Review by Brian McGowan
Because of the patchy nature of their output over the years, each new Helloween release is met with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension.
The bizarre, cartoon like nature of the album artwork no longer provokes the same interest, or indeed amusement or concern. We know it’s Helloween, this is what their albums look like and let’s find out what’s inside.
Thankfully (and very satisfyingly) ‘Straight…’ builds on the new foundations created by last album, ‘7 Sinners’. It’s a bit lighter, it’s a bit heavier yes, but there’s no mistaking the imprint. And let’s face it, while we claim to embrace change, what we really want is more of the same please, only more so.
And they don’t disappoint. They blast through 15 tracks on this brand new album, sweeping elegantly through the curves and chicanes of hard rock and metal with all the skill, craft and artistry of a band who’ve been there, done that, sold the merchandise, bought the dream.
Talented musicians who know how to keep the proverbial pedal to the metal and, more importantly, when to ease back (not very often, apparently), when to change gears, when to make the engine roar and when to let it just sing sweetly.
Having said that, openers, ‘Nabatea’ and ‘World Of War’ pass by – then the album comes alive. ’Live Now’ is a melodic metal cracker whose bones are picked clean of the genre’s usual power metal baggage by a mean, lean, streamlined machine, driven by torqued up guitars and a dynamic rhythm section.
Throughout the album – ‘Far From The Stars’, ‘Waiting For The Thunder’ and ‘Years’ are further prime examples – the band prove that there is just no need to coat the music with an artificial veneer of grandeur to create awesome power metal, just great arrangements and spine tingling orchestration. Something that escapes many of their peers (and pretenders).
While slamming riffs, razoring axes and a helter skelter ride of speeding beats provide the urgency, Andi Deris (he’s been with the band for close on 20 years now) provides the narrative, using what now sound like scorched vocal cords, passionate, worldly, been round the block many times and let’s go round again. Just listen to ’Burning Sun’
But that’s not the best of it. Sascha Gerstner, Michael Weikath, Marcus Grosskopf and Deris all contribute song writing, either individually or in collaboration. And they’ve refined and honed those skills to the extent you could argue that the magnificent ‘Waiting For The Thunder’, the mainstream pop of ‘Hold me In Your Arms’ and the foot-on-the-monitor title track will be career highlights in retrospect.
Unarguably, ‘Straight To Hell’ is an outstanding addition to an already considerable body of work. They say even the best bands have a shelf life, but Helloween look like they’ll run and run.
8 out of 10
- World Of War
- Live Now
- Far From The Stars
- Burning Sun
- Waiting For The Thunder
- Hold Me In Your Arms
- Wanna Be God
- Straight Out Of Hell
- Make Fire Catch The Fly
- Church Breaks Down *
- Another Shot Of Life *
- Burning Sun (Hammond mix) *
* indicates bonus track – European gatefold edition