It’s a new year and a brand new album, album number 14 to be exact, from that bastion of all things metal from Germany, Helloween. I can’t believe I’ve been listening to these guys for the best part of 25 years now and that makes me feel old. Thankfully one thing this album does not feel is old. However, this review is stunningly simple for someone like me or any fans of the band. If you love Helloween you’ll love this. If you’ve never taken to them, this won’t convince you any different. If you’re wanting to get into Helloween then this is the perfect introduction to what they are, what they do and to the quality of their work.
The album kicks off in suitably epic Helloween fashion with their first single and story of the ancient civilisation of Nabataea. At seven minutes long it hits all the right notes for what you would expect from one of their long runners. Soaring chorus, check; speedy technical riffs, check; sweeping runs of the fretboards and pounding drums, check; it’s all here including an atmospheric middle section and is a fitting start to this album. Don’t let the length put you off, the track never gives you a moment to get bored and it reminds me of some of their finest moments way back when I first heard Keeper of the Seven Keys.
It’s interesting bringing to mind Keeper above from the Part II album because I find myself drawing comparisons again with World of War as in places it has a similar style to Eagle Fly Free but it also draws you in with an evil undertone in the verse before the band’s trademark chorus section replete with harmonious vocals rings out. Live Now on the other hand leans more towards a straight out commercial rocker and would probably work well as the next single.
As I mentioned above, this is Helloween doing what they know and do best. If you go into this album expecting changes of direction or ground breaking new music then you’ll be seriously disappointed. This kind of album and these kind of songs are exactly why I love Helloween so much. They tried to change things around with the likes of Pink Bubbles and Kameleon at the twilight of Michael Kiske’s time (and influence) but with Andi Deris comfortably at the helm now for the best part of 20 years it’s gone way beyond time for folk to stop comparing.
Andi Deris fronts this band with a stunning ease, his vocals are superbly emotive with a wonderful range and power that comes across in every track on this album, especially during the roaring track Burning Sun. More importantly though, he’s backed by a technically superb bunch of musicians with both Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner pulling off solos and twin guitar harmonies with consummate ease all the while complemented flawlessly by Dani Loble and Marcus Grosskopf powering the bottom end.
Gushing? Yeah, and I’m not in any way ashamed of doing it either. I was introduced to the band when Keeper first came out back in 1987 and have lived through the highs and lows. I’m a fan and I’m chuffed that now into album number fourteen they’re still producing such high quality music.
Anyway, I’ve been rambling for a few paragraphs about my love of the ‘ween when really I should be telling you how great this album is. Waiting for the Thunder brings to mind If I could Fly with some stand out keyboard work and a melody that sticks in your head while Hold Me In Your Arms is a beautifully simple yet powerful ballad that really showcases the softer side of the band’s talents.
Heading towards the end of the album Wanna Be God acts more as an intro to the title track and is akin to Queen’s We Will Rock You, before Straight Out of Hell itself comes roaring through your ears at a hundred miles an hour in classic Helloween style.
With the quirky, tongue-in-cheek interlude of Asshole, something at times I think only Helloween can get away with doing, we head towards the end of what has been a very very entertaining hour worth of new tunes. Years and Make Fire Catch the Fly remain true to the style and substance we’ve already heard throughout the album before it comes to a tumultuous end and in fine fashion with Church Breaks Down.
Yep, it’s great to have another weenie album to wrap my ears around. It does indeed look like it’s going to be a happy new year.
Straight Out of Hell will be available from 18th January worldwide through Spinefarm Records.
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
Andi Deris – Vocals
Michael Weikath – Guitar
Sascha Gerstner – Guitar
Marcus Grosskopf – Bass
Dani Loble – Drums