sixteen years old. And when you’re that young, you think that you can make it big and play arenas for the rest of your life. Then life slaps you across the face and you realize that you may not get there but you can still achieve a certain amount of success. I’m ok with where we are but I think we can still push the envelope and make this thing a little bit bigger.


What can we expect from Helstar in the near future? Any touring plans?


LB: Yeah, yeah, we’ll be in Europe in December for a short tour and then we’ll do a few dates here in the states. I think we’re doing ProgPower next year. And then we’ll be back in Europe for the summer of 2011.


A last statement?


LB: Hey, thanks Eugene for the interview. To all the fans out there, thanks for your support and love. We totally appreciate it. If you come out to see us, we love to hang out with you guys and drink a few pints and have a few laughs. See you guys in December.




Current lineup:

James Rivera-vocals

Larry Barragan-guitars

Rob Trevino-guitars

Jerry Abarca-bass

Mikey Lewis-drums


Former members:



Tom Rogers - Guitars

André Corbin - Guitars

Hector Pavon - Drums

Rene Luna - Drums

Frank Ferreira - Drums

Russel DeLeon - Drums

Paul Medina - Bass



(1984) Burning Star

(1986) Remnants of War

(1988) A Distant Thunder

(1989) Nosferatu

(1995) Multiples of Black

(2000) T was The Night of a Helish Xmas

(2001) The James Rivera Legacy

(2007) Sins of the Past

(2008) The King of Hell

(2010) Glory Of Chaos