It is quite obvious that Helloween’s fans are firmly divided between the Kiske and Deris vocal camps, with the latter being the current shouter for this stalwart German power metal band. Arguably the band has never really found form since the Keeper albums of the 80s and their subsequent signing to a major label which was for metallers total sacrilege at the time and caused creative chaos for the band resulting in mid era catalogue that was probably more miss than hit for most fans of the band. I personally thought “Better Than Raw” and The Dark Ride” were very good albums as it appeared the band found their niche again. I did feel the third incarnation of the Keeper series was a little flat and failed to live up to the heady expectations of its predecessors. “Gambling With The Devil” was far better as was their last album before this “7 Sinners” both albums setting Helloween on the righteous path to power metal salvation. And so after nearly 30 years this 14th album (16 if you include the covers and best of albums) sees the band return to truly exceptional form with a power metal laden album that listens as a ‘how to’ in power metal.
Kicking off the album is “Nabataea” which also has a lavish video for it and immediately the rich warm production afforded is truly superb. The Egyptian themed guitar work works well before the speedy power metal hair flowing, wide stance posing riff comes in. My mind immediately had me thinking about Firewind’s style of speed metal like riffing from Gus G, as even the chorus is wondrously delivered by Deris’ very versatile larynx. The harmonies are typical for Helloween, the band who developed and embedded them into the very fabric of all power metal releases of the 80s and beyond. Into “World At War” and again Firewind like speediness is dominant, with Dani giving the kick peddles some serious hammer. The song is very catchy indeed with a rousing far reaching chorus belted out that even has a touch of Dragonforce about it.
Things slow down on “Live On!” which is a typical sultry power metal tune, cleanly sang and up-tempo before the album returns for more double kick thunder on “Far From The Stars”. “Burning Sun” is the bands tribute to the legendary Jon Lord who passed away last year. This is a very catchy tune with a high velocity lead supremely executed and a massive chorus. There is a Priest feel to the riff that runs through the fabric of the song which is firmly fluffy flamboyant power metal and I damn well like it. I did feel that the short “Wanna Be God” was a little bit of a filler as the tune leads into the title track which is prime time Helloween, nothing new on offer, just a purist song that the band could probably write in their sleep.
Helloween has always had a sense of humour and this album is no different with “Asshole” being the tongue in cheek tune, musically and definitely lyrically. The song is more of a groove metal song than power metal but very enjoyable and sure to be on the live set on tour. I can’t really fault this album in all honesty as even the weaker tunes will put most power metal bands to shame as the album ends with the really rather good “Church Breaks Down” which starts with bells and a lone choir voice and keyboards. These are brushed aside by the harmonising guitar shredding that erupts forth. The pace drops into the verse sections only for the double bass forays to return for the chorus as expected. As early as this is in 2013, power metal bands will have a lot do to knock this off my power metal play list this year. I reckon it will be my number one power metal album of 2013 this time next year.
(9/10 Martin Harris)