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My life as a musician in the late 90s was a bit turbulent, as I bounced back and forth between one band that played nothing but Metallica covers to another that played a lackluster form of punk rock meshed with Ska that did nothing but original music. The one thing that was lacking from it all was a desire to create something great, something that would inspire the listener to get out of his seat and scream, rather than just stand there like a bored conformist nodding his head and saying “hey, this isn’t good, but at least it’s not bad.”
After doing some research into what else was out there, I happened upon this single for the at the time yet to be released Helloween album “Better than Raw”, which like much of my quarry ended up being imported from Japan. What I heard was something that moved me, though the initial euphoria I felt while listening to it was due more to what it wasn’t, something mediocre. I heard bass activity that put the so-called riff happy punk bassists to shame (thus shattering a stupid premise I picked up from my punk rock band mates that metal bassists all sucked), in addition to guitar playing that actually broke out of the rhythm riffing box and sounded a hell of a lot more inspired than Kirk Hammet's pentatonic meandering.
“I Can” is my favorite single ever put out by this band; it is essentially a tasty stew of earlier Helloween mid-tempo rockers like “I Want Out”, “Future World”, and “A Little Time” meshed with a heavier atmosphere and an inspired vocal performance that reminded me heavily of Paul Di’anno’s work on Maiden’s classic album Killers. If you are looking to pick up this single, get the Japanese version, the shortened version of this (which I downloaded out of curiosity) is 100% unnecessary. The song is only 4 and ½ minutes long in it’s full version, what kind of dumb asses are out there populating the earth if you need to cut a song this short shorter in order to make it radio friendly.
“Handful of Pain” is another catchy tune from the Better than Raw release, but quite a bit heavier at times and slower, flirting with the dark atmosphere found on the subsequent album “The Dark Ride”. “A Game we shouldn’t play” is a song that didn’t make it onto the studio album, although I think many copies of it possess it as a bonus track. Pretty much quality speed metal with a slow and dark intro, kind of similar to the faster stuff on the Dark Ride and like much of the stuff that made it onto the Better than Raw release hints at the direction the band was taking.
If you have the version of Better than Raw with “A Game we shouldn’t play” on it, then this single only has value as a collectors item for rabid fans of Helloween. I still love it for the sense of nostalgia it gives me, as I remember my earlier transitional years as a metal fan looking for something to accommodate my love for melody, heavy riffs, and speed.