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I think the first thing to hit you about this album is so obviously the heaviness of the rhythm section and the weight of the guitars that I need to talk about it first. We aren't talking about ordinary power metal speed and sounds here, not even Helloween's own 'Gambling with the Devil' levels of muscle, but a whole semi-extreme bombardment of furious drums and crunching bass that doesn't let up on many of the songs here. Just listening to the deliberately over-the-top blastbeat section of 'Are You Metal?' could be enough to force some classic Helloween fans to drop this album and flee, and that's only if they made it past the downtuned groove riff of opener 'Where the Sinners Go'. However, the heaviness is as much welcome as unexpected for me, since after a couple of listens my initial confusion died down and I realised that there was a regular power metal album hiding beneath all the bare-chested pummeling.
The songs in general are constructed like any of the modern Helloween albums, averaging a little under five minutes and usually following verse-chorus-verse structure with plenty of instrumental time thrown in. The main alteration for '7 Sinners' is that the instrumental focus has shifted slightly from leads and melodies to whole-band pieces: there are rhythmic movements on the aforementioned 'Are You Metal?' and 'Long Live the King', generally more intense introductions and post-chorus parts, as well as a great focus on riffs. Maybe it's because the band are playing in a less melodic style than before, but I can pick out a lot more specific riffs than on some of the band's mid 90s or early 00s albums and most of them sound great. A few of them, like 'Long Live the King' and 'You Stupid Mankind' sound not only much, much heavier than previously (the former could pass on more than a few thrash albums from the last decade) but also a lot more modern than any of the other big power metal bands who started in the 80s. Sometimes Gamma Ray makes it to the same level of intensity, though they still retain the classic approach, and '7 Sinners' has an even heavier rhythm guitar tone than Dragonforce, to whom the drums are comparable. The solos have also taken more of a back seat, sometimes feeling like a toned-down version of the creativity that fans may be used to, yet still progressing songs and acting as more melodic diversions to the intense material. In fact, this is perhaps the only part of Helloween's sound that retains its classic edge, meaning that the solos sometimes sound too light for the song and don't have the same amount of destructive force.
Andy Deris is great here and it is his stellar vocals that help to shape songs and provide hooks. He pulls off the narrative of 'Who Is Mr Madman?', the call to arms of 'Are You Metal?', the reflective verses of 'The Sage, the Fool, the Sinner', and causes 'Far in the Future' to be hair-raisingly poignant in its building post-chorus section. His mid-range is always in control and powerful, his shrieks sound both sincere and vehement, especially on 'You Stupid Mankind', and his melodic choruses are some of the best from the band and rarely follow obvious formulas. Not only from him, but also from the heavyweight guitars, there is an exquisite sense of timing in some of these songs, almost like the way a comedian delivers a punchline to a joke, where the anticipation builds up and, just at the required moment, the final piece is added. 'If a Mountain Could Talk', for example, should end up a mediocre song according to its content (which equals nearly seven minutes of mid-paced riffing, a power chord and rapid drumming chorus, a slow, wandering solo, and a repeated vocal bridge to the last chorus), yet it exceeds these basic elements with a panache that isn't too showy, just well-judged.
This example more or less sums up the album, since most of the songs here are fairly unexceptional and go for hooks instead of virtuosity, though end up memorable, dynamic, and worth a headbang or two. There is a mild surprise in the flute solo in 'Raise the Noise' and the complete extremity of 'Long Live the King', but the real surprise is for a Helloween album to only have two unexpected moments. The only exceptions to the general quality on offer are the opener, which doesn't sound a lot like Helloween and has a rather dull and limp main riff, 'My Sacrifice', which is a rather mixed ballad with constant fast drumming, and 'Not Yet Today', which seems rather pointless as a short intro piece to the already lengthy and dramatic 'Far in the Future'. Of the other songs, 'Who Is Mr Madman?' and 'World of Fantasy' are the most fantastically catchy and fun, while 'Long Live the King' and 'Far in the Future' are the most intense, for musical and emotional reasons repectively.
Helloween's decision to make an album like '7 Sinners' could be called questionable because of its deviations from their former style, yet it works well and plays to some of the band's other strengths. Arguably, this aims for a more general metal audience than 'Keeper of the Seven Keys' or 'The Time of the Oath': the heavier and more muscular tone would make even metalcore fans feel comfortable, although the style is still much purer than Trivium or Lamb of God. Perhaps with the more modern guitar tone and dance-influenced sound on Stratovarius's 'Nemesis' (which followed '7 Sinners' by three years), we may have started to witness the old guard of power metal update their sound and try to compete with the younger bands. Either way, we get a very decent album from Helloween.
Helloween keeps improving each time they release an album with their current line-up. The Keepers III album was a warm up, and they started delivering the goods with Gambling With The Devil. New guitar player Sascha Gerstner is getting more used to the Helloween trademark sound and keeps improving his songwriting. Drummer Dani Loble is a beast behind the drum kit, lots of energy, and gives the band a darker more heavy sound. Would like to see him writing songs to keep the band fresh with new ideas.
Now onto the veterans. Weiki is Weiki, and he will still write the best songs from each album. The man gets too much heat because of Helloween’s past, but nobody can deny he can craft songs as good, if not better than Kai Hansen. Anyways, I like his approach a lot more. Markus Grosskopf is a weird case. He is a founding member, yet for some reason his songs used to be kept as B-sides. That was justified since his early songs weren’t good, but man, starting with “Deliver Us From Temptation” off of The Dark Ride he has been writing the best tunes after Weiki. I am glad his songs are making it into the latest albums. Finally, Andi Deris, this guy saved Helloween back in 1994 and I’m part of the 50% of Helloween fans that like him. To me Helloween is a whole different band with him on vocals. Much like Dio/Ozzy Black Sabbath. Sadly Andi Deris has been the opposite as Markus over the years. His songwriting keeps going downhill. I’ll get into that later in the review. Now, production wise they got Charlie Bauerfeind who engineered, mixed and mastered the album. The result is high quality, crisp, clean production. And on top of that the best use of keyboards on a Helloween album, courtesy of Matthias Ulmer.
Now onto the songs. First song is “Where The Sinners Go”. I have heard lots of complaining about this song, but to me it is a good opener. Not perfect, not bad, just like "We Burn" on The Time Of The Oath. I love how the album starts with those tribal drums, and the Loud/Quiet structure of the song (reminiscent of the Pixies, which is one of my favorite bands). Following is lead single “Are You Metal?”. This is really a grower, simple lyrics, cool keyboard riff and I love the part when they blend the 1st chorus and the 2nd verse.
“Who Is Mr. Madman” is a sequel to “Perfect Gentleman”, the spoken intro is TOTALLY unnecessary. The rest of the song is superb. Definitely a highlight on the album, and Sascha's best song to date. Very nice ideas all over, nice verses, lyrics, vocal lines, solos. This is a total winner. “Raise The Noise” is tied for best song of the album. The lyrics are funny and clever (me being a sci-fi fan), the main riff is very rock-ish, and we have seen Weiki using this rockish style ever since "Nothing To Say". The flute and guitar solos are amazing, full of melody, typical of Weiki. The arena chants are nice too, sadly, they never played this one live. The band is on a roll, because next comes the third winner in a row: “World Of Fantasy”. Markus’s songs are the most Power Metal-ish and sound similar to the other PM bands, but with that special Helloween style that makes them even better. Solos, riffs, lyrics, everything is good in this song. A plus for me is that it borrows the Megaman X theme song which i love.
So everything sounds nice so far, but, 7 Sinners has the same problem GWTD had. What I mentioned earlier and I call it the Deris effect. The nice flow of the album gets ruined right in the middle with 3 not so good songs. GWTD had the average "The Bells Of The Seven Hells" , "Fallen To Pieces" and "I.M.E." which weren't as good as the rest of the album, and should have been replaced by the bonus tracks. “Long Live The King” , as most of Andi's songs on this album, this was supposed to be a song for his solo album. It doesn't sound Helloween at all, yes it is heavy and has a headbangable riff, but, it is just not Helloween. Andi should let Weiki write the ballads, seriously, the guy has been trying too hard to replicate the success of "Forever and One" and keeps failing. "The Smile Of The Sun" is a boring song, has no ideas, repetitive, makes me wan to go to sleep.
This 2 songs are a testament that Andi is writing too much. Since RDCE he has written the bulk of the songs on the albums. This mainly because they lost Uli and Roland who could write too. See how Weiki write just a couple tunes and they are usually the best of the record. Andi should try and focus all his energy and creativity into writing a few songs. Maybe 3 songs maximum, 3 Sacha, 2 Weiki, 2 Markus, thats 10 songs....enough for a record. Last of the fillers is “You Stupid Mankind”. Talking about overrated songs....Sascha has a history with those. "Open Your Life", "The Invicible Man", "Paint A New World", and this song. I still don't get the hype of those 4 songs. The lyrics are good, the vocal lines are terrible, so is the music. Just because it sounds complex, progressive or experimental, does not make it a good song. This song has no Helloween in it, no melody, tedious, boring.
Back to the good... and here comes Markus, once again to save the album ("Hell Was Made In Heaven" anyone?) “If A Mountain Could Talk” is what “You Stupid Mankind” wished to had been. The topic is the same but the music and ideas is far superior. This IS a Helloween song, catchy vocal lines, and the awesome twin guitar solo that every Helloween song should have (no idea why they don't use them as much). Another highlight of the album. Then Weiki strikes again with the catchiest song on the album, “The Sage, the Fool, the Sinner”. This song has a rock-ish riff too, just like "Raise The Noise", the vocal lines are catchy, and the chorus is so memorable. Weiki has a sense of melody that nobody else has. The only problem with this song is that it is too short, maybe adding a third verse would have made it even better than it already is. “My Sacrifice” sounds similar to "Dreambound" from GWTD, same songwriter, same ideas of mixing aggression with melancholy. It is not a bad song, it is not a masterpiece either. Still i give it thumbs up. Finally, after a brief spoken intro “Not Yet Today”, which sets the mood for the last song on the album and the other song tied for best song on the album “Far In The Future”. "The Dark Ride" is my favorite Helloween ever, no song has ever come close to it in terms of greatness , epicness and memorability. But hell did "Far In The Future" came so close to achieve this! This song ladies, gentlemen and pumpkins, is THE best Helloween song since "TDR", fuck "KF100Y", this is the real deal. The topic of the song is very direct, nothing too poetic, the different ideas are superb, vocal lines, solos, heck I will even forgive Andi for writing "The Smile Of The Sun". This is probably Andi Deris best song ever. It takes me back to the same atmosphere of greatness "TDR" had.
Is this better than GWTD?, I would say they are on the same level, maybe 7 Sinners a tad bit above. Weiki and Sacsha do their job with the guitars, so does Markus, whose bass doesn't have a big role as in other records. Andi's voice, man, please stop smoking so you can have a better color like in MOTR (same to you Kai). First place goes to Dani though, hats off to you man. I missed Uli but you bought me with this record.
One last piece of advice, try to get the other editions. As you probably already know Helloween likes to leave songs that should be on the album out of it. Had the 3 bonus songs been in the album instead of the fillers, I would have given the album a perfect score. I hope they learn from their mistakes and keep improving over time. Can’t wait for this year’s new Helloween album.
Originally published at http://suite101.com
Helloween may largely be known for having popularized power metal and for their often happy aesthetics, but there are plenty of darker spots in their extensive discography.
From the bitterly polished touches of 2000's The Dark Ride to Gambling With the Devil's all-out aggression in 2007, these efforts provide a great deal of praise and controversy that isn't typically seen during the band's more upbeat moments.
Coming off the rather strange Unarmed compilation that came out last year, 7 Sinners provides another slab of furious power metal that helps secure the band's various talents.
Despite the Unarmed compilation's distinctly non-metal approach, 7 Sinners picks up right where Gambling With the Devil left off and is truly metal in just about every sense of the word.
As a whole, this album may actually be heavier than the one before it as there aren't any tracks like Can Do It and I.M.E. attempting to overly lighten things up. Instead, the "novelty" songs on here such as Are You Metal? are as pummeling as everything else!
Of course, that is not to say that there aren't any lovably goofy moments on here. Who Is Mr. Madman? sets itself up as a sequel to the happy go lucky Perfect Gentleman and Raise the Noise features an odd Jethro Tulll-esque flute solo on an otherwise standard power metal anthem.
The album is also made interesting by the prominent keyboards that appear throughout various songs. While they do make some cool contributions to the atmosphere, they fortunately never get in the way of the driving guitar riffs and Andi Deris' signature vocal stylings.
As expected by just about anyone who listens to Helloween, the album's songs mostly consist of fast-paced rockers that thrive on a great balance of heaviness and catchiness.
But even then, these songs all manage to be unique in spite of a shared stylistic template. While songs like World of Fantasy and Raise the Noise are more driven by uplifting vocal-oriented hooks, other tracks such as Long Live the King are much heavier and match frantic guitars and intense drumming with particularly manic vocals.
Of course, speed isn't all that this album has to offer as the remaining tracks show off a decent amount of variety. Smile of the Sun is particularly noteworthy as it manages to bring in some interestingly mixed emotions despite being the token ballad.
A few other tracks worth mentioning include the mid-tempo Where the Sinners Go (one of the band's rare openers that isn't some kind of minute-long introduction), the particularly heavy (and awkwardly titled) You Stupid Mankind, and closing combo of the minute long Not Yet Today and particularly complex Far In The Future.
Despite some of the goofy song titles (You Stupid Mankind. Really, guys?), Helloween's fifteenth studio album is another fantastic release that proves the band's continuing relevancy and should go over well with just about everyone who loved GWtD.
Given how this is the band's second "dark" album in a row, one can only wonder if they've finally gotten comfortable with the sound after all the tension that went into The Dark Ride a decade ago. Whatever the case, here's hoping that the next album is just as awesome!
Where the Sinners Go, Are You Metal?, World of Fantasy, Long Live the King, and If A Mountain Could Talk
This time of year is a wonderful time of year for a sports geek like myself. It's the major league baseball playoffs, and my customary thoughts on metal have been muddled with thoughts of what's going on in the "ol' ball game". So I could not help but when I got to the latest full length effort by Helloween, the definitive creators of power metal, that I somehow had to make a baseball comparison. I found this album after being on a bit of a power metal shortage at the end of last year, and bought it for the equivalent price that a pro scout pays for a switching hitter from some Latin American country. Popping it in to get a sense of what this album was all about, I was not sure what was I getting. Helloween, while having consistently good albums in the Andi Derris era that have been anywhere from good to very good, have not had an album that has outright wowed me the way I had seen them before. Well after a few years away from the spotlight and making an acoustic album, a new look Helloween that had been working out in the musical batting cages and doing some backroom strength training is now stepping up to the plate.
The baseball player known as Helloween is now incredibly muscular and jacked up on testosterone. Imagine that, a head that is louder and bigger than ever before, arms that can swing a bat faster than the speed of light, and legs that can move just as fast. In other words, 7 Sinners is like listening to Helloween on anabolic steroids. Somehow, Andi, Mike, Markus, Sascha, and Dani met Jose Canseco in a dark alley and he gave them the last of his needles and juice and told them to take them, and that it would make them stronger. It appears to have worked, but you cannot help but realize that when you're listening to 7 Sinners that while the product sounds good, it just doesn't sound like natural output from Helloween.
The album starts on a groove based piece with a little harmony in it called "Where The Sinners Go". For me to hear this track off of a Helloween album, it sent up red flags immediately. In the grand scheme of songs, it's actually not that bad. The riff is very catchy and the harmonies do add a degree of spookiness. But it's not Helloween! When have you ever heard Helloween play anything that isn't a ballad this slowly and this rhythmically? Thankfully, Andi Derris jumps in and you realize it really is Helloween after all. Steroid usage suspicions were in the back of my mind for the moment after that track, but I was rather suspicious.
For the remainder of the album you get some feelings of music that sounds like Helloween and music that does not. Tracks like "Are You Metal", "Who Is Mr. Madman", "Word of Fantasy", and "If a Mountain Could Talk" do sound like Helloween. The drumming is omniprescent, the riffs are melodic with a harmony going over them, and the lyrics are silly but with a deeper meaning about people and society. It also is not boring. These tracks grab your attention the way Barry Bonds could crush an inside fastball. But like Barry Bonds, you know these tracks could only sound that way if the band was on anabolic steroids. Now that might not be an entirely bad thing. The riffs are exciting, the drum work rocks, and it seems like everyone is fully giving their entire effort to produce this awesome music. But then you get into ones like "Long Live the King", "The Sage The Fool the Sinner", "My Sacrifice", and "Far Into the Future". This is where things start to go really awry. The problem that I see though is that these tracks, while containing elements of Helloween tracks, just do not feel like Helloween tracks. The only track I can say that really feels like a Helloween track is World of Fantasy, which I must say is a downright beautiful track throughout and is truly awesome. But the other tracks I listed, while they do sound exciting, just don't seem to have the soul, the emotion, and the sense of fun that other Helloween tracks have had.
Much of this I feel like has to do with the perucssion. The drum work on 7 Sinners is downright overpowering. Not surprising considering that's a new trend in more modern power metal bands. Since the rise of Dragonforce, the role of a power metal drummer has gone from someone who just pedals away at a steady pace fit for a Sunday afternoon bike ride to near death metal levels of speed, force, and technicality. Its' not uncommon now to hear power metal bands play blast beats and do double bass at speeds that are more fit to be heard by the likes of George Kollias of Nile or Behemoth's Inferno then someone like Jorg Michael of Stratovarius or the late great Ingo Schwittenberg. Dani Loebe just goes all out on this album, blasting away with double bass the likes of which you would never reasonably expect on a Helloween album. Like I said, this does make the music wildly exciting and it is very heavy. But it also is so overwhelming that it detracts from the feel and melody of the piece.
What this does is take away from the fact that the guitars on this album are really awesome. The riffs throughout are brutally heavy but very melodic. Same goes for the harmonies that match with the riffs as well. But this is only the case when the riffs are made up of more than a chord or two and not some mindless chugging to go with the bass drums. Now I bet you're wondering what I'm thinking, because lots of power metal riffs just plod along during the verses and the guitars are really nonexistent until outside the solos. This is true, and Helloween makes sure this is not the case for the most part. 7 Sinners in that regard is an improvement over it's predecessor because it's not as choppy sounding riff wise. It's also far more catchy. Helloween has always done a pretty good job at that, especially during the Andi Derris era. But after the shred fest on Gambling with the Devil, the solos sound weak. Sascha Gertsner has gone back to playing leads that were on Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy. Mike Weikath's haven't changed much but he's playing too many solos that are really just pinch harmonics. This is something that I cannot understand. I don't want Helloween to be a neo-classical guitar orgy, but I do want them to at least show some continuous improvement.
Markus is Markus I'll say that much, aside from the fact that there are no bass solos on this album. Skipping over to Andi, I have to say this is definitely one of the better performances by Herr Derris on a Helloween record. While Gambling With The Devil showed Andi's different vocal varieties and really pushed his talents to the limit, he's reigned ever so slightly on 7 Sinners. He sounds less varied tonally, but the emotion is still very much there. Most of the voicings are based off of what was heard on Gambling with the Devil, but I do not feel he sounds quite as vicious. Just to put it straight really, Andi's Andi. The vocal patterns are catchy and there are plenty of choruses that are worth singing along to. Most of them though are rather simplistic (sic Are you Metal?). The lyrics I feel like really were done well compared to Gambling with the Devil, which I felt like was an overtly gloomy and dark affair that just did not sound as fun. Here, the lyrics are much more light hearted overall. There are a few tracks that have the creepy factor in them like "Where The Sinners Go", but overall the stuff about music and living life to it's fullest are really awesome. They sound like Helloween lyrics, not like Helloween trying to disguise Megadeth lyrics with their own lyrical touches.
I did like the mix on this album a lot better than Gambling with the Devil. 7 Sinners sounds much more equalized. Nothing really sounds louder than anything else. The drums sound more like drums to me and the guitar tone is wonderful, especially in the riffs. I do feel the vocals though could have been louder, and the bass could have been brought more to the forefront. Otherwise, it is a very good studio job for Germany's favorite pumpkin boys.
7 Sinners in short has all the stuff you'd want on a Helloween album, but does not feel like a Helloween album. Brutally heavy, very catchy, and wildly exciting, it sounds like it has the recipe for a lot of success. But the thing is, despite having all the elements, you cannot help but feel as if this album sounds hollow. To put it short, it's like Helloween were on steroids.
The highway of Helloween’s career has been one with mostly straightaway driving, a few well placed twists and turns, and the occasional pothole which thankfully does little damage to the tire tread. There have been great times, good times, and somewhat less than stellar times, but nothing that really ended in the great steel tormentors crashing and burning. “7 Sinners” can be qualified as being somewhere in the good times boulevard, alongside the earlier material that was put together with Deris at the helm, rather than the more impressive works that followed the entry of ex-Freedom Call axe man Sasha Gershner and latest addition drummer Dani Loble. In fact, brushing aside the similar production tendencies of this with the dark and heavy “Gambling With The Devil”, this is largely a composite of “Master Of The Rings” and “Time Of The Oath”.
There’s much to like, but only a few things here that demand eternal love in the way that a devoted Helloween cultist would seek. Generally the album tends to be a bit more streamlined and portfolio-like in fashion, rather than the impressive batch of epic compositions and blazing speed anthems more typical to the band’s “Keepers” albums. This can be readily observed in straight up cruisers like “The Saint, The Fool, The Sinner” and “Raise The Noise” which will be instantly memorable, but don’t offer any jolting surprises (apart from the Jethro Tull inspired flute solo on the latter) that will command a multi-month obsession with the album. Likewise, the predictable and fairly slow going album opener “Where The Sinners Go” doesn’t get much beyond a pleasant mix of groove chugging and a solid vocal performance.
This band is always at their best when they are throwing more than a few ideas at the listener, or when they are cooking at full speed, and the case here is no exception. Right from the moment that “Are You Metal?” kicks in, the greater moments of the mid-90s version of this band start showing through, where in spite of some lyrical shortcomings, the flash, flair, and unrelenting speed takes everything over and little else matters. In similar fashion, “If A Mountain Could Talk” and “Who Is Mr. Madman?” just cut to the chase and match hard hitting speed riffs with powerful chorus work, and also touching upon past lyrical and musical subjects from their 1994-96 days. There’s not really a singular song that defines this album, but more that there is a dual tendency of going fast and furious, and simply going for tried and true, and the better songs are in the first category.
While definitely not the pinnacle of this band’s 30 years in the business, this is a largely consistent and worthy album for such a veteran outfit. There have been albums in this genre that have taken far more risks and come out with riveting results, even in the somewhat dry prospects of today. But Helloween has always tended to be better suited for power metal orthodoxy, as their early 90s experiments have tended to be the most poorly regarded, to speak nothing for their genre bending “Unarmed” experiment earlier in 2010. There is a time and place for getting really fancy, loading up songs with multiple variations on riffs and melodies, and it’s called Wuthering Heights. But the man of simpler pleasures who was taken in by the consistency of “Time Of The Oath” will find a more welcoming situation with “7 Sinners”.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 14, 2011.
2010 is a great year for traditional German heavy metal, what with Grave Digger still consistent and Accept revitalized. To mark their 25th aniversary, Helloween released the Unarmed album, which featured mostly mellower versions of their classic material, and was largely my introduction to the band. Somewhat underimpressed, when I heard that 7 Sinners—their thirteenth album (not including EPs and covers)—was going to be their heaviest to date, I naturally scoffed.
When I asked Mikael Weikath about the band over the years, he mentioned that every release has been a product of its respective musical climate. Though reverence there may be, audiences nowadays expect both size and speed from their power metal, regardless of legacy. Good thing Helloween is up to the task, as their arena-ready anthematic heaviness sweeps the listener away. They even get Saxon frontman Bill Byford returning to narrate “Who is Mr. Madman?” and wisely sought a live flute solo by Eberhard Hahn on “Raise the Noise” instead of relying on Matthias Ulmer’s keyboards.
Not that there’s anything wrong with them. Ulmer adds airy dimension to the beefy riffs, contributing to the epic nature of the songs. Also interesting is the fact that each member is responsible for the music, lyrics, and composition of the songs they wrote. The man behind half the album is vocalist Andy Deris, who still displays quite an impressive range on tracks like “Are You Metal?” and shows sinister twists on the vicious “You Stupid Mankind”. Don’t forget to keep your ears open for drummer Dani Löble all along the way, as he turns out his finest recorded performance to date.
The bottom line is that Helloween focused entirely on their metallic strengths and almost none of their quirky humor to create their most mighty statement since Walls of Jericho. Stripped of irony, delivered in earnest, and still damned fun, 7 Sinners sets a new standard for this classic band.
Try 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10
Originally written for MindOverMetal.org
Since the very beginning of this review I have to state that I am not a huge Helloween fan. While the band has the charismatic element and the fact that they, along with their ex-guitarist and metal legend Kai Hansen, indeed created power metal, they have never managed to get the grip on me with other albums that aren't the three first of theirs. I heard the news of 7 Sinners and thought it would be a good decision to give it a try, after all, Helloween is a metal legend. I had no true expectations at first, since I had only heard their old material and one or other song from their recent acoustic endeavor, Unarmed. On the moment I heard Are You Metal? from the single, I was rather confused, since this was nothing like what I had heard, but was rather excited to see what they did this time.
From the moment the album kicks off playing, the first noticeable thing is the heaviness, lack of sanity and rampaging on it. At first I was able to find elements from the almost extinct speed metal. One important agent on this album is the lack of variation on it. I am the type of listener that likes breathers and such, but that wouldn't work with an album like this one. The fact that they could do imply similarity in all of the songs is recognizable, for it keeps the general heaviness and atmosphere of the album steadily flowing through. Both the instrumental sections and the vocals help on this. At first when I heard Deris singing I instantly thought he is some type of Roy Khan with a more unpolished and naturally higher-pitched voice. His lines, mostly on the choruses but also along the whole songs, are very layered on the mix. The usual tone of his voice makes it sound somewhat shouted, too. Both of this factors help, since they help the overall sound be thicker. The guitars and drums are set very loud on the mix, and the guitars sound very heavy and even down-tuned (I have no clue if they are indeed down-tuned or not). They can even be confused for drums at times because of how deep and percussive they sound. As for the drums, the double-bass is played fastly and skillfully. The snares are set to sound deeply while the cymbals sound higher than usual. The only regretable thing is that Grosskopf is somehow absent in here. He is present in the composing of the songs and lyrics, however, he is hardly heard on the album.
Let's talk about the composition section of the album. I must say that I notice a lot of originality on the riffs in here, more than anything for the intros and fills/interludes. As for other moments, they are the usual power chords, slides and, well, the usual things. The album faces some unexpected and surprising moments, I would like to highlight the interruption of Raise The Noise's guitar solo to place a flute solo instead. Yes, a flute solo. The flute is unusual for itself on an album sounding like this one, of the speed/heavy metal type, and it is even more if we're talking about a solo. The vocal melodies are not remarkable in most of the songs since they are mostly harmonized with the riffs (congratulations for Deris in here, that's pretty hard to do), but there are exceptions, like The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner, which has some nice and catchy melodies. This song also has the most power metal esque guitar solo in the whole album. Well, it basically is the most power metal song in the album, to be honest. Most of the other songs will be heavier and will add some progressive elements to it. I know you might be thinking "shit, now everything has prog on it?". No, not really. I refer to some chromatic parts in the riffs that are not usual for the genre this album fits in. Some songs will show themselves to follow the percussion more than others, find this in My Sacrifice or Who is Mr. Madman?. And of course, if you thought this album lacked the usual intro-to-another-song song, you're wrong. Ending the album we have Not Yet Today doing this for the album's closer, Far in the Future. This last song does an amazing job at ending the album, for it pretty much compiles all the album's elements onto it and add the power metal that the whole album lacks. All the shouts and calmed parts by Deris, the highlightable percussion by Dani, the extremelly heavy guitars and impressive solos by Gerstner and Weikath and the... well, nothing, sadly, by Grosskopf, are in this song.
So finally, this is 7 Sinners. The album is basically really heavy, loud guitars and drums, a great work by Deris although he seems to be a bit crazy. If you want some bass by Grosskopf, you can always get Bassinvader's album, it will fill that hole. I think this album pretty much stands for the insult that Unarmed was, and it might bring you back into Helloween's world.
So after their…very bizarre off-track venture in the weird-ass acoustic jingles of Unarmed, Helloween decide they have to show their fans that they are still a metal band, and still can rock with the best of them. I think this is a clear sign that they should NOT have created Unarmed in the first place, but hey, what do I know, I’m not a member of a famous power metal band. Anyway, this is 7 Sinners.
It’s a Helloween album, for sure, with all the usual trappings of them – the bouncy riffs, the saccharine melodies and the off-the-wall energy, topped with Andi Deris’ usual charismatic vocals. This album is definitely more riffy and traditional than the completely idiosyncratic Gambling with the Devil, and it has lost some of that album’s unique charm, but it’s still a Helloween album, don’t get me wrong. The only difference is that not all of these songs really live up to the quality standard I expect from a Helloween album.
The band stated this was supposed to be a ‘heavier’ and ‘more metal’ album than anything else they had recorded lately, and I guess I can see that. A lot of these songs are built around more stodgy, brick-like tempos, preferring to cram in more riffs than ride out a melody line like they would have before. “Raise the Noise” is the clear standout and by far the best on here, with its big sing along chorus, exciting riffs and electric verses. Look out for the flute solo too! “World of Fantasy” and “Who is Mr. Madman?” are also first-rate tunes with awesome choruses and sticky melodies to spare.
The rest of the songs really only top at ‘slightly above average,’ with the rocking “You Stupid Mankind” and the power metal glory of “If a Mountain Could Talk” coming closest to reaching that hallowed Helloween greatness. Songs like “My Sacrifice” and “Are You Metal?” are enjoyable but just lack a certain oomph to make them true greats. “Where the Sinners Go” just plods along into nowhere, and “Long Live the King” and “Smile of the Sun” are actively weak, without any of the usual Helloween bright spots. “Far in the Future” is good, too, but I always think it doesn’t have a strong enough climax for a Helloween epic.
So that’s 7 Sinners, and it’s got three great songs, a bunch of good ones and three that just don’t work. About on par for Helloween, sure, but I can’t help but expect better of them after their previous two non-Unarmed albums were so damn great and ambitious. But they can’t shoot for the stars every time – sometimes just having a good time playing some solid power metal is the way to go. Likely this won’t be remembered as one of their best albums but it won’t bore you. So go check it out.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
Whether or not you've come to accept Andi Deris as the voice of Helloween in the past 16 years, he's now been at the microphone for well over 50% of the band's existence. While their most legendary albums will undoubtedly always remain the first three, fronted by Kai and Kiske, there is simply no denying the massive contributions of this man's tenure, especially since the band have been on fire for years, producing some of their most memorable attacks that are practically the equal of the band's formative period. Sleek, modern, melodic and aggressive, Helloween have long since shucked off the ill will of their career low Pink Bubbles Go Ape, and we're all the richer for it. Master of the Rings, Time of the Oath, The Dark Ride, Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy, and Gambling with the Devil have all ranged from good to superb, and barring the occasional experimental compilation (like the recent Unarmed), they've proven that they still thrive at the leading edge of the genre.
Thus, I had pretty much every confidence that I was going to enjoy 7 Sinners, the band's 13th full-length studio foray (discounting Metal Jukebox, the covers album), it was just a question of how much? As much as I've love to lavish intense praise upon another Helloween masterpiece, unfortunately that's just not so here, but what you're left with is a great effort that takes a few tracks to really warm up. "Where the Sinners Go" is an aggressive lead-in with resonant, huge percussion and a decent chorus, but unfortunate the guitar riffs are very basic open chord power metal with some minor chugging, and never all that catchy. The lamely titled "Are You Metal?", which was released as a single prior to the full-length, is pretty short on lyrical value, but it does have a pretty raging bridge and chorus, at least in structure, with heavy use of synths an aggressive momentum reminiscent of The Dark Ride. "Who is Mr. Madman?" will sound familiar to the Helloween veteran, since it incorporates a synth melody straight out of "Perfect Gentleman" from Master of the Rings in its intro, but it's otherwise not all that bad, and Deris pulls off a fine pitch.
The album really starts to pick up steam with "Raise the Noise", though. Monolith guitars jarring along to the band's power atmospherics, and we finally start to hear that same fervent melodic overdrive that we had on the last album with wonders like "Paint a New World" or "As Long As I Fall". "World of Fantasy" works itself up through a glazed, driving anthem to a dense, thundering chorus, and "Long Live the King" is concrete pounding heavy metal mania, with savage riffs in the vain of Judas Priest's Painkiller or fellow German monsters Primal Fear or U.D.O. "The Smile of the Sun" is a layered, power-prog ballad, worthy evidence that the band are not and never will be done tweaking and experimenting within their base framework, and then they level you back to the ground with "You Stupid Mankind", which even spews forth heavy as hell bottom feeding thrash grooves you'd expect more out of earlier Nevermore, with one of Andi's best bridge/chorus sequences on the album.
From here, the album continues at an orgasmic pace, cycling through straightforward, beautiful power fare like "If a Mountain Could Talk" and the grooving "The Sage, the Fool, the Sinner" or the more theatrical, Queen-like shine of "My Sacrifice". I hold a special place in my heart for the nearly 8 minute closer, "Far in the Future", which has some of the best written riffs and carefully plotted majesty on the album. Extremely impressive, and had the entire album lived up to this quality we'd easily have another masterwork on our hands. As it stands, though, 7 Sinners can only be accused of being damned thorough, modern and crunchy like an intersection between The Dark Ride and Gambling With the Devil. The musicianship is top notch without being self indulgent, the production is enormous and yet another hint that the band are not afraid to move forward, never looking back outside of thematic departures. Any fans of the band's 21st century material to date are going to find little to complain about here, and the bulk of the album (about 8-9 of the tracks) is good enough to hold us over until the pumpkin next flies free.