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HELLOWEEN is where it all started. And since day one it's been all about single-handedly inventing metal genres, or perfecting them. They’re also yet to succumb to that ultimate metal quicksand - releasing the same album twice. Which might explain why they get on so many nerves. Anything that moves that fast has just gotta hurt.
‘RABBIT DON’T COME EASY’ is something new yet again. One obvious reason is the departure of Grapow and Kusch. Kusch’s songwriting was uneven at best. And Grapow has a Ph.D. in writing fillers; this is the guy behind the reason behind the skip button on your music player of choice. In comes Sascha Gerstner (of FREEDOM CALL ranks) and the rest – as they say – is metal history. So how to review an album without a filler then. Maybe by songwriter.
‘Just a little Sign‘ is the first of vocalist Andi Deris’ numbers. This guy’s gotta be pound-for-pound the most underrated name in metal. His vocals are too chameleon to be distinctive. And his songwriting is pretty much summed up by this one song. Everything he touches has chart single written all over it. Always catchy and to the point, and either anvil heavy or hard rock edgy without giving a damn what anyone thinks. But back to the band. Here the guitar dueling is so centre stage it might as well be product placement. And if the keyboards work it’s because they’re every bit as heavy and melodic. All of which is toned down a little on Deris’ two other numbers: ‘Never be a Star’ and ‘Don’t Stop being Crazy’. And yep, once again, catchy is the name of the game.
‘Open Your life’ opens the book of metal hooks according to Gerstner this time. And boy does he know how to sink them in. ‘Sun For the World’ and ‘Listen to the Flies’ is more of the same from someone who spent one too many years making up the numbers. Given the chance to write – he’s going to rewrite. ‘Open Your Life’ is a head on collision between speed and power metal, and ‘Sun for the World’ is a fable for grown ups that like their music daring. Strange and haunting is also the best way to describe ‘Listen to the Flies’. No atmospherics and no histrionics required. Just a stop-start melody and lyrics that hiss. You’ll see what I mean.
Bassist and original member Marcus Grosskopf finally moves on from being the bonus track guy to genuine contributor. ‘Liar’ is the heaviest track on the album. I’ll leave it at that. And ‘Hell was Made in Heaven’ gives the best song on the album a run for it’s money. Which of course brings us to the best song on the album: ‘The Tune’. It’s the first of the Michael Weikath penned tracks. That means instant classic. And if truth be told, if anyone was ever going to write a song with this title, it might as well be the most supreme tunesmith in metal. The track itself is actually a kind of sequel to ‘Open your life’ and its message of a metal fist is good, but brains do sort of matter too you know. If that song was a word of advice, then this one’s a word of caution. Actually make that a word of warning. The tempo is urgent, the verses are dark and biting – and although the chorus seems to smile at you – it’s actually an ironic grin that sticks in your head.
‘Do You Feel Good’ is another Weikath track, and the word on the street is that this one didn’t make the cut on ‘THE DARK RIDE’ album. Hard to see why. Democracy having a bad day is the only reason I can think of (see the Grapow/Kusch comment above). Anyway, this one continues Weikath’s occasional preoccupation with songs about being the guy left behind. The drama is established with a sweltering synth intro that sets the scene for fury set to music. If this was a metal opera this would be the song that leaves you hanging at intermission. ‘Nothing to Say’ would be the song that receives a standing ovation as the curtain comes down. Except that it’s done anything but since its release. The average metal head just couldn’t hack what happens when you take a seventies epic song structure, an eighties prog chorus, and a nineties retro arrangement. Serious musicians of course realize there’s enough material for three songs. The drill guitars and dizzying drums are perfect for long drives requiring a soundtrack.
So that’s ‘RABBIT DON’T COME EASY’. The most misunderstood and divisive HELLOWEEN album yet. Who cares. Add it to your collection if you haven’t already. Chances are the title alone bugs someone you know. But like I said – who cares.