It is my honest opinion that when a band reaches a certain popularity or legacy, they will never make a great album again. There might be a few good songs left, but not entire records worth. There seems to be a few different ways of dealing with this fact of life. One possibility is to go the way of Deep Purple or Metallica and keep a fair amount of time between releases, keep the fans waiting and growing restless. That way the will all rush out to greet the new record, mediocre or not. Another way is that of Sepultura or Megadeth, keep on pushing out records every second year, with a decline in quality and inspiration. But at least you keep the fans warm.
Helloween follows this second path of doing things, although it might be three years between records. The last truly inspired record they put out was “The Dark Ride” fifteen years ago. It’s true that the third keeper album had its moments, so did Gambling with the Devil. This time around the band sounds tired and uninspired, to such a degree that I had some difficulty getting through the entire thing.
My main issue with this album is Deris. I used to love his vocals. The live album from the nineties, “High Live”, is just amazing. He had this power and honesty in his voice. Gruff and grueling at times, soft and beautiful at others. Now he’s just playing it safe, not stretching for any kind of emotion. It’s so boring, tedious and (insert synonym for half assed here). If this album is a clue to his abilities now, then a hero has truly fallen.
Another issue is the rhythm section. Grosskopf has never been the focal point of Helloween, but this time he is barely audible, or indistinguishable from the lower end of the guitars. Also, Loeble seems more and more a placeholder on the drums. Helloween has had some amazing drummers in their past, Ingo Schwichtenberg and Uli Kusch were both amazingly creative drummers and played major roles in the sound of the band. Loeble might be a creative drummer too, but on this record he could have been replaced by the drum machine from Song Smith. I don’t know if he is not allowed to by the more senior members of the band or what the deal is, it’s just not what I’ve come to expect from the drummers of this band.
I was planning on making this a track by track review, but I won’t. I will lump the songs that sound uninspired, boring, half assed, unoriginal, waste of time or crap into a list I call: LEGAZY DESTROYING TUNES THAT SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN: Heroes, My God-Given Right, Lost in America, The Swing of a Fallen World, Like Everybody Else, If God Loves Rock and Roll, Living on the Edge, I Wish I Were There, Wicked Game, Free World. That’s ten out of sixteen songs, now for the positive.
Claws, this song has some power and reminds me of Better than Raw. The riff is a proper metal riff, worthy of Weikaths good name. Finally a proper guitar solo, yay! Russian Roulé has a nice drive to it. I like the dual guitar leads between the verses. Deris gets to show off his mid-range crunch, which he apparently is still able to do, but most times choses not to?
Battles Won is a classic Helloween song, both in sound, style and is, to me at least, the obvious choice for a lead single. It is truly one of the highlights of the record.
You, still of War is the best song on here. I actually like this one. It had me fooled for a moment, the intro made me expect another ballad, but then the guitars truly kick in and heavy metal magic ensues. Aaaaah this is what I want! Great, powerful riffs, blistering solos, easy to remember melodies, jippi!
It’s not all bad, but a sixteen track album with ten fillers, wouldn’t it have made more sense to make it a ten track or eight track with only a couple of fillers? I think maybe my time with Helloween has come to its end, in a way. I will still pull out the old classics, some of the best metal ever written, but I don’t think I will buy any more new material.
Recomended downloads: «You, Still of War», «Battles Won», «Claw»