Helker
Somewhere in the Circle

Hey, even the most jaded among traditional/power metal fans would be just a little curious when the album sticker includes text like “the leading heavy metal band from South America” and “featuring Tim ‘Ripper’ owns & Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear). And then there is that whole thing about being “for fans of Primal Fear, Dio, and Judas Priest.” You know what? It’s not mere press hyperbole; it’s the truth and you can handle it.

Right off the bat the tone of the riff on opener “Modern Roman Circus” told me that Somewhere in the Circle had an edge, rather than a polish so bright you’d be seeing those uncatchable black spots. That particular song turned out to be a leading indicator of the more than respectable songwriting involved. Straddling the line between the newer school power metal of later years and the classic metal of golden-era Judas Priest and Dio what Helker offers on Somewhere in the Circle is an album that should in fact appeal to fans of the aforementioned heavyweights. It appeals to me, doesn’t it?

The upsides are several. That includes a vocalist in Diego Valder who pays respectful tribute (intentional or otherwise) to the late Ronnie James Dio or in what is probably a more apt modern-era comparison, Nils Patrik Johansson (Lions Share, Wuthering Heights, Astral Doors). That Helker relies first and foremost on a stout rhythmic backbone and thick/crunchy riffs, a sizeable hook delivered with power by Valder as the collective basis for the music speaks to the quality of the songwriting. Let’s face it; anything else is accent and window dressing. The band does however have a firm grasp of the compositional “little things,” whether it is a certain melodic guitar flourish or a splash of electronics (e.g. “At the End of the Journey”).

The quintet also manages to keep one’s attention pretty much the entire way thanks to some well-placed changeups. Take the appearance of Scheepers and Owens on the classy “Begging to be Reborn” and a chorus melody on “Ghosts from the Past” that is a pinch different from the norm for the album. In fact, the brief up-tempo shift on “Begging…” during which Scheepers takes the mic is a real attention-grabber. The ballad-esque “Flying” with its acoustic guitar, harmony vocals, and keys is well done, even if it didn’t result in an audible ringing of my personal bell.

What most of the above really means is that on Somewhere in the Circle Helker succeeds in striking the right balance between balls and beauty. That’s never as easy as it seems, folks. Hey, it’s not like you’ll find any future classics here nor be bowled over by originality, but you’ll not come across any outright duds either. Well, “Dreams” does come off a tad ill-fitting, but that’s probably why it’s included as a bonus track on this limited edition version, which also comes with videos for “Wake Up” and “Flying.” Bang for the buck, right? In short, it’s hard to go too wrong with this one unless you’re a trad-metal punter of overbearing pickiness. You can check out the video for “Wake Up” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY4ndVUUAFI&feature=player_embedded

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Scott Alisoglu
March 20th, 2013

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