"Vampiro" Lineup (2016):
James Rivera - voice
Larry Barragan - guitars
Mikey Lewis - drums
Garrick Smith - bassist
Andrew Atwood - guitar
Genre: Heavy Metal
1981 - Houston, Texas, at the tender age of 16, Larry Barragan knows he wants to form a band that is special; one whose members would all compliment his burgeoning writing and playing skills to create a musical monster! He forms Helstar with members of his previous band, Black Rose.
1983 - After numerous lineup changes the band settles into its first solid recording lineup: James Rivera (vocals), Larry Barragan (guitar), Tom Rogers (guitar), Hector Pavon (drums) and Paul Medina (bass). The average age of the band at that time was 19! The band records an 8-song demo in the springtime. Almost instantaneously, the newly recorded demo becomes one of the most highly sought-after and traded demos of the underground tape-trading scene. Before long, this little old band from Texas with members still in high school, becomes internationally known and celebrated as the next big thing in heavy metal. By year’s end, the demo finds its way to the right people and thus begins the official career of one of the most influential underground US metal bands of all time, Helstar! The band sign with Combat Records in November and in December enters the studio to re-record the songs from the demo to release as its first album entitled ‘Burning Star’.
1984 – 'Burning Star' is released to much critical acclaim. The metal press takes notice and heralds the band for its musicianship and songwriting ability. Many quickly point out the band’s highly-talented vocalist ‘Bill Lionel’ AKA James Rivera, whose voice is described as Dio meets Halford and the twin guitar attack of Barragan and Rogers that is just as lethal as many well-known established acts. The band opens for well known act Wasp in Houston, Texas. Regional Texas touring ensues and solidifies the band’s status as a crowd favorite.
1985 – In July, the band enters Mad Dog Studios in Venice, California to record its second release for Combat. The lineup: James Rivera, Larry Barragan, Jerry Abarca (bass), Rob Trevino (guitar), and Rene Luna (drums). In December, the band plays its first ever arena show opening for Christian rockers Stryper in the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston, TX.
1986 – In March, the band tours with Anthrax throughout Texas. ‘Remnants of War’ is released in June and receives much praise from around the world. The album is in the top 10 heavy charts in Germany and others in the press are giving stellar reviews. A US tour begins in October. The band is opening for Megadeth and TT Quick as well as some headline dates. The response is overwhelmingly positive. More regional Texas touring occurs with some headlining shows and a couple of special guest slots opening for King Diamond, and Keel.
1987 - The band relocates to Los Angeles and signs with Metal Blade records. The lineup: James Rivera, Larry Barragan, and Jerry Abarca with newcomers Andre Corbin (guitar), and Frank Ferreira (drums).
1988 – ‘A Distant Thunder’ is recorded and released. The band returns to its home base of Houston, TX and later embarks on its first ever European tour. The tour is a huge success playing several arenas with Yngwie Malmsteen and Tankard and also headlining and selling-out the famed Dynamo club in Eindhoven. In the U.S., the band is given a support slot for Savatage at their performance in Riverside, CA.
1989 – The band records and releases ‘Nosferatu’, which is partially a concept album with the first six songs dedicated to the story of Braum Stoker's ‘Dracula’. The music was highly complex, yet highly musical, and dealt with a subject matter that would become quite en vogue in years to come. At the time, it is misunderstood, yet now, almost unfailingly, most consider this release to be the band’s Magnum Opus. Also, this year saw the band tour with label mates Fates Warning in support of the Perfect Symmetry release.
1990 - The band records a 4-song demo with two new members, Aaron Garza (guitar) and Russell Deleon (drums). However, with the grunge movement gaining momentum, the face of heavy music in the U.S. is changing and the band is unable to secure a new deal.
1995 – The band signs with Massacre records and hires Megadeth bassist (and friend from years back) David Ellefson to produce its 5th release, ‘Multiples of Black’. The lineup: James Rivera, Jerry Abarca, Russell Deleon, Aaron Garza, and Mike Heald (guitar).
2000 - Metal Blade Records releases a live bootleg CD ‘Twas the Night of a Helish Xmas’.
2001 – Iron Glory Records packages 2 demo recordings and releases them as ‘The James Rivera Legacy’. James assembles a reunion lineup with Jerry and Russell and some guest musicians to perform at the Bang Your Head!!! festival in Europe. Following this, the band embarks on a US tour beginning with the Milwaukee Metal fest and ending at the Powermad festival, held in Baltimore, MD. Participation in the German Bang Your Head!!! festival inspires James to organize a carbon copy of the event in Houston, TX, in which the band headlines.
2002 – The assemblage of reunited and guest musicians perform at the Dynamo festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
2004 – Touring Europe in support of his ‘Distant Thunder’ release on Massacre Records, James headlines the Keep It True festival in Germany as Helstar. Select appearances in Greece, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands follow. The lineup: James Rivera, Jerry Abarca, Mike Heald, Eric Halpern (guitar), and Mikey Lewis(drums).
2006 – The year 2006 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of ‘Remnants of War'. After 19 years of separation, James, Larry, Jerry, and Rob reform with Russell to bring the nucleus of this classic line-up back together.
In June the band plays its first show in San Antonio at the 4th annual Robb’s Metalworks Showcase. It is a triumphant return with people traveling from all over Texas and the US to witness the event. In August the band plays 2 shows at the Jumping Turtle in San Marcos, California, a sold-out performance in its hometown of Houston, TX and also appears at the 3rd annual Minneapolis Mayhem festival in Minnesota.
2007 – In March the band lands supporting act for Testament in Houston, Texas, while the summer yields two festival performances; Burning Star Metal Fest II in San Marcos, CA and Bang Your Head USA Texas II, held in Houston. Amidst these events, the classic reunited lineup garners interest from AFM Records, located in Hamburg, Germany, with whom they ultimately sign a four album worldwide distribution deal. The album 'Sins of the Past' is recorded over the summer months at Bravo Studios in Houston, TX, and Skull Seven Productions in Northridge, CA. AFM Records releases 'Sins of the Past', in Europe on November 23, 2007; a collection of the band's favorite classic songs re-recorded with updated style and production, plus two brand new bonus tracks.
2008- The band kicks off the year by making several European festival appearances at Germany’s Keep It True and Rick Hard festivals and the Play It Loud festival in Italy. Later that year, the band releases its first official release of new material since Mulitples of Black. The album, ‘The King Of Hell’ is released in October on AFM Records and shows a different side of the band; a darker, heavier and more aggressive face is shown to the world.
2009 - Multiple regional and international tours follow with the band making appearances at several major European festivals such as Germany’s Head Bangers Open Air, Belgium’s Alcatraz Metal Fest, and Sweden’s largest festival, Sweden Rock.
2010 – After making several guest appearances during the last few months of the King Of Hell touring cycle, drummer Mikey Lewis claims sole ownership of the throne. Re-invigorated, the band records and releases ‘Glory of Chaos’ and this time it takes no prisoners. The album is an all-out thrash assault. Larry Barragan states, "It's the album I've always wanted to make. It's the heaviest and definitely thrashiest album we've ever done. It's an album that just punches you in the face." More regional and international touring ensues, with the band finally making its first ever appearances in the UK and Poland.
2012 - After 30 Years of life, Helstar releases its first official live DVD to commemorate the milestone. Recorded live in their hometown of Houston, Texas, ’30 Years of Hel’ treats the fans to classic tunes from every album spanning the band’s storied career. The band embarks on its most ambitious tour since reforming in 2006, with first ever appearances in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Turkey, to name a few.
2013- The band kicks off the year with performances on the 3rd annual 70,000 Tons of Metal Festival (cruise ship) and several other select shows around Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and Connecticut. The remainder of the year is spent writing and recording.
2014 – Energized from the writing, recording, and mixing process, the band is ready to destroy all that comes within its path. Helstar is set to release This Wicked Nest, worldwide to the masses on April 25, 2014. An album that promises to return the band to its roots of power metal while combining the thrash elements of Glory of Chaos, This Wicked Nest will certainly prove to the world that there is much more left in these Texas Metal Legends!