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There are a lot of what ifs in the annals of German power metal. What if Michael Kiske had stuck with Helloween rather than going into a semi-hiatus for 15 years from Metal? What if “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” had been a more consistent album? What if Edguy still played in the genre that yielded up such undeniable classics as “Theater Of Salvation” and “Mandrake”? What if Ralf Scheepers decided to form a Gamma Ray oriented project rather than the Judas Priest inspired power house that is Primal Fear? The list goes on, all of them centered around the foundation of the late 90s power metal revival in Europe. In essence, all of these hypothetical situations converge in a single band which, as irony would have it, hails from Italy and has thrown off the symphonic clichés of their homeland in favor of a more straight up approach.
Fresh off an impressive yet goofy debut in “Evil Needs Candy Too”, Trick Or Treat has upped the ante here with a sizable slab of pure, unfettered catchiness, delivered up at warp speed. All of the triumphant major key choruses, high flying lead breaks, fast paced drumming and soaring falsettos that typified Kiske era Helloween and early Edguy are unapologetically painted on this album’s forehead. Vocalist Alessandro Conti, who does have a heavily similar vocal persona to that of the singers in both aforementioned bands, is joined by the ex-Helloween front man on roughly half the songs on here, marking the latest in a long line of temporary returns to the metal world for power metal’s favorite wayward son. Perhaps it is hoping against hope that Kiske will ever join a band in our beloved genre on a permanent basis, but I’m still not giving it up regardless.
Song for song, this is on the simpler side as far as German bands go, though definitely more complex than the earlier speed metal affiliates in Running Wild and Grave Digger. There’s no 13 minute epics in the vain of what Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath used to come up with, though there are occasional instrumental interchanges that come fairly close to Helloween’s early work with Deris. Such blistering speed fests as “Paper Dragon” and “Freedom” showcase a band that knows how to merge the techniques of speed metal with something of a pop/punk feel, while avoiding the overindulgence and videogame gimmicks of Dragonforce. “Rocket To The Sky” takes the same speed approach and mixes in some nifty, outer space keyboard sounds that drift perhaps a tiny bit closer to the famed British Guitar Hero phenomenon, but still stay well within the bounds of tastefulness.
Perhaps the only area where the band takes a little bit of a break from owning the now sparely populated field of Helloween revivalism is the album’s lone ballad. In many ways, “Tears Against Your Smile” could be likened to Kiske’s solo music, albeit with implied tendencies towards an orthodox power ballad that is well within the element of a band like this. Conti and Kiske work extremely well in this capacity, as the former’s somewhat lighter and operatic voice provides a subtle yet noticeable contrast to the latter’s signature Geoff Tate tendencies. It’s mostly acoustic and mellow, but it is as catchy as they get and stands out amongst a barrage of high quality, yet highly derivative music.
To anyone who has asked any of the questions contained in the beginning remarks here, this is the closest thing that you’ll likely get to answering all of them. It’s probably been said a thousand times before in a thousand different situations, but the truth is, they don’t make them like this anymore. The only thing that really works against this album and makes it slightly less extravagant than most of the bands it’s drawing influences from is the extremely orthodox approach to songwriting. It’s highly entertaining, but it is also very predictable. But like with any other gift, good things are not exclusive to those that come as a complete surprise.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on October 26, 2010.