Formed 1998 in Buenos Aires, Argentina by guitar player Mariano Ríos and bassist Christian Abarca, the current Helker line-up features guitar player Leo Aristu, drummer Hernán Coronel and South American Ronnie James Dio, the incredible Diego Valdez on lead vocals.
Since their start Helker released three highly respected albums in their native language, Legado Secreto in 2001, Resistir in 2008 and A.D.N. in 2010. It was when the band opened for Primal Fear in Buenos Aires, that Primal Fear bassist Mat Sinner was so impressed by the band, that he produced their first album in English language Somewhere In The Circle, which was released 2013 via AFM Records. After a successful U.S. live debut at ProgPower USA in 2015, Helker is back with their latest abum titled Firesoul, produced once again by Mat Sinner and will be released by AFM Records on May 5, 2017.
Firesoul begins with the short instrumental intro Genesis and melds into the balls to the walls metal onslaught of Fight, a true headbanging anthem that Helker deliver so well. Valdez’s voice is as visceral and powerful as ever. The second song For All The Eternity is another blazing fast metal track that on repeat listens reminds me of classic Vicious Rumours with the double basss drum attack, chugging guitar rhythms,shredding solos, and melodic guitar harmonies. Valdez’s voice is a mixture of Dio, Tim “Ripper” Owens, and original VR vocalist Carl Albert, which is high praise indeed.
Playing With Fire is mid-tempo metal with a killer groove thanks to the rhythm section of bassist Abarca and drummer Coronel. The vocal melodies and the chorus is instantly memorable. Helker dives into more AOR melodic metal territory on the insanely catchy The One. This song and its use of vocal melodies and harmonies are just so great. The harmony guitar solos soar and although not as heavy as some of the other tracks, The One is my pick for best song on Firesoul.
Where You Belong is another mid-tempo power metal track with lots of crunch. Another fantastic chorus with Valdez’s powerful pipes bring this song to another level. You Are In my Heart is Helker taking more chances with another AOR-esque song, which thanks to the guitars, is slightly heavier than The One, but the chorus once again is pure gold.
Things slow down on the piano driven emotional power ballad Empty Room. Valdez gets the chance to use his vocal prowess to create an emotional moment in between the power metal fury. Leaving Out The Ashes is another slower tempo song but doesn’t stray too far into power ballad territory. The chorus has an anthemic quality with the use of vocal melodies and harmonies.
The hard driving power metal returns on the tracks Stay Away and Break Your Chains, a pair of headbanging songs in the vein of classic Judas Priest or Primal Fear. There is a great-extended guitar solo section in both tracks that show off the chops of axemen Aristu and Rios. The albums heaviest song is saved for the title track, which drummer Coronel shows off his own considerable chops with some fast footwork and precision playing. Valdez sounds as visceral as ever using a more aggressive approach compared to the rest of the album.
Firesoul also contains two bonus tracks, the first being Rise Or Fall which is very reminiscent of Dream Evil’s The Book of Heavy Metal in tempo and tone. The chorus here isn’t as strong as the other tracks on Firesoul but that’s a small critique for an album chocked full of choice Grade A Argentinian power metal. the albums closing moment is a spot on cover of the Ronnie James Dio-era Black Sabbath classic Neon Knights. The band doesn’t stray far from the original composition, and that’s because they don’t need to. Neon Knights is one of the greatest songs in metal history and Valdez and company do an amazing job paying tribute to one of the greatest voices in metal.
It’s interesting to note that Helker will also be releasing an alternate digital only version of Firesoul sung entirely in Spanish, titled Alma de Fuego. If you’re a fan of Helker’s debut, or power metal music in general, you will love Firesoul.