Helstar – “Nosferatu” (1989)

Helstar!  Nosferatu is arguably Helstar’s best album.  Fans often cite the highly technical, superb guitar work of Larry Barragan and Andre Corbin as the reason why.  Conceptually, the first half of the album draws upon the vampiric themes associated with the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. 

Metal Blade Records released Nosferatu in 1989 on CD (catalog number 7 73419-2) and cassette (catalog number 7 73419-4).

Nosferatu was also released in Europe on Roadracer Records (part of Roadrunner Records).  The Roadracer release was pressed on CD (RO 9438-2) and LP (RO 9438-1).

Metal Blade Records re-issued Nosferatu in 1996 on CD (catalog number 3984-14208-2).

 

Gallery (click to enlarge):

 

 

Info Nuggets:

  • Conceptually, the first half of the album draws upon the vampiric themes associated with the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, however the ‘plot’ of Helstar’s story is not the same as the plot of the Dracula novel.  The tracks that are part of the Dracula concept are Rhapsody In Black, Baptized In Blood, To Sleep Per Chance To Scream, Harker’s Tale (Mass Of Death), Perseverance And Desperation, and The Curse Has Passed Away.  These tracks make up all of side-1 of the original vinyl and cassette versions of Nosferatu.
  • The vampire depicted on the album cover has similar physical characteristics (bald head, pointy ears and long fingernails) as the vampire (Count Orlok) depicted in the 1922 German film Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens.  This film was essentially an unauthorized adaptation of Stoker’s Dracula.  Plot details and character’s names were changed in the film because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel.  The term “Nosferatu” has since become synonymous with the word “vampire” or even “Dracula”.  Helstar did not use the plot of Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens.
  • Snippets of dialog from the 1979 film Dracula (starring Frank Langella) are used between some of the tracks on the first half of the album.  This film had a much different ending than the original Dracula novel.  Helstar did not use the plot of this film, either. 
  • In 1996, Helstar guitarist Larry Barragan did an interview with fullinbloommusic.com.  Regarding the Nosferatu album, here’s what he had to say;  “The music was quite complex.  I remember really having to rehearse and practice quite a bit before we went into the studio.  When I listen to it now I can step back and see what a nice piece of work it was.”  Barragan also added;  “I love that album, we put a lot into it.  However, I think that’s when Andre and I started going in different directions musically.  I hated the instrumental “Perseverance and Desperation”.  To me it was guitar masturbation and I wasn’t into that and I’m still not into that.  He said he’d do all the parts for it when it came to recording it.  I said go for it.  Putting that song on the album was a huge mistake and I wish I would have stuck to my guns and told him “no”.  Whenever I listen to the album I always skip that song.  That song is a good song but it belonged on the Andre Corbin solo album, not Nosferatu.”
  •  Larry Barragan played all the guitar parts on Harsh Reality.
  • Andre Corbin also did an interview with fullinbloommusic.com (in 2009).  Here’s an interesting quote;  “Larry didn’t like my instrumental, sounds like Larry didn’t like me either from his interviews I’ve read since.  I knew he wasn’t going to learn and practice his harmony parts for all the riffing involved, so I practiced double on mine and his parts to make sure it got done on the record.  He could have helped me with the writing but decided to ignore me instead.  It was my idea for him to do all the guitars on “Harsh Reality”, I thought it was a good idea since I was doing all of “Perseverance”.  It’s funny though, the guitar plugging in and clanging at the very beginning of “Harsh” is mine… “
  • Nosferatu was not a success and Metal Blade dropped Helstar shortly thereafter.

My Worthless Opinion:  I have always found Nosferatu to be one of those albums that is easy to admire but, at least for me, a difficult one to enjoy.  There is certainly a lot to digest, as the album is quite note dense.  It is obvious that the band meticulously crafted the songs and painstakingly rehearsed all the complex “math” associated with these technical constructs.  But for all the clinical precision I can’t help but feel let down by the lack of melody in James Rivera’s vocal lines.  While certainly a capable singer, Rivera does not have an interesting voice in my opinion.  So despite the obvious talent of the band I feel that Nosferatu is a bit lifeless.  My score: C

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