With 30 Years In the Game, Helstar Shreds Anew This Saturday

After all the riffs, after all the load-ins, and after all the Jager shots, what is it, exactly, that keeps a heavy metal band from Houston, Texas, shrieking and shredding across the globe for 30 years?


Multiples of Black: Helstar celebrate their 30th anniversary in style

Magic, of course. That's how Helstar singer and local metal luminary James Rivera puts it, anyway, and he's on a pretty short list of guys who would know.

"A lot of it's magical and mystical, and lot of it is due to the fact that we personally get along very well as a family," Rivera says. "When you think of any family business that's been around forever and ever and ever, it's because the people that run it know what they're doing and they work together to make it happen."

Righteous. But getting along is one thing. Getting ahead is another. Helstar never quite did, despite sharing a label in the '80s with the likes of Megadeth and Testament. But while their more famous contemporaries certainly out-earned Helstar, they couldn't outlast them. The group's show at Warehouse Live Saturday caps off a year-long celebration of the band's 30th anniversary.

Most notably, the local metal gods marked three decades of metal by recording and releasing 30 Years of Hel, a double live album and DVD cataloguing Helstar's best of the best from throughout their long career. This week's concert will be the band's first back in Houston since the live album was recorded here back in March.

"It's funny: A lot of European fans and a lot of European press people, when I was doing interviews on tour over there, were wondering why we didn't film it in Europe," Rivera said. "Because they're thinking, 'Well, wait a minute... aren't you guys bigger here in Germany?'"

He laughs.

"Yes we are, when you speak of the U.S. in general. But in Houston, Texas? That is the U.S. to us! There's no bigger crowd for Helstar than our own hometown crowd," he adds.

Whaddya gonna do? Everything's bigger in Texas, and in the size department, 30 Years of Hel is a true product of the Lone Star State. With two discs and a DVD, it's overstuffed with classic, thrashy power metal. After managing to go 30 years without recording a live album, Helstar had a lot of material to cram in.

Why go through the trouble of releasing a double live album and DVD in 2012? For the same reasons that every band puts out a live album, says Rivera.

"One part of it was that I thought it would put us at the end of our term with the record label, and we could renegotiate," he says. "I'm always thinking about business! The other part of it, of course, is that I was raised on live albums.

"That's what really formed my whole image of why I wanted to be in a band, was listening to the live albums," the singer added. Judas Priest's Unleashed in the East, UFO's Strangers In the Night, Tokyo Takes Scorpions and on down the line. I thought to myself, "Well, Jesus Christ, after all these years we've been together, I'll be damned if Helstar's not going to have an official live album!"

So, that double live album/home video has been crossed off the bucket list, which is nice. But 2013 is shaping up to be no less busy for the band than 2012. In January, the group will be part of the punishing 70,000 Tons of Metal, the world's largest metal cruise, joining everybody from Helloween to Nile. More East Coast dates are in the works, and writing has even begun on a new album -- even if the creative process has changed a bit in 30 years.

"We're already exchanging stuff via email," Rivera says. "That's the way we do things now. We don't even go into a studio to rehearse now, we just send everything back and forth!"

The singer says they're shooting for a fall 2013 release for the new one. Until then, Helstar's hometown crowd will have to content itself with a comprehensive restropective of the band's first three decades on Saturday.

"Being that this is Houston, the last show of the year for us celebrating our 30th anniversary, there will probably be a lot of surprises," Rivera says. "As long as the crowd does their part -- which they always do -- who knows what'll end up happening? We may even do a three-hour show."

With Sanctus Bellum, Metavenge, Apocalyptic and Axis in Collapse, 9 p.m. Saturday at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel, www.warehouselive.com.

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