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This is perhaps one of Helloween's most controversial and debated albums of their career to date. Unlike Chameleon, which is almost universally despised, The Dark Ride is a very love it or hate it affair. Even Weikath seems to have contempt for the whole endeavor because, if I recall correctly, it experimented with a sound that was definitely leading down a less upbeat and prominently more evil, gritty style of power metal. Perhaps he doesn't hold that opinion anymore, considering exactly 10 years later Seven Sinners came out and that album is by far more dystopian, dark, and angry than this release. Now in all honesty, there are no huge differences between this and Helloween's previous Deris-era releases with the exception of two things:
A) A darker songwriting direction
B) Different production and mixing
That's it. Regardless of what people say, this isn't some massive departure from Helloween stylistically, though the production (that was only utilized in this album) probably leads people to believe so. The production & more melancholic writing are the biggest dividing points among the Helloween fanbase on this album; some love it and some hate it. Everything sounds more atmospheric, more muffled, and the guitar tone has a softer and thicker aura in comparison to their last album. String synths are also utilized to a far greater extent, and they sound fantastic. As for this reviewer's opinion, I feel the writing as a whole is quite good, but the overall sound to be hit-or-miss.
The mentioned choice in production and mixing works great in conjunction with their more, well, dark-written tracks. Fortunately, the songs here with the aforementioned approach to composition are by far the majority on this album, but on more upbeat tracks it leaves something to be desired. This is most apparent on the single major-key song on the album, "All Over the Nations". Said song is a very typical upbeat Helloween speedster; highly enjoyable, but nothing you haven't heard before. What it does suffer from is the production just lacks the crispness and edge that gave songs like" Falling Higher" on the previous album so much punch. To be totally honest, this is a very minor gripe and it honestly doesn't detract much from the song as a whole. Nearly every other track works quite well with this production choice, so while it's strange when compared to everything else in their discography, it mostly succeeds on this album in it's own unique little way.
Commander-in-Deris is back with his vocal crooning, but this time around he added a little grit to his aural approach. I personally enjoy this, and it was the start of what would eventually evolve into his gruff, even occasional screaming approach forayed on later tracks on later albums (For instance, "Kill It" on Gambling with the Devil). Everyone else is playing to their ability, and although there was supposed division starting to grow between the band yet again, it does not show through in the final product.
After a rather unintentionally comical intro, we are led right in to... "All Over the Nations"? Well, that's how it is on my version of the CD, a re-release that was doubled up with their following album, Rabbit Don't Come Easy. Whoever thought reversing the first two tracks' order was a good idea needs to get their ears re-adjusted and learn why track placement is so important to an album, because a haunting, mouth breathing ghost voice is a logical lead in for a evil sounding song, not a happy-go-lucky heroic power-anthem. For those who have the normal version of the album, the first real track is Mr. Torture, and beside it being one of the best tracks on the album, it works as a perfect reciprocation of the intro. Other than that little issue with the re-release, this album flows logically and smoothly, and there's enough variance in the tracklist to keep things from getting stale.
After the first two main tracks hit, things start to get a little shaky. Perhaps the album's biggest flaw is that is marred by several tracks that just come across as boring; simple as that. However, I can commend them for trying things out of the box, because if there's one thing this album accomplishes, it's that it never feels lazy or like they were just haphazardly throwing things together, and rarely uninspired. Sometimes, this experimental (by Helloween standards) writing style really pays off, such as in "The Departed (Sun is Going Down)", with it's cryptic lyrics, hypnotising beats, and octave-jumping riffs, or in the title track, which doesn't follow a conventional song structure and has some of the best melodies on the whole album. At other times, it just drags and drags, lacking the necessary hooks to keep the listener imbibed in their sound.
This album forms a bridge between the past and what was to come, but it's also a strange creature that ventures into territory that was explored once and never ventured into again. For Helloween fans, this is essential listening. As for everyone else, especially those just getting in to the band? Listen to some of their 1990's Deris-era offerings and then come back to this one at some point. It's different, it will make you hit that skip button a few times, but when it's in it's prime, the brilliance shines through. What a ride!
Once again as in times of old Helloween forge new ground in the overpopulated, sterile style known as Power Metal with their most daring release to date, the ‘Dark Ride’. Not surprisingly however, it was met with a hostile reception from fanboys and those only wanting to hear further continuations of the ‘Keepers’ series.
The production is crisp and the instruments are tight. This is a dark Helloween the likes of which we’ve never seen before and sadly will probably never see again. The guitars are incredibly heavy, sounding as if they’ve been tuned to ‘D’ or ‘B’ even. There is an underlying sinister vibe that permeates the bulk of the material. The guitars are technical and fierce, the leads are blazing and the solos face melting.
The bass follows the guitars a bit much but does tend to break away on occasion. The drums are menacing and bombastic. They are perhaps the only thing that is typical for the style. There are some keyboards here and there as well.
The vocals are more or less what you’ve come to expect from Andy. He does a good job of rasping and crooning his way through the album. They lyrics are also a change for the band as they are more introspective and thoughtful. Granted there are several fun songs on here but this is a deeper album than we’ve come to expect from the champions of Euro-Power Metal.
The downsides, if there are any is that they didn’t continue on this in this highly original style. For too long Power Metal has been an upbeat, happy go lucky affair that never ventures outside of the blissful castle it was created in. This album goes over the walls and seeks to conquer new grounds that were thought unattainable until bands Nevermore came around.
This is something that EVERY Power Metal fan needs to balance out their collection. There is a little bit of something here for everyone. Don’t listen to those who would judge this album as something to discard. This album was an attempt to breathe new life into the boring and practically dead world of Power Metal.
Helloween is pretty much the prime example in my eyes of a band that could be great if they didn't suck so hard. I don't understand why people consistently line up to sniff this band's ballsack so readily. Whatever potential the music has is almost immediately undercut by their constant tendency to mar their sound with three of the crappiest vocalists metal has ever heard. Walls of Jericho got it very right musically, but Kai didn't know how to sing yet, and he wouldn't until ten years later with Land of the Free. His vocals are so atrocious, they almost completely ruin an otherwise awesome album. Kiske.... those who have been reading my reviews lately know that I'd rather try to uproot a cactus with my dick than ever praise Kiske's voice. Andi Deris is... well, the best they've had, but he's barely above flatulence.
Maybe the reason I loathe this album so much is because I was promised Helloween playing in a much darker style than their previous efforts. I hated the Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, so this promise was a great thing to me, maybe they quit making crappy music with this new approach. As most gothic metal bands have taught us, darker does not always equal better. In fact, there is nothing darker about this album at all, it's just as upbeat and flowery as the earlier efforts. Sure they've got slower, more "crushing" songs like Escalation 666, but sure as hell does not make them any better.
It's hard to describe what makes this album so horrible, maybe it's the problem that Helloween's always had (vocals), or maybe the vocal melodies/lines are terrible as well, or maybe it's because I've shat out better lyrics than what they've got here, but I think it's because it's just musically uninteresting. I will admit, Mr. Torture is a hell of a lot of fun, and easily the standout track on the album. It's fast, it's catchy, it does it's job as a song in the sense that I want to hear it again. It boasts pretty much the worst lyrics EVER, but it doesn't matter when the song is as much fun as this one. And I'll include the bonus track, The Madness of the Crowds, because without it, the album would have an even lower score. So I'll sum up the positives by saying Mr. Torture and The Madness of the Crowds are fucking awesome, but the rest of the album is almost irredeemably shitty.
No riffs are ear catching, not a one outside of the two good songs. I don't get what it was that made them write those two great ones, but whatever they did, they did the exact opposite with the remaining tracks. Most of them are midpaced, yet they come off as just as flowery as they did in the past. Heavier riffs like I Live For Your Pain aren't even good, and the fact that they are heavier does not make them any better than the previous optimistic baloney. Also, pretty much every chorus is grating and catchy only in the way The Bee Gees are... the kind that gets stuck in your head and causes you to blow your brains out. And what really sucks is that some songs start of promisingly, like We Damn the Night, but just take a bullet train to shittytown when Deris gets the idea that he has a good voice and starts tunelessly wailing into the microphone. The title track is overlong and boring, the instruments on the whole are uninteresting, and the vocals are grating. And I'll mention once again that the lyrics suck a big fat cocksicle (Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the sickest one of all?).
Don't believe what people tell you, this is not dark at all. It's the exact same garbage that Helloween has been churning out since 1987, just slower. I personally believe the album is torturous to listen to in full. Imagine sticking a small hook in your eardrum, and there is a foot long thin chain attached to it. Now imagine the free end of the chain being superglued to a spinning lawnmower blade. Imagine that pain for a minute. Well, the album isn't THAT painful, so imagine a damp sponge over your ear or something as well. Mr. Torture and The Madness of the Crowds are wonderful, catchy, infectious, fun, hell Deris even has a good vocal performance on them, but everything else is just like the ear-to-lawnmower winch. I'd recommend y'all avoid this, but everybody else seems to like it, so give it a listen and make your own decision I guess. Just remember I told you so.
Helloween had been on an uphill stride for a couple albums before this, after having weathered several rough storms with lineup changes and such, and I have to agree with all the hype here: The Dark Ride is just about the best album Helloween ever put out. Yes, the Keepers albums are classics, and Walls of Jericho is a high quality burst of speed metal ferocity, but in my books, nothing they've ever done touches this one.
Let's talk about the band in general, first. Helloween is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the very best Power Metal bands active today, simply due to their boundless creative energy and masterful songwriting power, two things which the band utilizes in spades on The Dark Ride and the three albums before and after it. Few bands can manage both in one album, either using all of their creative energy without the strongest songwriting (Blind Guardian) or the other way around (Gamma Ray). Helloween, however, have been consistently challenging and innovative ever since the inception of fantastic vocalist Andi Deris, with every album sounding different from the one preceding it, and all with dynamic twists and turns around every corner. Yet, despite the rather spastic nature of the band's artistic development, they've never actually strayed from their Power Metal roots. Helloween really is a fantastic example of a band evolving within their own style, and while not everything they do is on-target, quite a bit of it is.
Now, now, don't leave just yet, for I haven't even begun to speak of The Dark Ride itself. This album gets touted as "dark" and "evil" quite a bit, but really, that is not entirely true. If you go into this expecting something as bleak and evil as Beherit, Celtic Frost or even Dark Angel, you will be terribly disappointed - while this album is not QUITE as happy-go-lucky as the band's previous outings, it is still not THAT dark and brooding, either, not like the band and several other reviewers have claimed. There are several songs here with darker, more mystical/creepy lyrics than usual for the band, as well as several with grinding, heavy rhythm sections and slower tempos, but they are all still catchy and rather accessible, boasting commendable sets of hooks and lots of big, anthemic choruses, and there are several that fit the mold of the classic Happy Helloween Power Metal speed cooker, too, serving to lighten the mood after a darker, grinding tune like "Escalation 666."
There are really no bad songs on this album, and only a few that aren't absolutely stellar. "Salvation" is definitely a shoo-in for best song here, a stunning Power Metal epic with blackened, frayed edges that give the song a remorseful, nostalgic feeling, as if it were the choir of a thousand oppressed peasants, crying out to the dark skies for a redemption. The title track is also amazing, with Andi Deris's most dynamic and emotional performance yet, and a superb performance from the guitar team - about half of this song is a galloping, triumphant Power Metal solo for the ages! The slower part in the middle is also beautiful, providing just the right amount of epic grandiosity to what was already a great song. "The Departed (Sun is Going Down)" is the third great track here, and it's quite unlike anything Helloween have done before or since, a slow, epic piece with resonating, echoing riffs playing off one another and a tremendous, anthemic chorus from Deris, along with the best lyrics on the album. The rest of the stuff here isn't quite as godly, but it is all high quality Power Metal in the way that only Helloween can do it.
As I stated before, this right here is Helloween's highest peak, and if you like Power Metal, you should love this album. For a rock-solid collection of great songs with addictive hooks, top-notch guitarwork, and a stellar vocal performance from one of Power Metal's best, look no further than The Dark Ride.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
Helloween had weathered some rather tough storms in their long tenure as Power Metal pioneers, but a truly perfect storm was brewing as they penned this, their 9th studio LP. The clash of egos can create some truly amazing and varied opuses, but sadly it is also a phenomenon that can cost the union between minds involved in the project. In the case of “The Dark Ride”, 4 great minds were each dedicated to a vision, and the result was 2 competing directions for the band. Roland Grapow continued to seek out the perfect balance of epic songwriting and technical showmanship, but along with Uli Kusch, also sought out to explore the darker side of music. Michael Weikath and Andi Deris pretty much followed the same path that they always had, the former pursuing lighter subject matter, that latter matching a sense of irony with a sense of poetic wit.
The resulting collage of varying approaches makes for a very interesting listen, especially when the influence of Roy Z as producer is thrown into the mix. Much as was the case of Bruce Dickinson’s solo work, Mr. Z has managed to create something that is both spectacular by standards of quality, and also something that is highly original. The best description of this album would be a middle ground between the heavy yet still happy sound on “Better than Raw”, and the current heavy and varied style exhibited by Roland and Uli’s current project Masterplan. If anything, the two subsequent Masterplan releases are the direct result of the sounds of their music on this album being separated from the influences of past Helloween releases.
Most of the innovation going on here is found in the slower tracks. Roland’s work “Escalation 666” is the heaviest one on here and probably the most removed from the Helloween style. Deris’ vocals are a bit more evil sounding, the keyboard parts are gloomy, and the overall pace of the song is slow and doom-like. “Mirror Mirror” and “I Live for your pain” are two of Deris’ slower compositions that carry some similarity with the previously mentioned song, although they don’t have quite the same menacing vibe to them. By contrast, Uli’s music has maintained a more melodic power metal tinge, as can be observed on the anthem “All Over Nations”. “The Departed” is a bit slower, but still carries the same attention to melody and structure to keep it accessible.
The remaining works are lighter songs that represent the current direction that Helloween is pursuing. Weikath’s offerings are the usual light-hearted sense of satire that has always been present. Although Roy Z’s production work gave his songs a darker atmosphere, the lyrics are as comical as always. “Mr. Torture” is cut from the same vain as “Dr. Stein” and is musically intricate yet funny. “Salvation” is a typical up tempo power metal, fast and hopeful sounding. Likewise, Deris has also penned a number of happy tracks to complement that lighter side of the album. “If I could fly”, the album’s first single, has a charming yet simple piano line that is easily recognizable. “We Damn the Night” is another fast one with a very memorable chorus. “Immortal” is the closest thing to a ballad on here and carries one of Deris’ better vocal performances on here.
However, the true highlight of this album, the best song of the bunch is clearly the title track. Clocking in at nearly 9 minutes, it is a brilliant display of Roland’s capabilities as a composer and a player. The guitar solo rivals his inspiration Yngwie Malmsteen, the song structure flirts with being progressive, and the atmosphere is dark as hell. This song is probably the most influential on Masterplan’s current music, particularly in such tracks as “Spirit Never Die” and “Black is the Burn”. This song alone would make the album worth the money, though every other song on here is top of the line.
This is indeed a Dark Ride, in the sense that it marries the darkness of Roy Z’s production tendencies and a new direction for 2 of its principle songwriters. One of the unfortunate consequences of this album was the fracture of one of Power Metal’s oldest and well respected bands, though it was not the first time that it had occurred. Although I prefer the road that Roland and Uli took to what would be Helloween’s next studio offering, this was by no means the end of the band. This album comes recommended to all fans of Helloween who stuck with the band after the loss of Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske, as well as to current fans of Masterplan. Although this is still a power metal album, it is very different from the previous efforts of this band, so be prepared for a few surprises. I proudly recommend it as one of the more revolutionary albums of the year 2000.
I wasn't going to write a review for this album but I felt I needed to when I saw the scores it was getting. 99? You can't give this album a 99? Scores like that should only belong to exceptionally great albums, which this isn't. I'm not going to say this is a bad album, but it's not up to Helloween standards.
Don't get me wrong there's some great song and moments on here, no doubt. 'Mr.Torture' is greatest hits worthy and a couple of the other songs are good too, but... there's not a hell of a lot that's very thrilling. I like all the songs all right but where's that special edge that used to set Helloween apart from the other bands? On this album they sound just like a band that's run out of juice. So I thought, that must be it, there done for, Helloween is dead. Not true. Their latest release 'Gambling With The Devil' is excellent. So they aren't dead. So what's up with this album?
The music is way too simplistic for Helloween. Most of the time during the chorus you get you're want to be 'Eagle Fly Free' vocals and...guitars playing long notes? The guitar is so simple at time that it is just whole notes playing chords to go with the song. Listen to 'All Over The Nations' and you'll hear what I mean. The guitar solos are alright but the riffs aren't that great either, when there are riffs and not just long notes.
But damn this album is dark. 'Escalation 666'? This song is just as dark as it's title. Don't think I don't like dark songs, it's just that they have to do them right, like with the title track. It's an nine minute piece of darkness at the end of the album, and it's good, but the other "evil" ones...not so good. The music just sounds awkward and forced as if the band had a bunch of interns sit and write songs and they chose the first ten ones finished. Well, it's not quite that bad, but these aren't the best songs. There are the diamonds in the rough though ('Mr.Torture', 'Mirror, Mirror', 'If I Could Fly', and 'The Dark Ride'), and 'The Departed (The Sun Is Going Down)' is a nice song even though it gets repetitive and boring towards the end, The good songs on this album are actually really good, there's just a lot of songs that...let's say I could do without.
This album is dark, and when I say dark, I mean dark. 'Mirror, Mirror' (which is a really good song) contains these lyrics: "Mirror, mirror on the wall/ Who's the master of them all?" The album has a vibe that no other Helloween albums do, and it's odd. The disc has it's good moments, it's just too bad that all the other moments are bad. To conclude, if you want to hear the new Helloween in a strong album pick up 'Gambling With the Devil'. Now, that's a good album.
Dark holy shit! They did it! They have made an album that can reach a cult status like the Keepers! Of course that will never happen, because the only ones who like this album were the ones who left Helloween and made Masterplan, so it’s a shame, because I would really like to see “The Dark Ride 2 – The Dark Fucking Legacy”. Instead of returning to classic names to try to succeed again, they should make a new classic without Kai or Kiske on its name, really.
Another important fact is Deris. Here we can hear his best performance to date. His voice here sounds like nothing he has done, ever. If they even dare to make a follow-up to this album, it needs Deris, because it’s voice fits perfectly to the dark sound, something I don’t think Kiske could do. A very important fact.
Oh, yes! The music, the music. Here you can find 100% classic Helloween. That doesn’t mean clones of our beloved classics. No. All the material here is new, powerful, heavy as hell, and dark. Everyone here knows the dark history of this dark album, so there is no need to explain it. This, my friends, is the best Deris-era album, hands down. Probably even if “Keepers – the Legacy” didn’t had that blasphemy as title wouldn’t be better than this, just because of the originality of making a Helloween album that is dark, and succeeds!
Each of this tracks is as good as the previous one. Even “All Over the Nations” (somewhat of a happy tune in a dark album, but still shines a lot.), “Mirror Mirror ” (second evil track in a row, where the previous, “Escalation 666” is MUCH better, with an amazing solo. Fortunately, Deris and the guitars save it. Still shines. ), “I Live For Your Pain” (that it’s between two of the best tracks of the album, but the uplifting chorus saves it and still shines.) and the underrated “Immortal” (probably even as good as “If I Could Fly”, but that was the single, and we know everyone loves the piano. Fuck them. This still shines.)
What makes this album different to previous ones is, probably, the choruses. Instead of the classic happy, happy chorus, every one here is really evil (don’t count “All Over The Nations” here),which makes this album much, much better. “Mr. Torture” is the best opening track since “I’m Alive” (yes, “Mr. Torture” kicks “Eagle Fly Free” as an opening track). “Escalation 666” and “The Departed” are heavier than any previous song. “Salvation” is a very uplifting song.
Finally, the title track and the epic of the album, which is the best track of the album (and best Deris-era Helloween song) manages to rule without copying the structure of the previous epics. The song sounds really evil, and the solo is the best Helloween has made in a lot of time.
So well, if you have been a Helloween fan from the beginning until the end, you just can’t miss this album. But if you are one of those dudes who think Halloween is just Jericho and Kiske’s Keepers, and didn’t even dare to try the previous Deris-era albums because they aren’t amazing (they are just average, good or very good, but not amazing), try The Dark Ride. You will be amazed.
Best Tracks: “The Dark Ride” is just better than anything here, and “Mirror Mirror ” is, maybe (and just maybe) a bit worse than the other tracks, but here they manage to keep a constant stream of amazing music. Every track shines here.
Quite often I hear this described as Helloween's grand "career resurgence" and that's where I beg to differ from the masses a bit. That is not to say I find the album overrated, though - neither as a masterpiece, nor as to being Helloween's greatest output ever - no, it's the three preceding ones that are underrated. Even as the metal giant Helloween may be and as much as they are constantly discussed, the albums 'Master of the Rings', 'The Time of the Oath' and 'Better Than Raw' do not get nearly enough mention. The only reason I give them a slightly lower rating is that they aren't *quite* as consistently strong and eff why I, this album is absolutely 100% consisting of 100% strong material.
However, the reason OTHERS rate it higher I think has more to do with a change in sound and musical direction. No, not the sudden inclusion of darker themes, but rather in both songwriting and production being in a much more accessible vein than earlier. Guitars now sound and play heavier, crunchier, more straightforward and are therefore generally more enjoyable (and headbangable), and while one COULD argue that the flip side to this would be a loss of distinctness and personality, everything here is still so extremely well-done and passionately executed to an extent that you'll probably just forget about it in your sheer enjoyment. Contrary to pretty much every other metal fan on the planet, I'm usually no fan of Roy Z production (strikes me as rather too lifeless and dry), but on here he's managed to add a modern element of heaviness and crunch that does not actually sound boring as hell, and at the same time still retain the classic sounds of Helloween. Generic, this album is anything but.
Now to the songwriting, and as I said, it is absolutely impeccable. Power metal for the most part, but with an added element of seriously ass-kicking thrashy groove aided by said meaty and crunchy production, thus also hinting slightly at contemporary "true metal" (see also: Paragon, Twisted Tower Dire, Cage, Sacred Steel). Every single song is memorable and delicately executed and even on the obviously commercial "If I Could Fly" (perhaps not their first straying into such territories, but still reeking of bigger label signing - actually, I remember Weiki saying in an interview that the idea of making a "dark" album was the label's idea altogether), none of the enjoyment is lost.
As usual, there's tons of variety here too, including: classic power/speed metal (the obligatory humorous "Mr. Torture" if only for the silly lyrics, "All Over the Nations", "Salvation", "We Damn the Night"), mid-paced and menacing grinders ("Escalation 666", "Mirror Mirror", "I Live for Your Pain"), ballads ("If I Could Fly", "Immortal", both waaaaaay above average for being ballads written by a German band) and of course the obligatory epic (title track - come take a spin you fuckers!). But the award for my favorite cut on here has to go to "The Departed (Sun Is Going Down)" - also the album's most creative and original number, which is why I can't place it in any of the aforementioned categories. MOOD is the key here and prior to hearing this song could I never have imagined vocals that are breathed and whispered at the same time actually sounding GOOD. But then, Helloween is, as of this album anyway, just one of those bands with so much talent and working chemistry that, in order to do ANYTHING wrong, they'd have to fuck up really damn hard (such as by losing TWO members after this, both involved in writing songs - just see the next couple albums for the painful result!). On an interesting sidenote, this song and "Mr. Torture" would probably be the two main highlights for me - the very two tracks on here written by Uli Kusch, the drummer! Actually, his songs are always among the highlights on every Helloween album where he writes anything at all - see also "Wake Up the Mountain", "A Million to One", "Push, "Revelation" and "A Handful of Pain" - all very excellent, and also highly original.
Which brings me back to my original point: this may certainly be the masterpiece everyone makes it out to be, but certainly don't miss out on the previous efforts with Andi "Holy fucking shit I rule so much it's simply unbelievable" Deris (no he didn't say that, I just couldn't find a logical place to fit that statement into the review) either - it's just puzzling to me how everything between Keeper II and this album is regarded as the great depression or something. Perhaps I'm a little too "cocky" in my assumption of accessibility and better production being the main draw of this album for people, but I cannot for my life figure out why people see it as being such an incredible step up in songwriting, rendering their three albums prior to this completely useless - how are you all not hearing the soaring emotion and sheer POWER of, say, "A Handful of Pain"? That track wouldn't stick out all too much on here had it been re-recorded with Roy Z/Charlie Bauerfeind production. That's really the biggest and only really notable "change" there is to speak of on this album - the production.
Anyways, the bottom line should be that this is yet another fantastic outing from the pumpkin crew, that are here delivering the goods like never before and leaving everyone amazed at how they can still have it in them after almost 20 years. I have absolutely NO complaining to do here, so let's just leave it at that and not be bitter about the tastes of fellow appreciators of the album or whatever. 90+ scores I certainly don't hand out very often, having a rating system harsher than most (about 20-25 albums I'd rate 90 or more, plus I have yet to award any album with 100%, reviewed or not), but Helloween is simply convincing the hell out of me here. Consistency probably is what pushed it over in the end; what we have here is in a sense a perfect album.
P.S. Oh and do go for the Jap version if you can find it and perhaps even afford it...it has an excellent bonus track in "The Madness of the Crowds" (reminds me a little of the song "Jugulator" by Judas Priest in places), plus some additional artwork and band pics being printed on a high-quality type of paper - really cool shit if you're into high-quality packaging, although I have the one complaint that they switched opener "Mr. Torture" with "All Over the Nations"...man that intro section of "Mr. Torture" is such a powerful build and SO totally fit to open your album with (well the album does have an actual intro track in "Beyond the Portal", but it's crap and not connected with track two anyway, so just start from that instead), so no, I'm not just complaining because I'm used to the original order of things. But then, there is always the "program" function. D.S.
Many people didn’t like this release form Helloween. They say it’s a totally different style for the band, who blamed Grapow and Kusch of the dark mood that can be heard throughout the album. I don’t know, I don’t think The Dark Ride is their best, but it’s not a bad step on their career, it’s just a good experiment that unfortunately didn’t pleased all the fans and all the band, so they decided to take cards on this looking for new blood in the line-up of the next album. And talking about the music, let’s see…
Mr. Torture is a heavy and direct song, it has a good but too short solo. It works very good as an opener (without the awful and meaningless intro). All Over the Nations is the only remnant of the “Helloween happiness” in this album. It keeps the mood of the Falling Higher tune: sticky chorus, great and fast solos and optimistic lyrics. Escalation 666 is the worst song I have heard to date from the pumpkin guys, it doesn’t has to do with the dark mood in the backing keyboards, but the guitar riffing is boring, unoriginal and it doesn’t takes you anywhere: the chorus has no feeling and it doesn’t outstands from the rest of the song, and well, the solos doesn’t sound like Helloween. And continuing with the bad songs form The Dark Ride comes Mirror Mirror: a slow and evil rock song that would be a good song if only it wasn’t played by Helloween, maybe it would fit better to Metallica (because the solo is too short, so the lazy guys from San Francisco have no problem in playing it). Next comes a good tune, If I Could Fly. I wouldn’t call it a ballad, it’s just a rock song. The only problem I find is that the guitar riff is the same through the whole song! You can notice when does the chorus comes in because it has this nice piano melody on it. The solo is easy and short but very nice, so fits perfectly the song. It’s the perfect song to make a single or an EP release. Salvation, one of the best from the Dark Ride. Amazing intro, good rhythm on guitars and bass, strong chorus filled with emotion and the solo… well, you must have to hear to this jewel. Sun is Going Down is one of the strangest songs. It sounds dark and with a too alternative sound, but it has it’s moments: the chorus is great and the weird guitar distortion on the verse is something to be remembered from the whole song. The bad point on this track is the meaningless mini-solo, in other words, there is no solo on this one. I Live for Your Pain is another rocker but in my opinion is just a “filler”, it doesn’t has nothing worth to mention, except for the good chorus tune. We Damn the Night, another incredible track. It also sounds dark, but it has the special pumpkin trademark but much heavier. The rhythm guitars sound excellent through the verse and the pre-solo section, supporting the atmospheric keyboard, the solo is impressive, with some kind of baroque style followed by some choruses that must be impressive heard live. Immortal would be the ballad of the album, but is nothing special, it just prepares you for the great ending: The Dark Ride. Of course it can’t be better than Revelation, but has a lot of details that make it the masterpiece of the album, but you’ll have to discover this by your own.
The Dark Ride is a misunderstood album. It has a lot of good material that must remain in the Helloween repertory (Salvation, We Damn the Night, The Dark Ride) but also there are some songs that can be forgotten and no one would complain (Escalation 666, Mirror Mirror). A true Helloween fan must like the album and must have it, but let’s admit it, the old Helloween is far from returning.
With The Dark Ride, Helloween stop with their 'happy' theme and cross over to a darker, more evil sound. Personally, I think this is the best thing they've done since Walls of Jericho. The music is melodic and catchy, yet thrashy and heavy at the same time. At times it reminds of the Black Album if it didn't suck balls.
The best songs are definitely Salvation, The Dark Ride, Escalation 666 and If I Could Fly. Yes, I said If I Could Fly. This song is one of the only ballads I've ever heard that I've really liked. The others are typical power metal flair, except instead of infinite wanking we get actual thrash riffs! Andi Deris gives a solid vocal performance, sounding a little bit like Tim Owens. These songs are almost impossible to not headbang to.
The other songs range from excellent to mediocre. The excellent: Mr. Torture, Mirror Mirror, The Departed (Sun Is Going Down), and We Damn The Night. These are all great songs that have great replay value and sound great when playing fantasy-based video games (don't ask). The other songs aren't anything really special, the worst being Beyond The Portal, as it is just a little intro thing.
This is totally worth a listen if you like thrashy power metal in the vein of Gamma Ray or Iced Earth. Ignore the somewhat lame lyrical content and you have yourself a real winner of a power metal album.
On a side note, Mr. Torture has the third worst lyrics I've ever heard in my life, the second and first being Bodom Beach Terror by Children of Bodom and Made of Metal by Dream Evil, respectively.
The Dark Ride is a cross breed of power, doom and thrash. While some songs are different from what could be expected of Helloween, they are the ones that are most memorable.
Some of the songs would be at home on Keeper of Seven Keys pt 2, as Mr.Torture - similar to Dr.Stein musically and lyrically, All over the Nations and Salvation - probably the fastest song on the album. While not a bad thing, these are also the weakest songs on TDR.
The other are slower and darker, with a sense of subtle melody that is not obvious on the first few listens. Not surprisingly majority of these were penned by Andi Deris who has emerged as a leading song writer as of late, and is primarily responsible to Helloween's return to quality. My favourite here is "If I could fly" with a nice piano section, catchy in a subtle way.
The lyrics here are the best on a Helloween record. They are introspective, engaging and questioning the listener. The common theme is inner darkness and uncertainty making The Dark Ride a concept album of sorts. I will not go through song by song as it was covered by other reviews. Suffice to say that second half of the album is better.
Helloween are never the one to back away from trying new directions, this is their best album to date. Surprisingly, it came so late in the band's career. Sadly, "In the end there can be only one", is the attitude of Michael Weikath, one dark Helloween album that is.
One can only hope that the album will prove influential enough to result in a new direction in power metal. Get this and be pleasantly surprised.
In The Dark Ride, Helloween continues their tradition of making strong and consistent power metal albums. It shows a quite different side of Helloween; the darker vibe is obvious by just looking at the album title and cover art.
Michael Weikath apparently wasn't much into the idea of making a dark and evil sounding album, but I couldn't care less- The Dark Ride turned out to be yet another masterpiece in Helloween's catalogue of classic power metal.
The riffwork of Weiki and Roland Grapow takes a much heavier and more aggressive approach on most of the songs. Mr.Torture comes to mind, which has that that 'round' kind of sound on the guitars, pretty similar to the stuff on Rhapsody's Warrior of Ice, only this one is twenty-thousand times heavier and better. But the classic melodies and dual lead guitar attack of Helloween is still abound all over. This is pretty descriptive for the entire album; it's much heavier and darker than previous Helloween, but still features the classic melodies that we all love. And several of the songs still to the classic, upbeat sound of Helloween. All Over The Nations is a classic Deris-era song, while Salvation sounds like a modernized version of some old Keepers material.
Also we have the beautiful and uplifting, piano driven ballad If I Could Fly, which is the best Deris-era ballad ever- tied with Immortal, the second ballad of this song, which has some truly amazing work on the keyboards along with a huge, spinechilling chorus and guitars with alternating heaviness during the verses for increased effect.
But most of the stuff on here is very dark and evil, with Mirror Mirror and Escalation 666 standing out as the very most evil stuff they've ever written.
The riffwork on both of them is heavy as a ton of fucking anvils, with Escalation 666 featuring that really cool Zakk Wylde-styled squeal towards the end of the main riff. The biggest difference between the two is the choruses; Mirror Mirror has this very heavy and non-melodic chorus while Escalation 666 has an amazing although strangely constructed melodic chorus.
Other standout songs would be The Departed (Sun is Going Down), We Damn The Night and The Dark Ride. The Departed is my second favourite on the album. The song construction is very different and atmospheric. The cool effects on the guitars along with the mesmerizing backing keyboards create a huge atmosphere, and the snare-based drum beat along with amazing lyrics and an incredible vocal performance (the pre-chorus actually has some growls, and it sounds killer). The riff underneath the pre-chorus is pretty simple but the tone changes are so incredibly effective- and then it just explodes into the amazing chorus alternating between backing choirs and Andi alone.
Definitely an awesome song.
We Damn The Night is just classic fucking speed metal. The riffwork is nuts, the vocal lines are pretty damn heavy, and then it just explodes into that classic Helloween-styled hyper melodic chorus. But the best part of the song is the instrumental section, starting with some wicked fast keyboarding and moving into a killer guitar solo, before going into a cool "oohooh" chant leading back to the chorus.
And of course, the epic chorus. Fuck me, I can't believe to describe how much this song rules- definitely among the best Helloween songs ever. The very first riff, that classic melodic opening line is one of their most powerful moments ever. From there on it's just a long ride of epic goodness, going from classic Helloween leads and melodies to the heavy riffs found all over the album, and incredibly catchy and memorable vocal lines with one of the best Helloween choruses of all time.
The only average song on the album is I Live For Your Pain. The bass highlighting is very cool, and the verses over them are pretty groovy, while the chorus is very strong. But the above midpaced riffwork doesn't really do anything for me at all.
But honestly, I couldn't care less. With mindblowing shit like Mr.Torture, If I Could Fly, Salvation, The Departed, Immortal and The Dark Ride, one weaker song doesn't make any difference at all. Bloody hell, this is even better than Walls of Jericho. Totally essential for anyone even slightly into power metal.