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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