Saturday, February 9, 2013

Helloween - Straight Out Of Hell

There are very few bands I respect as much as Helloween. After the band created the modern power metal sound, two of their main songwriters left (one of whom is still the prime example of a power metal vocalist). It would have been easy for the remaining members to hire a Michael Kiske clone and live off the success of those two classic albums (not to mention “Walls of Jericho”!). Instead, they brought in Andi Deris, who is not only one of the most unique vocalists in all of power metal, but is pretty much the opposite of Kiske. While not all of their albums since then have been great, the last 10 or so years have been pretty stellar. “Straight Out Of Hell” marks yet another great Helloween album.

Things kick of with the Deris-penned “Nabataea”. This is the ultimate highlight of the record, as no song proves to be catchier, or more epic. There are several moments that will bring a smile to your face because they are so true to the Helloween sound (the “children, children” verse, along with the “once there was a land…” part, in particular). The chorus will make you want to scream along with Deris, even if you have no clue what he’s talking about. While the first song on this album is the best, the quality does not drop at all. “World of War” and “Burning Sun” provide the blistering high-speed power metal songs that everyone comes to expect. “World of War” has a prime example of how to properly harmonize guitars that are soloing. Both guitarists are shredding at blazing speeds before the song finally kicks into a solo. Meanwhile, “Far From The Stars” features classic staccato Helloween riffing in the verse, and is more proof that bassist Markus Grosskopf has never written a bad, or even mediocre Helloween song. “Waiting For The Thunder”, much like Stratovarius’ “Unbreakable”, is driven by a brilliant piano line that opens the song and repeats in the chorus. The lone ballad, “Hold Me In Your Arms”, is one of the band’s better ballads. It gets a bit sappy, but the melodies are enjoyable enough to override that.

Perhaps the only weak point on the album is “Wanna Be God”. The drums never fully come in during this song and it feels very underdeveloped as a result. There’s nothing wrong with the vocals or anything else, but at only 2 minutes, it hardly feels like a real song compared to the others. After that slight dip in quality, the title track brings the album back up to speed. Excepting “Asshole”, the entire second half of the album is filled with intense, albeit predictable power metal numbers (“Church Breaks Down” is my favourite). The aforementioned “Asshole” reminds me a lot of songs like “Dr. Stein” and “Mrs. God” in that they aren’t quite what you’d expect, but end up being one of the best songs of the album. Perhaps what differentiates this song most is that it really isn’t all that fast. In fact, it is Deris' fantastic performance that drives this chorus (much like the rest of the album).

It is no secret that Helloween were one of the leaders of power metal, but “Straight Out Of Hell” continues to solidify their position as one of the top bands around these days. Pick almost any one of their contemporaries, and this album beats their new record. I cannot recommend this one enough, and after all this praise, there is only one thing left I can say: Up the Pumpkins!

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"Waiting For The Thunder"
"Church Breaks Down"

Final Rating
4.6/5 or 92%. 

Written by Scott