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Can’t think of the last time I was prompted to write a review because of just one song. Well this time I am. It’s called “Midnight Sun” and it’s the last song on this album. Why’s it so important? Let me show you.
Almost ten years to the day since ‘Keepers 2”, HELLOWEEN released ‘Better Than Raw’. In that time they’d gone from being kings of the mountain to being buried in a mountain of backlash. Some fans just couldn’t (and still can’t) get over getting rid of Kiske. Others just wanted a Keepers 3, 4 and 5. And yet others just couldn’t keep up with a band maturing as songwriters. In the end though, HELLOWEEN stayed true because they know no other way. But the truth according to HELLOWEEN can sometimes be very strange indeed.
Take for instance, the name of the album. It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time, that the band turned an in-joke into a new album title. Maybe that just bugged the bored fans that’s all. What bored me though was the usual string of fillers by Grapow and Kusch. They suck every bit as much on this album as any other. Too late to worry about that now though. Let’s look at what did work.
“Falling Higher” brings together Deris’ words with Weikath’s music. The two share one other thing: a powerfully unmistakable belief in the human spirit. That idea set to music moulds a new powerful metal classic. Correction: that idea set to music moulds two new power metal classics, because “I Can” also explores the same lyrical territory – and launches the very same metal tirade of soaring choruses set against riff central and drum-work fuelled by an exploding double kick attitude.
The more reflective moments are no less intense – or catchy for that matter. Both are penned by Deris in the mood for the big questions in life. Just look at the title’s: “Hey Lord!” and “Time”. The first track takes aim at what’s wrong with the world, and the second says life’s just too damn short to get it wrong. If the first one works like a guitar driven anthem crossed with a prayer, then the second one works like a hundred thousand cigarette lighters lighting up a swaying stadium of fans.
But the last two tracks are perhaps the most complete summing up of HELLOWEEN I know. “Laudate Dominum” is sung completely in Latin. Normally that’s reserved for pretentious Goth or Black metal projects who are short on hooks but big on wank. HELLOWEEN came up with the idea to use Latin to thank their Latin American fans. But no one in Latin America speaks Latin? Oh well, these sorts of things happen when you have a German band who normally sings in English deciding to sing in Latin for people that speak Spanish. Try not to think about it. As for the song itself, this one sounds like it invented the double kick, and then paired it with this new thing called a gang chorus. And as for the hook – get ready to miss your stop on the way to work.
At last we arrive at “Midnight Sun”. It’s a love song like no love song before or after. That’s because it takes the blood and guts of hurt and says “now how the hell do I set that to music?”. The answer is fast and heavy. This is the kind of intensity thrash bands promise and only a metal master can deliver. It may not be Weikath’s signature tune, but it comes close. 10 years earlier he took on all comers with a tale of a seven keys and an unforgettable journey into another world. 10 years later he still sounds every bit fresh from the fight. No one does it better. Which may be where the album title comes from after all.