I must admit that I’m not the world’s biggest power metal fan. Fact is, I truly dislike it. Bands like Blind Guardian and Edguy give me bad rashes. Helloween was the band that made that genre big and they practically invented it, but when they started out, the term power metal hadn’t been invented yet and they were seen as just another speed metal outfit. The first time I heard them, it was with their debut album Walls Of Jericho. I thought it was terrible. I still do! Kai Hansen’s vocals are really dreadful, the production is a mess and the songs leave a whole lot to be desired. The band changed their musical ways a bit and became more melodic, but the biggest change was that they added new singer Michael Kiske to the mix, a guy who really could sing and their two first releases, Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1 and 2 made me a fan. The band was on the verge on making it real big after supporting big bands like Iron Maiden and the Keeper records sold real well. Well enough for major record company EMI to pick up the band, but the band was tied to independent label Noise which refused to let them go which meant that it took them years to release their follow-up, Pink Bubbles Go Ape and when it was finally released, nobody was interested anymore. And besides, that album didn’t really cut it at all.
After the musically schizophrenic, but in my book very good album Chameleon, singer Kiske left the band as he was tired of metal and was replaced by former Pink Cream ’69 singer Andi Deris and in my opinion, Helloween never made a great record again. But the band has kept on going releasing albums and has created a pretty big following throughout the years, staying true to their heavy / power metal brand. The fact that I don’t think they have made one truly great album with Deris does not mean that I think that they are crap by any means, it’s just that I don’t find their music that intriguing and not once have I spotted the kind of songs that made their Keeper records so good. Nothing sticks and I actually find it pretty annoying to listen to a whole Helloween record. The press release for their last album, Seven Sinners said that this would be their best album to date and that it would be the one that should make the old fans happy. Well, it didn’t work for me at all, I found it pretty dull, so I wasn’t all excited by this one either.
But lo and behold, this time Helloween has made what I think is their best album since Chameleon. Not that they have revolutionised their music by any means, but this time they have managed to write a bunch of really good songs that really stick and at many times I can hear echoes of what once made the band great!
Opener “Nabatea” is a long and heavy piece, epic with Keeper vibes, “Far From The Stars” is fast, catchy and very Helloween, “Burning Sun” is also very good, melodic and catchy but still hard. It also comes in two versions, one of them as a bonus track (Hammond Version) where they have added a big Hammond organ which brings the song to a higher level, so I prefer that version and “Waiting For The Thunder” is just great, a melodic hard rock track with melodies in the chorus that almost steps into AOR territory. It’s those things and the likes of the brilliant ballad “Hold Me In Your Arms” and the short and rhythmic drum based “Wanna Be God” that breaks the mold of all the power metal and makes an album like this varied and more accessible for all us non power metal fans. The title track is classic catchy Helloween, “Asshole” is a slower piece with brilliant lyrics and “Another Shot Of Life” is a catchy killer that is wasted being labeled as just a bonus track.
The new Helloween album is a HUGE surprise for someone like me, who had more or less given up on the band and shows that they’re still very much alive and kicking and that they have a lot to offer. It may not have the strength of their 80’s and Deris sounds way more strained than Kiske ever did, but this line up has a big following that holds the Deris era as Helloween’s best and even though I disagree on that one, I do believe that this album should please both camps. Well done.
Jon Wilmenius (7/10)
2. World Of War
3. Live Now!
4. Far From The Stars
5. Burning Sun
6. Waiting For The Thunder
7. Hold Me In Your Arms
8. Wanna Be God
9. Straight Out Of Hell
12. Make Fire Catch The Fly
13. Church Breaks Down
14. Another Shot Of Life (Bonus Track)
15. Burning Sun (Hammond Version) (Bonus Track)