Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Release Date: February 15, 2016
In February, Sacramento’s Helion Prime finally dropped its eagerly anticipated self-titled debut. The band, which pulls its name from science fiction’s Chronicle of Riddick series and bases its lyrical themes around actual science, has delivered one of the genre’s most intriguing new power metal albums. Helion Prime is the twisted child of Dire Peril guitarist Jason Ashcraft and Graveshadow vocalist Heather Michele. The duo ran through some mathematical equations and came to the scientific conclusion that the band might work better with the dynamic rhythm section of bassist Jeremy Steinhouse and Axiom drummer Justin Herzer along for the journey. To add more depth to their extraordinary debut they included numerous cameos from friends throughout the power metal community.
The album opens with the sci-fi atmospherics of “Into the Alien Terrain” penned by Disforia keyboardist Austin Bentley and featuring a nice cinematic spoken word intro. This leads into “The Drake Equation”, a track which asks the question, are we alone in the universe? One is immediately captivated by Michele’s charismatic vocals and the interplay with Ashcraft’s crisp riffs.
“Life Find’s a Way” is pushed by a chugging riffing and a nice dancing riff from Ashcraft. Michele’s layered vocals are flawlessly delivered as is the extremely melodic guitar solo from special guest Taylor Washington (Paladin, The Fury). This is followed by the album’s advance released track, “Into the Blackhole”. The song’s intro has a nice spacey vibe utilizing a theremin courtesy of Judicator’s Tony Cordisco, which leads into Ashcraft’s galloping riffs and the pounding rhythmic foundation. The melodies on this one are huge and sweeping, and Michelle’s layered vocals simply soar. MindMaze guitarist Jeff Teets adds a fantastic solo that staggers and sways before making a staccato run into the midi breakdown and massive vocal bridge which is one of the record’s finest moments.
Helion Prime slows it down for the melancholy and contemplative feel of “A Place I Thought I Knew” which is a retrospective homage to Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek overall. The pace picks up midway through, adding a touch of determination to the tone of the song. Tanagra’s Steven Soderberg lends the guitar solo on this one.
The band goes back on the attack with the gnashing riffage of “You Keep What you Kill”. Soulmass vocalist Bryan Edwards lays down some harsh counterpoint vocals, while Soulmass guitarist Brad Windnagle contributes the lead solo. This is easily the heaviest and darkest track on the album with an eerie chanted chorus. Herzer gets a nice workout behind the kit on this track.
The tempo moves into a driving frenzy on “Ocean of Time”, a time travel inspired piece that features some rivet-gun like fretwork from Ashcraft over Herzer’s pummeling stick work and Steinhouse’s rumbling bass. ShadowStrike’s Matt Krais and Ryan Patane serve up a frenzied and intertwined melee of guitar and keyboard solos, respectively.
Next up is the mid-tempo weightiness of “Moon-Watcher” which is lyrically based on 2001: A Space Odyssey—the book, not the movie. The song is a melodic, plodding beast with Washington once again providing the lead solo.
Michele tackles space travel on the hammering juggernaut “Apollo (The Eagle Has Landed)” which delivers some of her most melodic and engaging vocal work. Herzer and Steinhouse propel the journey and the twin guitar harmonies combine with one of the most infectious choruses on the record to sell the song. Josh Schwartz (A Sound of Thunder) lays down a solo that’s a voyage all on its own.
The album closes with the sonic grandiloquence of “Live and Die on This Day”. The song rolls out with a moody, emotive piano intro and Michele’s sweet vocals setting the tone, before Ashcraft’s chugging riffs kick in. Dream Evil’s Niklas Isfeldt lends his voice here, which interplays beautifully with Michele’s. Lyrically it is a reminder that were a merely a blip in time in the grand scheme of things.
Helion Prime remain true to the power metal ideal while simultaneously delving into new directions conceptually. While there is still some science fiction ground covered thematically, the crux of the lyrical content is focused on actual science. The album artwork is outstanding, and the music production is excellent overall. What truly sets Helion Prime apart on this debut is how strong the songs are as a cohesive whole. The flow is fantastic and there is no significant drop off in the quality from track to track. Helion Prime is an album packed with explosive riffs, hooky melodies, spirited individual performances, and bold ideas. Ashcraft has penned some of his best work on this record, and Michele’s lyrics are inspired and her vocals truly shine. None of the cameo performances seem distracting or out-of-place, which is always a challenge that Helion Prime has pulled off quite well. This is an early inclusion into what will likely be a Best of 2016 album pick.
Helion Prime can be purchased through their bandcamp page for only $7 digital or $10 physical.