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If Helloween never booted Kiske out they'd make... - 80%

Empyreal, June 12th, 2010

Remember that band in the late 80s that released that double pair of albums that everyone and their grandmother worships as the pinnacle of power metal? Yeah. Nobody has ever tried to imitate those albums before. The vocalist from them never appeared in any other bands worshiping them, and they pretty much went unknown after that. Funny world, huh?

Okay, okay, this is Trick or Treat’s Tin Soldiers. Get it? Trick or Treat? Helloween? That’s so you can tell they wear their influence on their sleeves. Or on their pumpkin-shaped Halloween candy buckets; whichever. Tin Soldiers is their second album, released in 2009, and it has the lucrative premise of having Michael Kiske guest in about half of the songs on it. Because even though he hates metal, he isn’t above appearing on every. Single. Metal. Project. He can find. But he does a good job anyway, so I can’t complain.

What is the basic sound here, you might ask? Well, it’s like late 80s Helloween. I could just leave it at that, tell you that it has some really great songs on it for all of that, and end the review, but I think I’ll elaborate for clarity’s sake: this album features melodic, soaring guitar riffs and leads that soar even higher. It features high pitched vocals with a European accent and some slight vocal double-tracking to make it less intelligible what he’s saying. The drums are fast and hyperactive, the bass is electrically charged and the whole thing sounds like it came out of the original power metal rebirth in the late 90s. I’m serious; this totally could have been released in that time period, if not for the super-sleek production job.

And I shouldn’t like this so much, but…let’s face it; there are some really good songs on this thing. The first track – well, after the worthless intro bit – is “Paper Dragon,” and with its kinetic, bouncy riffing and inspired vocal tradeoffs between vocalist Alessandro Conti and Kiske, it is a really kick ass song, and one of the best old school power metal romps I’ve heard in a while. There are a couple standard songs like “Freedom” and “Take Your Chance,” but the real meat of the album starts with my favorite song here in the catchy, sugary-sweet anthem “Hello Moon,” with some of the best flowing melodies I’ve heard in a while and a great, great chorus to boot. “Elevator to the Sky” rocks out with a speedy tempo, “Loser Song” is furiously entertaining and even the ballad “Tears Against Your Smile” manages to conjure up some really good pathos in the listener. The double part title track is also quite good, serving as the band’s attempt at recreating a “Halloween” type deal, albeit in a much shorter and more condensed form, building up from an instrumental attack to a more traditional romp later on. The vocals set a campily creepy atmosphere and the guitars build up to a crescendo of might before dropping out to a quiet, moody acoustic deal at the end.

These guys are just really solid songwriters, and I think this album shows some real potential for a much better, more consistent offering a few years down the line. Songs like “Paper Dragon” and “Hello Moon” show some serious chops, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. Tin Soldiers is a good album, and you should definitely check it out if you like 80s Helloween or any of those early revival bands like Nocturnal Rites, Gamma Ray, Hammerfall or older Edguy. What are you wasting time here for if you do, then? Go get it!

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com