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One major event of the 2007 metal calender, would be the release of the new Helloween CD. Now it has arrived, entitled ‘Gambling with the devil’... and boy was it worth the wait. It is these German metal masters 12th full-length CD, and already it is being touted as one of their finest. And I agree.
After what I thought to be one of the disappointments of 2005 with Helloween’s ‘Keeper of the seven keys/The legacy’, I was hoping for a return to form with their next CD. Something that was a mix of their previous few CDs ('The dark ride', 'Rabbit don’t come easy', 'Better than raw'), would have made me happy. And as it turns out, ‘Gambling with the devil’ is indeed reminiscent of those above-mentioned CDs.
Sounding refreshed and full of ideas, the Helloween boys have delivered a killer CD, which should make any metalhead’s top 10 list of 2007. Unlike ‘Legacy’, the new CD has more depth, more speed and most importantly, more balls. It is one of their heavier CDs in quite some time, yet filled with Helloween’s typical soaring melodies, outstanding vocals and brilliant songwriting. The tracks making up ‘Gambling with the devil’ are all somewhat based on correct and incorrect decisions made in one’s life, and what those decisions lead to; thus you are gambling with the devil.
This current line-up for Helloween is certainly now bringing out the best in all of them and Helloween have certainly not suffered since the departure of Roland Grapow in 2001. Sascha Gerstner is indeed a fantastic guitarist and a worthy replacement of Mr. Grapow. Gerstner and Michael Weikath both go to town on this CD, executing some of the best riffs and solos I’ve heard on a Helloween CD in some time. The CD is also quite speedier than the most recent releases, giving me a trip back to the early days of Helloween, but this time with the awesome vocals of Andy Deris. Andy gives one of his best vocal performances on ‘Gambling with the devil’, delivering so much more than normal. He has such a massive range, including an aggressive darker tone, a soothing mid-range tone and finally his soaring and emotional tone which always stands out in songs and makes them as memorable as they should be.
I must say that the drumming and production on this CD is impeccable. Being a drummer myself, I was taken back with the quality of the drumming on this CD. Dani Loeble, who arrived in 2005, plays the performance of his life on ‘Gambling with the devil’. The production is better than crystal clear, giving the perfect sound to everything that you are hearing, and the perfect balance between them all.
Onto the songs on ‘Gambling with the devil’. Every track bar one is very good, but the track which is the poorest would be “Can do it”. It’s a song which doesn’t quite fit with the flow of the other tracks, plus it has a rather annoying sound and structure. The first track (after the short intro), called “Kill it” is your typical Helloween track in the same vein as “Mr. Torture” or “Eagle fly free”. It is one of the speediest and aggressive tracks on the CD, giving it a darker feel. Deris’ vocals on this track are great, containing so many different ranges, such as Halford-esk high-pitched screams to dark and aggressive tones. “As long as I fall” is another killer track, which sounds very similar to “If I could fly” from ‘The dark ride’. The solo on this track kicks ass too, while the chorus is quite catchy.
“Final fortune” is another top track on the CD. It’s another typical speedy Helloween track with a catchy chorus and a solo that will blow you away. Again, Deris’ vocals is the standout. My favourite track on the CD follows after “Final fortune”, entitled “The bells of the seven hells”. It starts out eerie and sombre but soon the main heavy and aggressive riff begins. Andy Deris goes ‘balls to the wall’ on this track, giving us one of his best vocal performances since joining Helloween. The mid-part of the song is completely riff driven, where heads will be banging as soon as it hits you. The chorus is memorable while the song as a whole is fantastic and is one of Helloween’s best ever.
Starting immediately after “The bells of the seven hells”, almost connected, is the somewhat power ballad “Fall to pieces”. This is another top track on the CD, with lots of emotion from Deris, especially during the chorus. Following that track is the next killer song, called “I.M.E”. It’s a short rockin’ track with nice groove-filled riffs and a catchy chorus. After the weak “Can do it”, the CD finishes with 2 solid tracks; “Dreambound” and “Heaven tells no lies”.
‘Gambling with the devil’ contains 2 bonus tracks (a Japanese bonus track and a regular bonus track). In my opinion, the Japanese bonus track, entitled “Find my freedom” should have made it onto the CD instead of “Can do it”, making that a bonus track.
Overall I am very impressed with Helloween’s latest effort. As mentioned before, it is a fantastic CD that is right up there with Helloween’s best releases. Fans of Helloween will automatically purchase this blindly, that is a given. As for the rest, you know who this band is and you know how they sound; it’s a CD which fans of power metal should get their hands on. Quickly.
Originally written for www.metalcdratings.com
We know Helloween among the first bands that created the power/speed metal genre, they had written their name into the heavy metal history with their ”Keeper...”-albums. After Kiske left the band most of the fans were disappointed, but a change isn’t always bad. After a few albums Helloween found their perfect sound again with Andi Deris – The Dark Ride! With that album Helloween created dark, atmospheric music which is not simply heavy/speed/power metal anymore. A metal band must always change I don’t expect another Keeper Of The 7 Keys II... It was a perfect album to release in 1988, but not today.
Gambling With The Devil is another masterpiece in the vein of The Dark Ride, but taking it to a higher level. More keyboards, piano, varied vocals, thrashy/death metalish riffs, catchy choirs, fast and technical guitar solos.
One of the most noticable thing is Andi’s vocals: finally, he learnt how to sing and change between singing types. Beside his usual unique clean voice sometimes we can hear screams, harsh vocals, growls (Kill It, Bells Of The Seven Hells) and ’semi-spoken vocals’. Andi never sounded that angry and powerful before, and I hope he will coninue using what he archived here. One of my friends said when Pink Cream 69’s In10sity was released: Andi Deris learnt to sing when Pink Cream learnt to write good music again.
The second element that makes this album a masterpiece, are the keayboards, YES, the keyboards. In many songs keyboards give the main melody. When a metal band uses synthetizer and piano, it always makes the music better and more diverse, if they do it right, and Helloween does it right! It gives more emotion to this album, makes it epic, more enjoyable. Metalheads that hate keyboards and think it doesn’t belong to speed/power metal (and to other metal genres as well) won’t like this album. I don’t agree with them.
And finally, the guitars. Mr Weikath and Mr Gerstner are superb guitarists, and their solos are different now – they are faster and more technical. Bass and drums are flawless but nothing special.
This album was a big surprise to me, i didn’t experct them to make an album like this, and I hope they’ll continue in this direction on the next one. There are no low points, just songs that are A BIT weaker (Heaven Tells No Lies, I.M.E). I recommend it to any open-minded metal fans.
Every metalhead knows Helloween, like them or hate them, and every metalhead has some kind of opinion on them, whether it be that Walls of Jericho was their best, that the Keepers albums were the pinnacle of all Power Metal, or that the band has never been good and ruined Power Metal as we know it with the number of clone bands they created. But as we all know, the correct opinion is that Andi Deris rules, and the band rules with him, just like I have stressed in past reviews! And in case you were wondering what I thought of this band's latest opus Gambling with the Devil, well, here's a review:
Helloween have been experimenting with their sound a lot over the years, with each of their albums since Better than Raw up until now featuring new and different elements of the band's sound highlighted. This album...really doesn't progress the band forward all that much, so much as it simply reinstates the reasons why we love this band so much. That is to say, Andi Deris' charismatic vocals, the groovy, attitude-oozing riffs, the speedy, crushing drums and the general level of perky enthusiasm that keeps their music so interesting. And indeed, this album in particular has all of those things in spades. Gambling with the Devil shows the band firing on all cylinders with so much energy that they don't even seem to know what to do with it. This isn't really a coherent album, being kind of messy and all over the place, with no cohesive flow, but the band's style shines through. It's a collection of good songs made awesome by Helloween's growing experience and unstoppable devotion to their work.
Style really is an important part of metal music, as is attitude or charisma. It can make or break an album for me, and it's so hard to even put down in words! It takes a lot of talent to write an album that not only succeeds on a songwriting level - which this album does; I will get to that soon - and fits itself into an emotional niche that is honest and sincere. The band just sounds like they're putting 110% into every single note on here. The smarmy, snarky riff work provides for some truly attitude-filled wonders, as they are groovy, thrashy, bouncy and can be anything else they want, too - just really flexible all around. Andi Deris' voice, which I mentioned before, is just huge; this great, confident sort of wailing whine (or whining wail, whichever). He always kind of sounded like a hard rock singer in a metal subtext, but that never bothered me. It's always set Helloween apart from the crowd.
The songs on Gambling are constructed rather loosely, with a sense of wonder and adventure to them. This music is fun and often quirky, with each song bringing a unique texture and emotion to the table - triumph, wrath, sadness, joy, anything! The songs on here don't seem to have anything to do with one another, but on the flip side, the band's attention to variety and interesting, fresh ideas just makes the whole thing more invigorating. And now, I cannot hold it in any longer...the track-by-track part of the review is breaking out...no! It's escaped!
The opening "Kill It" marches out with gusto, doing everything we expect from Helloween and a bit more: its structure is similar to "Push" from Better than Raw, except I think this is better, with better production, a cool slow section in the middle and some flat out diabolical sounding vocals sneered out by the inimitable Deris. "The Saints" is a seven minute epic sharing all the trappings of speed metal with a remarkably majestic chorus for Helloween's usual standards, and "As Long as I Fall" is a good sequel to "If I Could Fly," complete with romantic pianos and the most radio friendly Helloween we'll get - still quite charming, though. Play me this on the radio any day. "Paint a New World" rips through the speakers with hammering riffs and a soaring chorus, definitely one of Helloween's better tunes as of late!
"Final Fortune" is a bouncy Helloween pot-luck of goodness that I just find joyous, especially when the killer choirs start building up in heavy layers over the stirring, uplifting rhythms, and then "The Bells of the Seven Hells," with its thrashy, jugular-tearing riffwork and dire vocal lines changes the mood in a complete 180 degree twist. "Fallen to Pieces" is the centerpiece of the album; an epic ballad with perhaps one of the most emotive choruses Helloween has ever produced. How does the band follow this up at all? Bouncy, chugging zingers like "Can Do It" and "Dreamland" fire out of the speakers like baseballs from a practice batting range, intertwining with the grooving "I.M.E." and the fearful, paranoid "Heaven Tells No Lies" for a truly smashing affair.
So this album is really fucking good. We had our doubts and the band smashed them with a giant mallet, grinding them into tiny pellets of gravel. Helloween may have been gambling with the devil, but you surely won't be making a big gamble if you decide to purchase this stunning firecracker of an album soon.
I remember back when I was music director of a college radio station in New Jersey and we received the promo for "Gambling with the Devil." I saw the idiotic cover art and tossed this album into the filing bin, never to be seen again. A few months later, my cousin, who is a big fan of Disturbed and bands of that ilk, told me about this "new" band called Helloween which kicked ass. My disappointment in the band only grew. Expecting either sappy power metal or Disturbed-type hard rock, I finally listened to "Kill It" just so that he would leave me alone (I hate him). I was floored. I couldn't believe that this really was Helloween's new (at the time) album.
Helloween has always been to me one of those bands that had a great amount of potential but never fully lived up to their talent. They've had some fine moments, to be sure, but the potentially great albums were always marred by simplistic filler and overall silliness. It was pleasant to discover that this sense of humor (which was never really funny in the first place) was entirely absent on "Gambling with the Devil." The guitars are crunchier and moved up front in the mix, even on the lighter songs. This has drawn some comparisons to "The Dark Ride," but really that album only had a few songs that were heavier than other Helloween music that was being released at the time. This heavier direction is present throughout the album and benefits the band because they do a spectacular job of balancing the heaviness with a sense of melody.
The opening song (excluding the stupid intro), "Kill It," is quite possibly the heaviest song that they've done, or at least the heaviest since their pre-Kiske days when they weren't afraid to throw a few thrash riffs here and there. However, the chorus is so melodic and catchy. The combination of the heaviness with the irresistible melody makes this song a winner. "The Saints" is a faster, more power-metal styled song, which is also the longest song on the album. I was surprised when I realized just how long the song was, because it was entertaining throughout and seemed much shorter. The lead guitar melody that pops up in several places, such as the end of the solo, is wonderful. "The Bells of the Seven Hells" is another song that benefits from the heavier sound and has a great headbangable riff in the middle. "I.M.E." (which I don't think stands for anything as the chorus goes "I am me..." so it's probably just a play on words) is shorter and catchy, and serves well as a single. The album ends strongly with "Heaven Tells No Lies" which features an especially strong pre-chorus and some great soloing.
The two ballad-type songs are also outstanding. "As Long As I Fall" has every indication of being terrible with the structure and lyrics, but the melody, both for the chorus and the verses, is solid. The standout, however, is "Fallen to Pieces," which is easily the best ballad that Helloween has written and is arguably one of the best ballads in the entire power metal genre. The vocals have a great deal of emotion and the guitar just accentuates that emotion even further. Amazing.
Andi Deris gives a much stronger vocal performance than he has in the past. He reaches the high and low registers and his voice compliments the guitar melodies perfectly. The drum work is quite good, but the guitar work is the obvious standout. Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner actually write solid riffs instead of the typical same note riffs that are used for many power metal songs. They shred like crazy, bringing to mind the Helloween glory days of the mid 80s.
Don't be fooled by the cover, Helloween is refreshingly serious throughout "Gambling with the Devil" and there are no instances of silliness, thankfully. Helloween has given their sound a swift kick in the ass and are writing music that is relevant again. If they continue in this direction they can accomplish great things and cause some to rethink their belief that Helloween's best days were in the past.
To make it simple, this album combines the heaviness from “Better Than Raw” with the songwriting efficiency and catchiness of “Rabbit Don’t Come Easy”. A good example is the song “Paint A New World” which exactly mixes the two and incidentally is one of the best songs by far on the album. A pretty fast and catchy power metal tune with thrashing tendencies. Another speedy highlight is “The Saints”. This song is over 7 minutes long and has a certain Walls of Jericho feeling surrounding it. There are some great breaks in the verses and the chorus is beyond strong.
“Kill It” is short, heavy and enjoyable. A simple raging song that nicely opens the album. There’s too much of a Painkiller-Judas Priest touch in the verses though. It’s songs like “Final Fortune” that are more laid back and melodic which give the album a better balance. “Final Fortune” is a typical catchy and melodic Deris-era song that could have easily made onto each previous Helloween album. This can not be said about the semi-ballad “Fallen To Pieces” which is simply very weak. The overdose of strings doesn’t change that. “I.M.E. ” has some nice details on guitar but also is a weak nineties-orientated groovy metal song with a very dull chorus.
“As Long As I Fall ” is a bit strange. There are too many sections in this song that have those MTV-proof emo sing-a-long melodies. The song is composed with great care though and the dynamics actually make it worthwhile. In the end however chosing this one as a single is highly debatable.
“Can Do It” is a very happy hardrockish Weikath tune and extremely enjoyable. Maybe too cheesy or happy for some but it is a very nice ‘Feel-Good’ composition with a Twisted Sister feeling. It also is nice and refreshing after two rather dull songs. “Dreambound” is an other speedy power metal song that has a decent chorus and some sweet old school Jericho/Keeper Helloween harmonies.
On “Bells Of The Seven Hells” the Judas Priest tendencies look around the corner again in the verses and the song is mostly pounding and heavy. The chorus is adequate but not one of the strongest on the album. Just a decent song but a filler compared to the best material on this album. Mixed feeling about “Heaven Tells No Lies” which has one of the strongest chorusses on the album but lacking verses and a lengthy dull middle section.
Once again Helloween have released an album with some mindblowing songs as well as some fillers. So keep your shirts on! It’s good but not ‘that’ good. Also the album cover is once again a lack of taste and missing the point. It simply looks too polished and digital and just doesn’t fit the organic essence of the music. I’m getting the X-factor/Angel And The Gambler feeling all over again. This album could have done better with something similar to Time Of The Oath or especially Better Than Raw.
The Saints, Paint A New World, Final Fortune, Dreambound, Kill It
As Long As I Fall, Bells Of The Seven Hells, Heaven Tells No Lies, Can Do It
Fallen To Pieces, I.M.E.
If anything is true about Helloween, if you’re a power metal fan, purchasing their albums is a hardly a gamble in the sense of risking a disappointment. More than 20 years at their craft and not only have they kept pace with all of their off-shoots and surviving contemporaries, but have almost always surpassed them in both quality and quantity. The dichotomy between quality and quantity does not exist for the band in their songwriting either, as they have proven capable at crafting longwinded epic songs and albums and also shorter opuses with a greater emphasis on speed and aggression.
“Gambling with the Devil” carries a strong sense of irony as it is mostly (though not completely) similar to the famed 2000 masterpiece “The Dark Ride”, an album which Michael Weikath is not a particular fan of and that caused the disintegration of Helloween’s 1990s line-up. The songs are a good deal rawer than the last 2 albums, shorter in length, and rely on mostly conventional structures. The longest song on here just barely breaks the 7 minute mark, although the band has opted to avoid putting out a sub 3 minute single like they did on the last one. Another interesting thing is that there isn’t any corky humor on here like there was on the last 2.
On the last album Markus Grosskopf was almost the dominating musical force on the album, sporting bass solos on almost every song or basslines so active that they fought the guitar for prominence. Here he has decided to step back and give the guitars the stage, and both Michael and Sascha tear it up with a solid balance of brevity and majesty. Just one listen to the lead section of “The Saints” will take you back to the glory days of Kai and Michael trading blows on the first Keeper album.
Although not quite the epic monster that the 3rd Keeper album was, this release compensates with a simple yet flawless approach to pacing, which is go for the jugular and keep on slashing until you can’t keep your arms raised. There is a brief prologue at the beginning, but the minute that “Kill it” kicks in with that killer repetitive riff you know you’re in for the heavier side of the power metal coin. Even the quicker paced speed metal tracks like “The Saints” and “Paint a New World” have chunky low end riffs that almost rival the ballsy sound that Nocturnal Rites achieved with 7 string guitars on “Shadowland”.
Even the lighter end songs are colored with a sense of darkness and discontent that is a bit atypical of Helloween’s previous works, save “The Dark Ride”. The album’s single “As Long as I Fall” opts out of the catchy piano line of “If I Could Fly” and the lyrical slapstick of “Mrs. God” and listens like a bi-polar story of a person’s self-destruction. The piano line and vocal effects are not so much somber as they are a bit creepy, creating a sense of neuroticism with the happy yet ironic sounding chorus. The only song that really seems to embody the happier side of Helloween, and again not 100% consistently is “Can Do It”, which is the most rock-like of the album’s chapters.
This is an album that every power metal fan should have, let alone every fan of Helloween, especially to those of you who have been a bit let down by some of the other releases that came out of 2007. There has been sort of a 3 way competition between Helloween and the band’s of its two former axe men Gamma Ray and Masterplan since 2003. Although Gamma Ray really kicked back hard this year and Masterplan didn’t fall that far despite the loss of Jorn, Helloween has again come out on top of the fray. The only album that came out this year that I would say is better than this one, and just barely, is Symphony X’s “Paradise Lost”. As stated before, you don’t risk much in power metal if you stick to Helloween, and here the pay off is quite better than what you get at any casino.
While for many Helloween continue to be the musical equivalent of a sight gag, the legendary German metal crew maintains their credibility as one of the top bands in the field with a constant, steady output of quality albums. Their twelfth studio excursion sees the revered genre-inventers paying homage to a series of past releases while sparking that original flame of German eccentricity that garners their successful progression. Without being a further sequel to 2005's third "Keepers..." opus, "Gambling with the Devil" is more in the same ball park as "Better Than Raw", with a number of the tracks having a similar feel - namely pulsating opener "Kill It" to the respective icebreaker "Push" - but there is a fair amount of old school pumpkin smashing with the bouncy "Final Fortune" and the sprawling "Heaven Tells No Lies". Symptomatic of the Deris-era material, "Gambling with the Devil" has a few odd twists and turns, keeping the listener engaged throughout. Mr. Deris himself is in fine form, though his vocals aren't quite as startling, or indeed as daring as they were on their last album, but his soaring, idiosyncratic whine is as streamlined as ever. The production is sturdy too, giving drummer Dani Löble a sonic boom in which to demonstrate his monster talents.
Things are a little heavier in places, a little softer in others, but as usual Helloween give us a lot to digest, making this excursion quite varied, but like many pumpkin-heads, I think their last release was the highlight of their post-Kiske career, and keeping that in mind, this is probably as close as they're going to get in the immediate future. I've been a Helloween fan for a lot of years, and I can honestly say I've never seen them in better shape. Since the recruitment of ex-Freedom Call axe-slinger Sascha Gerstner, things have become a lot tighter in the rhythm section and the songs themselves are wide-ranging and speckled with modern inflections, yet reach farther back into their past than any of the early 90s material. The lyrics seem to have taken a slump this time -most are reduced to rambling garble that doesn't even qualify as GCSE English - but the catchy melodies and gripping vocals make up for this lapse in effort.
With monstrous tracks like the infectious "Can Do It", the blasting, double-bass fuelled "Paint a New World" and the "Where the Rain Grows"-esque "Dreambound", "Gambling with the Devil" is a fine addition to the Helloween cannon that probably won't pick up any new listeners, but will please the Power Metal garrison immensely. Top marks would be awarded however, if Biff Byford didn't make an unsavory appearance...
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
Helloween have really stormed back with a true winner here. The band has always been reasonably reliable, with the odd blip in their career, but they're still known for producing top-rate power metal without having to rely on symphonies or other extremes. There's nothing wrong with that, but Helloween get power with primarily through their excellent riff-work. This is just what Gambling With the Devil is, and my best description is just a great summary and representation of the band and their sound. At times it sounds like a best-of album, with almost every track a winner bursting at the seams with energy and power.
As I say, this album tells you pretty much all you need to know about Helloween. The riffs are catchy and yet with a respectable degree of technicality, especially in the solos. They revel in those mid-sections and make the most of the mainstay riffs, which are generally energetic and fast-paced. The solos really flow well into the songs, making them nice and long without seeming stretched. The songs as a whole are epic without a grand fantasy feel. This is largely as down-to-earth as power metal gets, the themes generally being more about life in general.
The vocals fit in perfectly, with a healthy degree of usual soaring power but also a hint of growl and aggression. His range is good, and specifically put to good use. They aren't just wildly varied and thrown around for the sake of it, as sometimes seems to be the case, and so the lyrics are much more audible than I find on a lot of power releases. This also adds to that memorable feel, many of them are great to sing along to, and will stick in your head well. So, the album has loads of power and metal, but doesn't fall into the common traps of the genre: repetition or overdoing the grandness for the sake of it. It's restrained power metal, doing things just right.
The album also contains elements of their whole history to be seen, and blends them very nicely. It doesn't feel like, say, each song is supposed to represent a separate album, nothing that obvious or crude, but if you know Helloween and listen carefully you really can hear bits of it all. It's got the soaring epic feel of the Seven Keys albums (Final Fortune, Paint a New World), it's got that hint of darkness and thrashy aggression from Dark Ride (Kill It, The Bells of the Seven Hells) and it's got bits of mild humour that Helloween are known for (Can Do It), although this one aspect isn't as present as it is on some older works. Again, this isn't typical power metal with overblown epic numbers about fantasy and dragons, just excellent arse-kicking metal. I'd also like to note that the solos here are not just some of my favourites of Helloween, but plain ever. They're gorgeous in every way, just perfect metal soloing, smeared with litres of energy and passion and usually keeping up the fast pace or the songs, particular favourites being those in Final Fortune and Paint a New World.
A few track specifics perhaps? "Kill It" is one of their most aggressive songs to date, a real kick in the teeth to get the album started and let you know they mean business. Andi Deris pushes his vocal abilities furthest on this, sometimes even straying into a slightly black metal style. By contrast, "As Long As I Fall" is the ballad of the album, Helloween fans should know what to expect. Irresistably catchy and infectous, it's just one of those songs that soars beautifully and you can't help but love, driven by the keyboards and power chords. "The Bells of the Seven Hells" and "Dreambound" are my personal favourite songs, the riffs are glorious, again very memorable. That slow section towards the end of Bells is just pure head-bang, and the opening of Dreambound is what power metal is all about: emotional, catchy, powerful guitar revelry that you just have to air-guitar to. In this part another strong point of the album is especially visible: all elements of the band are on top form and given equal shares in the glory. Nothing truly makes the album, but all aspects have their times at the fore and merge with one another to create a very strong end product. The only real let-down track is "Can Do It". It just feels too jolly and happy. The songs don't have to be truly dark, but this one feels fluffier than a kitten fresh from a tumble drier. That's the only thing holding it back at a 90% score for me. The rest of the songs are all winners. "The Saints" is a nice blending, it has a Paradox/Rage-esque speed metal rawness combined with a DragonForce-y playful power feel. The chorus does evoke that same kind of pure power metal feel with the galloping, riding lead work going on, but it always has a background speed side.
I'd highly recommend the album to much anyone, part of it's greatness is that it can work for so many. Long-time Helloween fans will find the band isn't just repeating itself, still doing new work and pushing themselves, while remaining true to their core style, and newcomers will find a great summary of that style here. You don't even have to be a particular fan of power metal, it's just great heavy metal deep down, with power overtones. In Gambling With the Devil Helloween have surprised me. I expected it to be good, but not quite this good. This album has rising up into my top ten of the year, and is among the best of their stuff, up there with Dark Ride and Seven Keys, incorporating most everything they're known for being great at. The songs flow wonderfully, feeling just right, always holding your attention, never seeming stretched, and able to stride along through 5, 6 or 7 minutes quite comfortably. It's pure Helloween, you'll know what to expect: soaring power metal driven by crunchy riffs and very catchy choruses, with strong emphasis on melody and Andi Deris's vocal performance blending the epic and classic sides of power metal. Steering clear of the fantasy side of power, yet still with a firm European uplifting atmosphere, in the same vein as Stratovarious or Gamma Ray.
So here’s the deal. You’re a band that’s been around over twenty years, you’ve released nearly that many albums again, and done your fair share of label hopping and member trade-ins. And just at the moment just scratching your head in metal announces a new metal genre. So what do you do? Simple. You release an album called ‘GAMBLING WITH THE DEVIL’, which makes it sound like you’re taking a chance and hoping for the best. Of course what you’re actually doing is releasing the album of the year.
“Kill It” erupts out of nowhere with vocal wails for verses and a jackhammer chorus. Deris has never sounded angrier, and so he should be. He wrote the song, and he wrote it about what happens when you ask too many questions. The guitars are black metal sharp, with the drums providing almost a backing vocal of their own. Things calm down a little for “As Long As I fall”. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Andi Deris as songwriter equals insanely catchy plus metal or else. This one’s the album single for obvious reasons. There’s keyboards to burn, but they play metal. And the guitars sound like they single-handedly just came up with something called power chords.
“The Saints” is one of only two songs contributed by Michael Weikath. There is no better songwriter in metal. He doesn’t write hits. He writes instant classics. The idea here is what happens when the Day of Judgment arrives, but you can forget the apocalyptic black metal noisemaking. Instead you get a mocking melody and gnashing guitars. Actually make that gnawing guitars. This is a song that quickly eats away at your defences, and keeps turning up in your head long after you’re bored at work.
“Paint a New World” is Gerstner opening his account this time. But don’t let the title fool you. It might sound like a flower power anthem, but it’s actually a power metal tantrum. If humans have ever got it wrong, chances are it turns up in this song. The instructions to the drummer are obviously play very fast and then some. Everyone else meanwhile is in a war cry mood with guitars powering through marching chords and dueling solos. Gerstner also manages to lift the twin axe line-up out of the ordinary on his second song “Dreambound”. Ostensibly a metal anthem of redemption, it suddenly transfigures into solo after solo of neoclassical shivers up the spine.
It was only a couple of albums ago that bassist Markus Grosbkopf finally made the move from being the bonus track guy. Well this time around you’ve been invited to the graduation ceremony. So what’s he come up with? Well imagine taking one of those rousing Christian hymns that bug you precisely because they’re infectious. And imagine arranging it for the greatest heavy metal band on earth. Yep, right down to a chorus with the words “….there’s ONE who loves you so”. And yes, the capital letters are in the original. And yes, the record company execs must have had a hell of a time trying to choose between this and the song they finally chose as the single. And Grosbkopf’s other song isn’t half bad either. It’s called “Heaven Tells No Lies” and tells the story of everything you touch turning into mud. Or does it? Look closely and listen closely. It doesn’t mince words, but it does mangle metal genres to spit out a bastard born somewhere between rock and a harder place.
“The Bells of the 7 Hells” kicks off three more tracks penned by Deris. This one recalls a song from his first solo album, and plays a dicey game with an old school gallop taking on a taunting chorus and riffs that sound like doom metal sped up and turned on its head. In other words dark and daring. By the way, if you don’t have Deris’ solo albums, buy them. It’s like having two bonus HELLOWEEN albums. They’re not always as heavy, but they’re just as good.
“Fallen to Pieces” is hurt wrapped up in a deceptively harmonic arrangement. The guitars keep reminding you that if the song has the word “fall” in the title, then there’s probably a cliff involved. Deris does a phenomenal job of putting on the broken man voice too. Funny things is one song later he’s back playing the last angry man. “I.M.E” is shorthand for “I am me”, and this is the raise the metal fist song on the album. Except that you’re not being asked to punch the air and bang your head. The deal here is pound your chest and hold your head up high. File this one under anthem.
“Can Do It” is the other Weikath song, and he outdoes even himself at writing the strength of human spirit number. It’s just not enough for this guy to give you something to hum. A few albums back pressure from all sides saw the band almost self destruct with the release of the dark themed ‘THE DARK RIDE’. Weikath refused to play ball and came up with songs about humanity and salvation instead. This song’s more of the same. A melody that’s too good to be true. Playing that shreds and disturbs the foundations at the same time. And words that simply say what they have to say.
I must admit that I found myself thinking of “Can Do It” as a kind of swan song. Maybe it was just because it summed up two decades of what this band does better than anyone else. Either way, I hope I’m wrong. But then again this album is a kind of summing up you know. They are after all a band with the word “hell” in their name. And this time around they’ve even gone so far as to include the word “devil” in the title. And yet they still manage to laugh in the face of the devil and darkness brigades. Let’s just hope it’s not the last chance to place bets.
Helloween - Gambling With The Devil
OK, so maybe 2007 hasn’t been the best year for Power Metal, but with Helloween, Gamma Ray and Axxis releasing their albums within 15 days of each other, genre fans are pretty close to paradise on earth. Better than that, only catching them on tour!
With a career spanning over 20 years and 12 LP’s under their belt, some better than the others, the trouble with “Gambling With The Devil” is to explain how great this album is. The Germans are at top shape, a fact perfectly noticeable in the thundering drumming by Dani Löble, dominant throughout the whole work. In the lineup since “The Legacy”, I hope he’s here to stay because he does an exemplary work of what Power Metal drumming should be. Absolutely splendid, at the same time fast and technical with exuberant rhythmic explosions, and the band knows that well, judging by all the breaks where the drumming becomes the central piece. The rhythm section is completed by an always genius Markus Grosskopf who, taking advantage of a powerful album, unleashes some devilish bass lines that really fill the band’s sound to the top.
There’s nothing to complain about with the team of Weikath/Gerstner. If at first Löble’s drumming leaves little space for others to shine, as the album progresses, the guitar team gains in strength with some vicious riffing and ever melodic leads.
As for Andi Deris, if in “The Legacy” he did a wonderful work, here he’s irreprehensible. Sometimes you have to wonder if that’s Deris, singing with impressive vitality and melody, combining aggressive vocals somewhat uncommon to him, with very expressive Hard-Rock lines. Background choirs support him very competently and Helloween outdo themselves at their own game: infectious choruses without overdoing them and filled with strength and aggression. Irreprehensible, Andi!
Musicaly, without the title giving it away, the band goes somewhat back to the roots, reaching for their Speed and aggressive side, resulting in an immensely powerful album, their most impressive in recent times and certainly at their highest level ever. I’d have to highlight “Kill It”, super aggressive and going for your throat right away with a fantastic Speed tone, and “The Saints” with a memorable chorus. With the dark “The Bells Of The 7 Hells” the band reaches a album highpoint; the pedal is delicious and the second half of the song with its breaks, sudden rhythm changes and some groove is really jaw dropping. Surprisingly, “Falling To Pieces” is very symphonic with excellent orchestrations just before an enraged “I.M.E.”. Closing the album with a golden key, “Dreambound” and “Heaven Tells No Lies”, the first one with some really interesting neoclassic influences.
“Gambling With The Devil” is a brilliant album, no matter what phase you’re more fond off. If you’re going to stay away for not enjoying Andi Deris’ phase, you’re being prey of your own stupidity and that’s really your problem. It’s just a shame that the dearly needed singles always manage to somehow detract from the albums, but nothing keeps this one from being a 21 gun salute to Power/Speed Metal. Easily a prime contender for album of the year.
One last advice: go for the special edition. The tridimensional and cut out cover is very striking.
Review originaly for www.rockheavyloud.com
It’s been often debated that Helloween have been sliding in recent times, yet releases like “Gambling With The Devil” can easily refute any negative claims against our German buddies and their contemporary material. Honestly, the Andi-Deris era has had its flaws with previous efforts, but everything that could possibly go right for Helloween’s second musical stage is found in this sensational CD. For the first time since “Keeper of The Seven Keys II “, these power metal idols have finally hit the lucky jackpot with “Gambling With The Devil.”
So do you like the epic atmosphere of “Keeper of The Seven Keys II,” or the heaviness of “The Dark Ride?” Whatever you enjoy, you’ll find it here. Helloween remains wonderfully poetic with flying music and catchy songs, yet the blunt heaviness of everything adds such a great element to this CD that it’s simply golden. “Gambling With The Devil is just straight-forward power metal the way Helloween created it to be. Don’t expect any silly experimentation or unneeded genre alterations; it’s just the power metal performance we all love to hear.
Andi Deris has been in the Helloween camp for years, and after a decade of filling Michael Kiske’s shoes (whom is conclusively the more superior of the two); our longtime buddy has finally found his niche. Vocally, Deris is absolutely impeccable compared to his previous material, meaning he’s wildly improved on his pitch, vocal tone, singing ability, and general style. As one could expect, he nails high wails and screams like it’s a piece of cake, but not without applying a great transition between higher and lower worlds; truly amazing voice this man has. Also, Deris carries the traditional flame of singing like the happiest man in the world, but he really avoids the cheese factor when performing it here. Hearing his voice makes me want to plant flowers and help old women cross streets!
There is just one issue that stops this CD from being Helloween's best release to date, and it’s the somewhat predictable atmosphere found in every track. The boys have established a unique sound over time, and that voice has been applied in every CD that holds the Helloween moniker; this one is no exception. Occasional periods of familiarity will strike without warning, which has always been a minimal burden in Helloween's lifespan; yet be aware the wonderful other things within this disc crush this tiny inconsistency will ease. Still, "Gambling With The Devil" is unquestionably one of Helloween's prime items, even with the slight déjà-vu episodes.
In retrospect, "Gambling With The Devil" is one of the strongest releases from the Pumpkin Crew in a very long time. Everything is spot on: the vocals, the riffs, the drums, and the whatever-I-missed; it all connects flawlessly. Haters of Andi Deris and his current reign in Helloween will be surprised by the pure consistency of this CD, and it’ll certainly turn their views right around. It’s definitely the best thing to emerge from the Andi Deris-era thus far, and probably ever.
Well, after seven years, Helloween has finally given us the true successor to the masterpiece known as The Dark Ride. Don't get me wrong, Rabbit Don't Come Easy and The Legacy are damn fine albums, but they just weren't as in your face awesome, and thus, have been considered disappointments by some. This is not the case here. From the intro to the closing track, this is as heavy as Helloween has ever been, with thrashier riffs, and Andi once again reaching new heights with his voice. I seriously don't know how he keeps getting better with every album, but this release should finally shut up the Deris bashers for good.
The first thing that struck me when listening to the first real track after the goofy intro, "Kill It" was how much fucking heavier the riffs were then in the two previous releases. Helloween has a long tradition of having badass songs to open an album, and "Kill It" easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the classics such as "Eagle Fly Free" and "Mr. Torture". The following track, "The Saints" has one of those catchy Helloween choruses, and really, REALLY sounds similar to "All Over The Nations", in song structure, at least to me. But "The Saints" manages to be miles ahead in terms of sheer enjoyablity. I'm not going to do a track by track review, but other standouts include "The Bells of The Seven Hells", "Dreambound", and "Paint A New World", where they thrashy riffs from the opening track make their ball crushing return. But really, this entire album is one masterpiece after another. The ballads featured here are as they should be, a smooth change of pace, although they don't manage to capture the sheer brilliance of "Light The Universe" off The Legacy, which is a tad disappointing but not unexpected. There is only one track here that I would ever debate skipping, which is "Can Do It".
The production is almost flawless. The guitars are heavier then ever, and Sascha Gerstner has finally proven to be more then a capable replacement for Roland Grapow. Dani Loble shines at the drums, and it wouldn't be controversial to claim that's he's the best drummer Helloween has ever had. The guy freaking tears up the place. The only issue I have is that the bass doesn't appear to be as prominent anymore, there are no tracks that really showcase Markus like "Invisible Man", which is a damn shame because the man is severly underrated and I enjoy hearing him. Maybe I'm not listening hard enough, but I've given this album over five listens all the way through, so either I'm going deaf or the bass simply isn't as easy to detect.
I was really worried for Helloween before hearing "Gambling With the Devil". Power metal has been rather stagnant this year, with numerous disappointing releases all around by many of the top bands. And when I saw the horribly ugly album art, I worried even more. Was Helloween going back to shitty comedy music again? Those who had the same thoughts I had, put your fears to rest. Helloween is still as strong as ever, twenty whole years after the first Keeper rocked the metal world. If you are a power metal fan with any self worth, this is a must have. Standouts inlcude "Kill It", "Paint A New World", Dreambound", and "Heaven Tells No Lies".
You know how Helloween kind of helped create the Power Metal genre? You know how Helloween never really pushed themselves until the Dark Ride? You know how you have been waiting for 7 years for a good Helloween cd? Well, the time has come to put that all on the line and gamble with the devil.
Helloween's latest venture pretty much picks up where the Dark Ride left off. Heavy thrashy riffs, flawless time changes, and catchy choruses with awesome lyrics. I was so scared when I pressed play on this album, Helloween had been one of my favorite bands for years, but nothing they had done recently had impressed me at all. Not just that, but my expectations were waning. But alas, my ears were graced with an interesting introduction to the first track "Kill It" that bashes itself into your head, and does not let you go for about a week. Right from the get-go, you will notice a sense of chemistry between the band members. Everyone was really on the same page during recording, and what a way to show us all that with this killer opener.
The following track ,"The Saints", is pretty standard Helloween until the vocals kick in, Andi really out does himself here. He sounds his best in ages, and I am certain he will gain some new fans with this album. The solos on this track , as with all of the solos on the album, is pure face melting german thrash. Some of the most original solos can be heard on this album.
I am not going to go into detail on every track, because I would be ruining some the many surprises on the album, but I just have to say "As Long As I Fall" is a spiritual successor to "If I Could Fly" (get it?) , and it really does a good job of trying to make you decide which you like better. Though this song does differentiate itself in many ways, from the synthesizers to the up beat chorus.
This is pretty much the best Helloween album since the Keeper Albums (Disregarding the Legacy). My only gripes with the album are the album artwork, which leaves me questioning " why do they think 3-D rendering looks good? Who approved this?" and the song "Can Do it" which is probably the most annoying song ever recorded, despite this, it is catchier then the plague.
Best Tracks: Kill it, The Saints , As long as I fall, Final Fortune, Fallen to Pieces , Heaven tells no lies