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Power metal veterans Helloween return on the road with their fourteenth studio venture in the form of the rather cliched titled Straight Out Of Hell. Barring a few odd experiments, Weikath & Co. have developed and maintained their sound involving simple yet entertaining song structures with plenty of slapstick humor, which in the power metal scene has by now been imitated by almost everyone and their dogs. Helloween, on this record, takes things in more safer waters which fans of the band can easily connect with in the sense that they don't run wild with experiments.
Technically the band is in a terrific form. This line up, which has now been stable for four records, has a great chemistry in themselves. Behind the mic, Andi Deris is in the form of his life with his rough yet very passionate vocal delivery. He, on this record, sings the higher parts very impressively and displays a much improved vocal range, thus being the primary force behind the album's success. The guitar duo of Gerstner and Weikath are in top form themselves with a remarkably awesome array of riffs and leads that form the foundation of the effective structure of the songs that works so well throughout the record. The songs are structured simply, straightforward and catchy - yet are powerful and entertaining.
The tone of the album is light and comical with the lyrics reflecting it perfectly. Yes, there are times where the lyrics are goofy and silly but then this band was never known for intelligent lyrical content anyway. The lengths for the songs are well balanced and are used perfectly and rarely does a song feel too long or dragging. Another very strong point about this record is that the production, though very modern or even futuristic at times, is incredibly heavy giving the already very well written songs an extra boost. The problem that this album faces is that of inconsistency. Not all of the thirteen presented tracks are good and it is a damn shame because when it gets going, this album packs some seriously heavy punches. The problem with the weaker tracks lies mostly in the verses which are not composed very well. The problem of inconsistency is further compounded by the fact that the track ordering is poor and the weaker tracks are all sandwiched between the highlights, something the listener might find a bit frustrating.
The songs can be categorized as either they are perfect, good or poor. The opening track Nabataea,falling into the first category, thunders from your speakers at a ferocious pace with a chorus that will be pasted in your brain the moment you hear it. The machine gun riffs, with a dark yet epic synthesizer backdrop and razor sharp leads, pound along like hurricane grinding and slicing down everything in their path. Just over seven minutes, the song will take you on a neck-breaking journey with its adventurous song structure and sharp pace changes which are executed perfectly. Had the rest of the record been of the same caliber, we would have had one of the best albums in our hands. Sadly, the rest of the record fails to live up to the high standards set up by the opener. The rest of the highlights include World of War, Waiting for the Thunder, Church Breaks Down, Far from the Stars, Straight Out of Hell and Years; all featuring very well written choruses and addicting melodies. The rest of the tracks all fall in to the listenable or the poorly composed category.
The album, though flawed and quite inconsistent, is worth twice its price just for the opener Nabataea and a few more songs. Though not matching the caliber of the highlights, it will be a crime to ignore the rest of the tracks nonetheless. Bottom-line; Straight Out of Hell is a good addition in the illustrious Helloween catalog and is highly recommended for all the fans of the sub-genre. Though it is a possibility that they might find it annoying in some parts, fans of more extreme sub-genres are also recommended to check this record out with an assurance that this, though light and cheesy, is quality composed music.
Straight off the bat, and straight out of hell our favourite German power metal masters Helloween set the bar high for quality heavy metal in 2013. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel Andi and the gang have been on a roll of excellent albums since the epic Keeper Of The Seven Keys – The Legacy (forgetting Unarmed of course). Their current opus Straight Out Of Hell is the icing on the cake of an awesome streak, and undoubtedly one of their finest releases. Incorporating everything I love about modern Helloween and then some!
The production on here is absolutely flawless, with the brilliant Charlie Bauerfeind in tow. The sound across the board is second to none, highlighting brilliant performances and sounding equal parts natural and modern. The drum sound is particularly tasty, with thumping kick drums, a tight snare and vibrant cymbals. As for the guitars and bass, well it’s Helloween and if they sounded anything less than brilliant I think we’d all be a little worried. Keyboards are featured tastefully and sparingly, though without a doubt necessary to the sound on Straight Out Of Hell.
As I hinted the performances are insane, Andi Deris sounds possibly the best I’ve heard him since Better Than Raw. His performance is powerful and inspiring, and it seems he has really pushed his best out here on album number 14 (16 if you want to include Metal Jukebox and Unarmed – I don’t). Resident axe-slingers Sascha Gerstner and Michael Weikath spew forth a veritable feast of awe-inspiring riffs and guitar solos, from sickly melodic to head-thumping-heavy. Providing our rhythm is mainstay Markus Grosskopf who has always ensured his bass guitar is an important part of the Helloween sound, with a good place in the mix and some rollicking bass lines. Going insane behind the kit is Dani Löble whose mastery of his art is nothing to sniff at; he can go from rumbling, wild double kicking to more tasteful grooves at the drop of a hat and does a stand up job in providing a backbone to the sound on Straight Out Of Hell.
I guess now would be a good time to comment on the actual music itself. The album opens up in flawless fashion, hitting a run of six brilliant songs straight away kicking off with the massive “Nabataea” with its luscious soundscapes and oriental influence, the song is something of a new avenue for the band yet providing all the fireworks and magic we’ve come to expect from them. “World of War” follows on and kicks up a storm of Helloween style twin guitar melodies and double kicking with a twist, that twist being the almost Fear Factory style verses, with aggressive, chugging riffs and dramatic symphonic accents; it’s moves like these that keep Helloween on top of their game. A lot of the material across the album is surprisingly heavy, and it’s great to see the band with this kind of burning intensity at this point in their career.
Following along we have massive anthems such as the excellent “Live Now!” and “Waiting For The Thunder”. Straight up, soaring, double kicking power metal winners such as “Burning Sun”, “Years” or the kick-ass title track. There’s the token silly Helloween number in “Asshole” which despite a stupid title and some admittedly daft lyrics is one of the finest songs they’ve done in the style with cracking melodies and a chorus that’s pretty hard to shake. If there’s anywhere the band go wrong it’s in the ballad “Hold Me In Your Arms” which is familiar and relatively forgettable, although hardly offensive. Also the bonus track “Another Shot Of Life” is excellent, and should have really been included as an album track.
On the whole Straight Out Of Hell is a tour-de-force in power metal and shows why Helloween are one of the most revered, and respected acts plugging the style. When listened to in context with the last two albums I’d definitely say that this one feels the strongest, although listening to the three of them together is a fun exercise forming some sort of hell trilogy (Devil, Sinner, Hell, anyone else see it?). As I’ve stressed throughout the review almost everything here is excellent with the exception of the ballad, which isn’t all that bad to begin with. Helloween are at the top of their game, with energy and creativity to spare I hope the band can continue releasing albums of this magnitude for years to come. Highly recommended, and essential for any power metal fan!
Originally written for http://www.metal-observer.com
Helloween might be the one and only power metal act form back in the eighties that has aged with dignity. After Kiske’s departure – the best thing that could ever happened to them, this German quintet have released some of the tightest works of the genre, always demonstrating strong bonds to the most traditional form of speed metal for delight of many. You can include me there.
“Straight out of hell” appears a bit more than two years after the release of one of the grooviest power metal albums ever – yes, I know it sounds like a contradiction, but that’s just the interference of the cliché fucking with you: “7 sinners”. After such a musical success, expectations of the fans were high, very fucken high, or pessimistic in many cases. I’m glad to announce these guys made it again.
This work displays a powerful balance of many of the elements that have made Helloween the legend they are: First, there’s their unmistakable pace and velocity. I mean it, as a listener I literally felt as though I could fly. Second, the switch from archetypal melodic momentums when twin guitars do their thing, to ethereal almost progressive passages that provide precious time to breath. Third, there’s exhilarating resemblance of the old speed metal sound that I’d missed so much even including some blast beating and heavy riffs that could tear down the walls of Jericho itself.
As for the vocals, Andi Deris is one badass motherfucker and that’s all there is to it. Happily, the moronic comparisons to former vocalists have been left behind, and after almost 20 years of singing for Helloween, it’s his voice the most distinguished one in their history. His work is consistent, heavy and melodic, and it’s quite clear to me that good ol’Andi works his ass off when it comes to writing his lines and lyrics.
The final overall sound, unfortunately, seems to have come straight out of the depths of some superfancy production software. Apparently, Helloween have also fallen in the group of over produced bands with cinematic sound, and despites the heaviness of their songs, I found that considerably off putting. Also, I can’t stand more than two ballads in a metal release personally, and by the time I reach the 10th track, I feel a bit tired if not more. It’s difficult to give your record enough variety when you play metal, and it’s easy for albums to be too long.
To sum up, I find “Straight out of hell” fun and ass-kicking, and even though it’s always difficult not to be overwhelmed by your past glories, this is another reason to be posted on what these guys do nowadays. By the way, including a homage for such an influential musician such as John Lord in a current metal album, and especially in a world where the public tends to forget the basics, is classy as hell. Cheers.
—Originally written for www.globaldomination.se
Long heralded forefathers of power metal, German metallers Helloween’s fourteenth record, ‘Straight Out of Hell’, is the groups’ third strong record in a row and might possibly be their best Deris-lead album of their career. This is sure to be among the top power metal albums of the year.
Starting off with a bang, the Babylonian-style intro to ‘Nabataea’ gives way to their traditional speed metal leanings while offering a true atmosphere among the riffs that perfectly fit the lyrical subject matter, even managing to incorporate a more melodic middle section perfectly as it switches back and forth to the heavier-feeling speed metal. Follow-up ‘World of War’ is even more of a speed metal anthem, forsaking the melodic interludes and just offering good old German heavy/power metal with their hyper-speed riffing, sing-a-long choruses, and thrashing abandon that Helloween has pioneered for so long in the genre.
‘Live Now!’, despite starting with the rather odd keyboard intro, changes gears into a fine mid-tempo piece that seems oddly placed in the track list following such energetic speedmongers before it, hurting it somewhat even though it’s still a fine track. ‘Far From the Stars’ returns to the speed metal thrash of the opening tracks and feels like a more natural successor in the running order with its crunchy pace and thrashy riff work. The first half concludes with the rather soaring ‘Burning Sun’, which is nearly symphonic in grandiosity during its choruses, yet the screechy vocals are a tad cartoony and don’t mesh well due to their strained outcome that sounds as though he can’t hit the notes at that speed, but otherwise this is some of the best grandiose, uplifting power metal that they’ve ever recorded.
The second half starts with the more mid-tempo ‘Waiting for the Thunder’, which is more in keeping where ‘Live Now!’ should’ve been placed as stylistically they’re similar with their restrained tempos and classy feel. Requite ballad ‘Hold Me in Your Arms’ is among the better attempts at the style they’ve done, with some grand orchestration backing the group’s muted playing and the tender vocals speak just right for this kind of track. ‘Wanna Be God’, with its near absence of instrumentation save for the end that plays like a twisted version of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’, is entirely out of place and really should’ve been the album’s bonus track since it doesn’t deserve to be there at all. This is thankfully saved with the album’s title track and its return to melodic speed metal territory, focusing more on a relaxed pace, yet still retains the trademark Helloween vibe they’ve perfected over the years and have down to a science to make potentially filler songs come off as quite fun.
Another Helloween must, the oddball track ‘Asshole’, is more of a mid-tempo crunch that seems to revel in swearing more than anything, but it’s Helloween tradition after all, and ‘Years’ is yet another solid Helloween thrasher. The group even manages to throw in a curve with two stronger tracks at the end, ‘Make Fire Catch the Fly’ and ‘Church Breaks Down’, with two of the more chaotic, thrashy songs the band has recorded with stand out riffing, thunderous drumming, and a few surprises thrown into the mix for each that makes for a superb overall experience.
Despite the one misstep in the track sequencing that has nothing to do with the song itself and the out of place track, this is perhaps as focused and charged as Helloween has sounded in years. Even coming after three already sterling albums and a very fine repertoire with Deris at the helm, this might be the best overall output they’ve put out under this incarnation in some time and shows the band at the top of their game in all areas. This contains everything a power metal fan could want from Helloween in a steady stream of rip-roaring thrashers, mid-tempo breaks, grandiose epics, a goofball track, and a not-too-bad ballad thrown into the mix, backed with sterling writing, impeccable performances, and a solid, top-notch production that gives everything a life instead of just feeling thrown in because it sounded good. This will be at the top of the genre’s rankings at the end of the year and could very well be the group’s magnum opus as well.
When judging any style, going back to the root of its existence tends to be the preferred method of comprehending its nature, and that doesn't necessarily involve going back to the albums put out under its name. Insofar as power metal is concerned, Helloween has (with a few exceptions) maintained a very consistent approach that has balanced out the aggressive, speed riffing approach of its early to mid 80s incarnation with the melodic rock underpinnings that have since come to shape the European variant of the sound. Updates from one album to the next largely manifest in improvements and modernization in production to conform to present practices (not to mention switching up vocalists), but the underlying method to this band's madness has remained very consistent from "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" up until "Straight Out Of Hell", the band's 14th album and latest offering to the field.
As a whole, this album seems to be grasping for a faster yet heavily varied approach that is a tiny bit closer to the late 90s era of the band, culminating in the returns to former glory found in "Time Of The Oath" and "Better Than Raw". The one area where this doesn't completely prove to be the case is the super-smooth character of the production, which is much closer to that of "Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy", but largely this is a departure on many levels from the works of the 2000s. The speed factor has definitely been heightened, while the punchy heaviness has been downplayed slightly. Sascha Gershner's lead work and fancy soloing take a particularly prominent place in the mix, coming fairly close to the wild virtuosity of Roland Grapow's early work in the band and veering away from his tight, restrained sound reminiscent of his Freedom Call days.
Most of the truly memorable material to be found on here is front and back-loaded at the extremes of the track list, giving it a somewhat weak middle in much the same fashion as was so on "Time Of The Oath". The opening song "Nabataea" stretches itself out to over 7 minutes in length, yet also proves to be one of the most concise and bone-crunching examples of a speed metal extravaganza superimposed on a set of catchy hooks in recent memory. Things sort of switch back and forth from a Middle Eastern theme and a selection of fairly traditional Iron Maiden style riffs played at high speed, but it's very easy to follow and get into. The closer "Church Breaks Down" is among the more adventurous songs on here, incorporating a church organ and choir in quite an epic fashion, followed by a superb string of high octane metal that remembers Gershner's days with Freedom Call, as well as the late 90s work of Edguy.
The bulk of the contents contained within the two outer extremes of this album tend to be a bit more predictable and easy to trace back to earlier works of the band. However, when taking the high number of well delivered speed fits, from the anthem of armies charging "World Of War" to the nostalgic and less abrasive cooker "Years", there is an overall feeling of constant motion at play that gives the album a boost in spite of its heavy similarity to past works. There is the usual assortment of oddities to complement the mix as well in an overt homage to Queen's "We Will Rock You" in "I Wanna Be God" (dedicated to Freddie Mercury no less) and a mid-tempo middle finger to everyone manipulative jerk on the planet in "Asshole". In spite of the easy to sing along tendency of most of these songs, the only thing on here that even pretends to put itself off as radio-friendly is the somber love ballad "Hold Me In Your Arms" with acoustic guitars and vocal overdubs aplenty, but even this song doesn't really offend much beyond any other token ballad that the band has included in the mix since "A Tale That Wasn't Right".
Helloween has yet to truly screw up on a full length studio album, though their love of breaking down stylistic walls during their off years did offer up one of the most bizarre collections of re-recordings in recent history in "Unarmed", which arguably distracted the band to the point of losing some steam when putting together "7 Sinners". But "Straight Out Of Hell" is no such exception to the rule, and actually showcases the most even split of songwriting duties seen on their albums since they first started making waves back in the 80s. If fun, over the top speedy power metal is the preferred poison, then let us all join Socrates in one final toast and gulp this baby down happily.
After it's heyday in the late 90's/early 00's, power metal seems to have declined a lot in quality, for many of the newest releases by big name bands lack the originality and memorable songwriting of their older records. (Sonata Arctica, Nightwish and Edguy come to mind, among others). However, I find Helloween to be one of the biggest exceptions to that rule, as their albums with vocalist Andi Deris have just been increasing in quality over time; still sounding unmistakably Helloween, but developing a style and charisma of their own. This newest release "Straight Out of Hell" just confirms that notion.
The album consists mostly of fast and melodic power metal songs in typical Helloween fashion; in contrast to the previous release 7 Sinners, which pointed towars a heavier, less melodic direction. While that album was also solid, I'm really glad that they didn't venture more into that direction and went back to their trademark uplifting style, which is really what they do best. Since the opening song "Nabateae", I couldn't help but smile at that feeling that I call the "Helloween charm", it's like talking again to a very dear friend you haven't seen in some time, and that warm feeling of familiarity just confirms that Deris-era Helloween has become as distinguishable and enjoyable to me (and many fans I think) as their Kiske-era albums.
Speaking of Nabateae, this is one of the best singles the band has put out I think. The song lasts more than 7 minutes but never feels boring, which is difficult to accomplish; and it isn't really a long "epic" in the vein of Keeper of the Seven Keys or Halloween, feeling instead like a straightforward hit song that happens to last very long and stay enjoyable through its length. A very good example of Deris-era Helloween fulfilling its potential.
The other single is Michael Weikath's excellent "Burning Sun"; and it goes to show that the band hasn't really mellowed that much, as the song hits really hard and is one of the most intense in the album. It displays a very good balance between the melody of earlier releases and the heaviness of 7 Sinners; topped with a ridiculously catchy chorus. Weiki's other composition for the album is "Years", which I also enjoyed inmensely and found a little similar in style to The Dark Ride's "Salvation" (one of my personal favorites).
Speaking of The Dark Ride, the mid-tempo "Waiting for the Thunder" reminded me a lot of said album's "If I Could Fly" with it's keyboard driven-melody and slightly nostalgic feel. Another highlights include the title track and "World of War", which also shows a cool mixture of crunchy heaviness in the verses and anthemic melodies in the chorus. There is also the joke/novelty song "Asshole", which many people seem to dislike but I enjoyed for it's sillyness and pop-like catchiness; while it'd be annoying to have an album full of songs like this (see "Chameleon"), having just one is really fine to get a little rest from the straightforward power metal of the rest of the disc.
The album also has its flaws, for I find the other pop-oriented song "Live Now!" a little lackluster and the only ballad "Hold Me In Your Arms" kind of boring; while "Wanna Be God" seems like obvious filler/bonus track material to me. Another flaw is the production, as the instruments sound a little muffled and the songs could have benefited from a more organic sound.
However, the songwriting makes up for said flaws and overall I enjoyed this album a lot; I'd place it among my favorite albums from this band, standing alongside "The Dark Ride" as my favorites from the Deris-era.
Helloween is one of the bands that invented the genre of power metal, and the band that got me into the genre in the first place. I discovered them about three years ago, and really liked what I heard. I always listened more to the Deris than the Kiske stuff. I didn't really go beyond Helloween back then, but nowdays, I'm discovering band after band that are all able to do a good job making excellent power metal. Now however, it's time to go back to the band I started with. And that was not a bad decision at all!
The band has been on a rampage lately, with their last two releases "Gambling With The Devil" and "7 Sinners", and it continues fully on Straight Out of Hell. The songs are very well written, and will keep almost any fan of the genre interested all the way through. There are some small bumps on the ride with tracks like "Live Now", "Wanna Be God" and "Asshole" that could maybe have been tweaked a little, but they are definitely not songs that kill the experience of listening to this album. "Live Now" is generally not too bad of a song. It just needs a slightly longer verse. "Wanna Be God" is an unusual song coming from a band like Helloween, and can certainly remind one of "We Will Rock You" by Queen, which is also where the idea came from. "Asshole" is a groove/poppy song with it's own charm, but could have been a bonus track, in my opinion. And as far as the rest of the tracks go, they all work really well for me!
When I think of Helloween, I immediately think of Andi Deris. He has always been the voice of Helloween for me. I don't have anything against Kiske, but compared to Deris, I don't think he's anything special. Deris proves once again why he is the right vocalist for Helloween on this record. He shows that he hasn't lost any range at all over the years, with nice low vocals on tracks like "Hold Me In Your Arms" and "Waiting For The Thunder", and also uses some high shrieks on songs like "Nabataea" and "World of War". He also maintains the instantly recognizable vibe in his voice, which will make anyone remember who he is at once.
Michael Weikath and Sascha Gertsner have filled this album with solid riffs and solos. I did not notice any lack of quality riffs in pretty much any song on Straight Out of Hell. Both of them provide killer riffs, both fast and slow. There may be some slightly rehashes, but it never became a problem for me. The solos are also there, and give the songs the extra character they need.
This release was produced in kind of a weird way. I don't have anything against the sound, but I do believe it could've been even better. I feel that the production is focused on bringing the bass (not the bass guitar) in the front, making it a very "pounding sounding" album. I wish the production was a little more like on "Gambling...", but as with many other things, it wasn't something that ruined the experience for me.
If you liked the last couple of albums from Helloween, I can almost guarrantee that you're going to like this one as well. That alone should help you make your decision if you want to get it or not. I would of course advice anyone to at least listen to it though, so go ahead and do that!
Helloween are a titan of the power metal genre for the simple fact that they have released many of the classics of said genre alongside fellow bands such as Blind Guardian. Their mixture of fast and intense drumming with quick soloing and the soaring vocals so characteristic of the genre has made such albums as the two Keeper Of The Seven Keys releases be ranked among the best power metal releases of all time. This could not last, however, as Helloween have shown over the years with the quality of their releases slowly dipping, meeting an all time low with the stretch from Chameleon to Rabbits Don't Come Easy and the subsequent two releases. Whilst 7 Sinners may have been a little better than Gambling With The Devil it still felt like a shambles of an album that could have been so much more focused and a lot better. Thankfully 2013 has answered every Helloween fan's prayers with the latest chapter in their story Straight Out Of Hell which corrects many of the mistakes made by the numerous mediocre albums the band has put out in recent years.
This album clocks in at an hour long exactly and in that time it manages to pack in a decent enough thrill ride that, not being in the upper echelons of Helloween's discography, it is certainly a solid enough power metal releases that shows the band to be still alive and kicking. This album is a big screw you to those who wrote the band off after they began to go downhill and each one of the thirteen songs has at least one moment of awesomeness to blow such pessimistic claims out of the water. The riffing is enjoyable and fast paced but it is also varied as Far From The Stars shows off with its mid-paced riff that opens it up comprised of numerous chords before leading directly into the lightning fast paced chorus. All through this song the drumming is aggressive and energetic and this may well be Daniel Loble's best performance. The drumming on this release is perhaps the finest thing about it with some really quick double bass work but also some extremely varied fills thrown in for good measure. Far from just creating a rhythm and keeping a solid beat the drums add another dimension to this album that can not go ignored with the constantly changing beats that are so fun to listen to.
The vocal work from Andi Deris is both uplifting and extremely well done with some fantastic anthemic choruses that should blow the socks off of even the most seasoned power metal veteran. The chorus to the opening song Nabataea is one of the finest vocal moments on this album and shows off just how much power Andi really has behind his voice and the insane amount of control he has over his voice when holding some of his highest notes. His performance throughout this album is something to really be amazed by and there was clearly a huge amount of effort put into his vocals. Burning Sun is another song that will completely blow your mind with the vocals with some really harsh and aggressive work here whilst still remaining in the higher register the power metal genre is known for. This is also a song that has a really fantastic riff-set to it being both fast paced and yet cramming in a huge variety of riffs that are very well written. The crisp production job merely adds to the amazing sound that some of the songs on here achieve with its decent mixing job aside from the bass and the fantastic tone the guitars have.
It is not all fun and games with this release however as it is by no means the perfect release. For starters the bass is completely mixed out as mentioned before, which really is a down side. When it can be heard (by straining your ears) it sounds decent enough despite the fact that the bass merely follows the guitars so it would have been nice to actually be able to hear it throughout. Also this album does nothing groundbreaking nor innovative with the genre and instead sticks to the template laid down by the bands earlier albums but without quite as strong a level of song writing. The soloing is a little less emphatic than one would expect from a band of this caliber and really detracts a lot from the songs despite how great the actual riffing is. Also the song Waiting For The Thunder opens up very badly with its softer verse that has Andi singing in a lower voice which sounds absurd and horrible. The chorus to this song is as predictable as it gets despite the great higher pitched vocals and the song just sounds like a disjointed wreck.
This song is not an amazing release by any means but is certainly an ass-kicking slab of power metal as only Helloween know how to create and it should have people feeling optimistic towards the bands next release and what they will do with it. Straight Out Of Hell is a mixed bag of an album that succeeds at what it aims to do in numerous places but is very flawed at other times. Were the bass mixed a little higher and had Waiting For The Thunder been cut from the album as well as the soloing been a little better then this would have been an even better release than it already is. I recommend this to those just looking to kill an hour with an enjoyable release that has little to no replay value due to the fact it does nothing new whatsoever.
Originally written for sputnikmusic.com
2013 seems to be a promising year for European power metal after many weak years with mediocre releases.
This record here includes still a couple of undeniable flaws but the band is definitely on a good way to return to old strengths. The production still sounds too clinical, hard and modern but it already feels less cold and more vivid than the last two releases. The new record includes a few filler tracks such as the boring ballad "Hold Me In Your Arms" and the exchangeable power metal songs "Years" as well as the harder "Make Fire Catch The Fly". The title track is also one of the more forgettable songs. With only about nine or ten songs including the strong bonus tracks like the atmospheric "Another Shot Of Life" or the catchy Japanese bonus gem "No Eternity", this record would have almost been on one level with Stratovarius' new output "Nemesis".
Despite these flaws, the band included some of the best songs written in years on this album that should please to any fan of the Deris years. The first highlight is the historically inspired "Nabataea" that includes intriguing lyrics, many changes of style and a very catchy chorus. This epic kicks off the record on a very high note and is probably the best song on here. Along with Stratovarius' "Unbreakable", this track that also has a very well done video clip is the best European power metal single in years and probably since Edguy's "King Of Fools". The other epic track in form of the album closer "Church Breaks Down" has some well done atmospheric parts and a creative middle part but is overall a little bit too straight forward and modern in my ears without being only of an average quality.
For the power metal maniacs, the band included many new melodic anthems on this release such as the fast "World Of War" or the positive "Far From The Stars". Those who like the calmer side of the band should check out "Waiting For The Thunder" that could come straight from "The Dark Ride". That's why this release should be relevant for any fan of the Deris era and the final product can almost be seen as some sort of original retrospective of the last twenty years or so.
The band though skipped the too humorous and silly parts which gives this album a quite consistent and mature touch that I like. Even the tracks with strange names such as "Asshole" turn out to be way better than what you might expect. This song is for example a hard and grooving track with some well employed vocal effects and a few memorable lyrics. The shhort "Wanna Be God" is dedicated to Freddie Mercury and reminds of a mean and modern version of "We Will Rock You" which sounds surprisingly entertaining. The band really put a lot of creative efforts into this record.
In the end, "Straight Out Of Hell" is a creative and diversified record that never gets boring even though there are a few less convincing experiments and some filler material here and there. The strong tracks are great enough to pardon for the exchangeable moments and include the best songs the band has written in years. Songs like the glorious epic "Nabataea", the melodic mid tempo anthem and grower "Burning Sun" that is also featured in a version including hammond organs that is dedicated to Jon Lord on the limited edition, the dark ballad "Waiting For The Thunder", the simplistic but highly enjoyable "Asshole" and the almost cinematic and darkly sacral closer "Church Breaks Down" alone are worth the purchase of this record and will soon be considered as modern classics of its genre. Any fan of European power metal should grab this release and celebrate a return to form of the unbreakable German power metal veterans.
Love them or hate them, Helloween has found a sound that is distinctly theirs alone, and they have stuck with it since the release of Gambling With the Devil, which in all honesty was a continuation of the aggressiveness of The Dark Ride without the overwhelming bleakness. If you have come in here expecting any major changes, or perhaps even a return to the soaring Kiske days, I advise you to just walk away, pop the Keeper albums back in, curl up in a ball, and pretend that Helloween disbanded after 1988.
For everyone else, this review is for you. Straight Out of Hell almost feels like a direct sequel to their previous effort, 7 Sinners. Taken along with Gambling With the Devil, it seems Helloween has somewhat of a theme going on with their last three albums; they've found a sound that works and one that the fans love and they are running with it. The only major difference between Straight Out of Hell and the previous two albums really is the lack of ballads. Despite 15 tracks on the limited release, only one, "Hold Me in Your Arms," is a clear cut ballad. What this means is that Straight Out of Hell is a fast paced, aggressive album. As someone who usually skipped the slower songs when they come up on my playlist, as I'm sure a lot of people do, I applaud this as a great thing. Instead of trying to fulfill some sort of unwritten rule that there has to be two or three ballads on a power metal album, usually resulting in some uninspired efforts, Helloween has dedicated that effort instead into simply writing good songs, and this also means the single ballad they did produce is actually quite good.
Although I have stressed that this is a relatively "safe" release, that doesn't mean Helloween didn't make some interesting changes from 7 Sinners. For instance, instead of leading off the album with a short, fast paced track as they have done for almost every single album since, well, 1985 the opening here is the 7 minute long epic "Nabatea." On the surface, this looks completely out of character with what a typical Helloween release should be, but as soon as you hear Deris shout the words "Hush...Don't Cry!" a few seconds in, you've been absorbed. "Nabatea" is actually one of the strongest tracks on the album, and in retrospect, a perfect lead in. It starts off menacingly, but then becomes quite introspective and slows down significantly, adding in a typical Helloween chorus and then just keeps chugging along from there. I must admit, I first heard the single version of it well before the album was released, which is around two minutes shorter, and was actually not impressed. The added two minutes makes a profound difference and totally changes how the song sounds. Another noticeable difference here is the inclusion of the track "Asshole." I'm not going to say much about this one, because it's going to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of deal. But longtime Helloween listeners are going to be EXTREMELY surprised upon listening to it for the first time, because it's quite possibly the most unexpected song I've personally ever heard from them. I can see this one becoming a really popular song to play live.
Other standouts include "Far From the Stars," "Waiting for the Thunder," and "Straight Out of Hell." "Far From the Stars" is a straight up, rollicking power metal song with a catchy chorus in the vein of "Final Fortune" or "World of Fantasy" from the previous two album, and is one that really finishes too quickly. "Waiting For the Thunder" will remind listeners of "If I Could Fly" from The Dark Ride with its powerful keyboard carrying the melody, but is much faster and has an absolutely awesome chorus. I really don't know how else to describe it, other than simply say that before the end of even your first listen of it, you most likely will be singing along. The title track is one of my personal favorites. Again, the catchy Helloween chorus persists throughout, and it really carries the day for the entire album.
The true gem on this album is "Burning Sun" however. The lyrics of the song describe exactly what you will go through as you listen to it. As soon as the song begins, you'll start ascending in the same way that Deris's voice does, climbing higher and higher, before crashing back down to earth for a crushing chorus before flying back up again to do it all over again. "Burning Sun" is everything a Helloween song should be, and it's the one I come back to the most and keep replaying.
Overall, if you have enjoyed the past two releases from Helloween, then there really is no question whether you should give Straight Out of Hell a listen. It's everything you've come expect from the pumpkins. If you have a friend that you'd like to introduce Helloween to, there may not be a better place to start than here either. Straight Out of Hell is a safe, accessible, and easy-to-listen-to release that may not redefine the genre, but does everything right and is a an absolutely worthy release that shows that Helloween still has it.
Kicking off the new year right, "Straight Out of Hell" promises strong musicianship, catchy choruses and verse licks, driving drums, and soaring vocals that will make even the laziest of listeners pay close attention to what is going on. Definitely boasting a more positive sound than the doom and gloom feeling of the past two records, the album is nothing but high energy, multi-layered tracks worthy of the great legacy the band brings along with each release. Each band member had song-writing roles for the record, which is definitely heard in the music. Though the album flows together quite wonderfully, each track stands strong on it's own.
“Nabataea” begins the record with a bang, as the intro eerily creeps into an in-your-face riff of heavy guitars and wonderfully layered synth prepping the listener for the ever so heavy, yet melodic record ahead of them. Andi uses his signature raspy throat-style vocals, but shows off his cleaner style in the chorus as he hits some high notes that any mother would be proud of. The song is somewhat long, over seven minutes, but flies by. There are very distinct multidimensional parts of the track, yet it remains telling a single story. One of the best tracks on the record, it makes absolute sense that Helloween chose this as a single. “Burning Sun” shows off the passion and strength in Andi's vocals, as well as fantastic keyboard work and riffage. The drums hold a traditional galloping pace through the song, especially in the verses, which really helps bring a more traditional heavy metal tone to the track.
One of the rare slow moments on the record, “Hold Me in Your Arms” is the signature ballad, pleading for attention from a lover. Though never really a huge Andi Deris fan, I would let him hold me in his arms. This track, though not quite fitting within the whole “Straight Out of Hell” image, is beautiful and the orchestration is second to none, and completely deserving of recognition. However unfortunate, the album has a couple tracks that could have been left out. “Wanna Be God” and “Asshole” are tracks that seem like bad fillers. The album makes up for it with the closing track “Church Breaks Down” which boasts beautiful synth, speed metal guitar work, and extremely catchy verses. This song has a way of sticking to you, even after a full hour of the new Helloween music.
For the past couple releases, Helloween had turned into a background music band for me. The albums seemed to run on too long, and each song sounded like the previous. I absolutely hated the single “Are You Metal?' and it's still one of the only Helloween tracks I skip each time. They were enjoyable records, but my hopes for Straight Out of Hell weren't all that high. Andi Deris brought a different sound to a band that for the longest time I only knew from a more classic heavy metal style perspective. That being said, newer Helloween has finally grown on me with the release of this record. These songs have an amazing ability to really catch your attention, pull at the heart-strings, and make you think deeply about the world around us. Any doubters of the band, or the elitist many of you out there who think Helloween broke up in 1991, check out this record.
[Originally written for metalwani.com & metalholic.com]
Helloween and I go back a long way. I can recall finding that first EP in a local shop for an unheard of $8.99 back in the day and being thrilled at hearing this new German speed metal that was slowly emerging from Europe. Since that happy day in 1985 I've managed a pretty basic on/off affair with the band that sort of manifests itself every couple of albums or so. Still lamenting the loss of Kai Hansen I have enjoyed some of what Helloween has issued over the years, save for the head-spinning Pink Bubbles Go Ape, so I was up to the challenge.
So what we have here is very 'typically' Helloween in that the speedy galloping is ever present, complete with keyboard accompaniment and soaring vocals. The vocal performance from Andi Deris shifts from a recognizable high register to a lower, gruffer effort, and Deris carries the songs evenly and without losing the 'original' late-Helloween sound. He hasn't lost much over the years and that's what helps make for a strictly baseline Helloween product.
So...how is the new album structure-wise, you ask? Helloween has some of the more die-hard fans out there, apologists even, which can be both blessing and curse. While the fans aren't as blissfully blinded as the loincloth-donning contingent of that New York-based band, they are very easy to impress. This current release in Straight Out of Hell is a pretty solid example of exactly what Helloween has come to deliver with every record. The power metal genre, literally saturated with pretenders and sickening rip-offs, panders to a specific metalhead that doesn't necessarily see a need for variances in style; Helloween has always been a founding forefather of the genre and it shows why in the new music, which, again, is both a positive and negative. I do enjoy the faster songs that border on epic, such as “Burning Sun”, which harkens back to that late 80's period quite nicely. Then you take a track like “Waiting for the Thunder”, which is about as AOR-friendly as it gets, and you see how the reliance on speed is both unnecessary and vastly rudimentary. The power ballad “Hold Me in Your Arms”, while not mesmerizing or even memorable, has a certain antiquated charm that is undeniably rich and warm ala late 80's MTV lighter-holding (if you look back on that period with any sort of affinity whatsoever). It's one of the tracks I'll honestly never revisit simply due to its lack of any resonate staying power, but it's not a total album killer. What does in the record for me is the fact that it's somewhat stale and far too faceless, relying more on formulaic design to muster through yet another album's worth of rehashed melodies already tired and overused.
Overall, the songs here aren't offensive or overly mundane, but the lack of ideas is certainly abundant in some of the same familiar chords, riffs, keyboard soundscapes and melodies. In short, if you've heard one album like this, you know have yet another, for better or worse.
To be honest, the tunes here will likely impress Helloween fans with no problem; the music follows a very distinct line that the band has carved into the long road underfoot. That said, they get points for being legendary figureheads in the crowded Pantheon reserved for gods and legendary figures revered for past deeds and accomplishments. Straight Out of Hell is one full hour of Modern Power Metal 101 as told by one of the originators of the genre, and while not widely memorable or even interesting past convention (the song “Asshole” was wasted space positioned only for gratuitous pomp, not to mention somewhat ridiculous) it will find a place within the hearts of the impressionable fan base.
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)