Our Texans who art in Helstar, quality be thy name! Still a ballistic barrage of heavy metal goodness but better than "Glory of Chaos," which was better than "The King of Hell," which was an impressive yet contemporary return from one of heavy metal's darlings. "This Wicked Nest" is the first of the group's reincarnation works to capture the olden intricacy of the Helstar brand by reducing the band's incredibly aggressive thrash tendencies à la Exodus and circling back towards heavy/power metal influences that are more compositionally dynamic and wide-ranging. In a sentence, "This Wicked Nest" sounds like the muscle and bones of Helstar's newer records juxtaposed to the mentality of the band's early days, and once again their prominence is justified. "This Wicked Nest" is yet another impressive notch in Helstar's belt-and the choir says, "What else is new?"
While I enjoyed both "The King of Hell" and "Glory of Chaos," this is a welcome upgrade; I'm glad "This Wicked Nest" doesn't stall on the overt themes of those two records and that it runs on its own conceptualization. Following the latter-day formula with melodic sequences and songwriting improvements that together show more depth than the band's recent ventures into castrating viciousness, "This Wicked Nest" supplies modern thrashers interlinking the stout elements of Helstar's dynamic songwriting, which were mostly missing from the slay-slay-slay take on "Glory of Chaos." The tunes are stratified with vibrant guitar parts and to a larger degree an element of variety between anthems, triggering each tune to individually format its own designs and make these songs their own enterprises.
Yet incorporating a level of variety properly requires a degree of versatility, and there are few groups that have shown to be as suitably adaptable as Helstar. No problems are shown launching into customary thrash-based raids like "Defy the Swarm" and "It Has Risen," yet simultaneously the melodic guitar lines of "Fall of Dominion" blend into the record's texture smoothly, and at least make sense in their context. The slow riffing throughout the mid-paced "Cursed" and the guitar acrobatics of the instrumental "Isla De Las Munecas," again, spice up the progression and represent the Helstar tribe nicely. I find the songs to be wide and complex; they're layered with several parts, none of which halt the album's surge or hinder the balanced attack of what "This Wicked Nest" offers.
The creative avenues are augmented by the expected level of performances, which are flawless. James Rivera sounds great at his age growling and rasping and shrieking and wailing like a banshee on fire; the excellent leads and sturdy rhythm section further support Helstar's thrash-based direction with wider compositional options. In sum, take "This Wicked Nest" as an evolution of modern Helstar-an extensive, smarter revision of the band's work since reforming. It's my favorite of theirs since "Nosferatu," because "This Wicked Nest" does not rehash the past or settle for the safe path; it ends up sounding dynamic and explosive. Not bad for a bunch of old fogeys.