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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]