Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

When Power Metal Meets Jose Canseco - 80%

SilenceIsConsent, October 9th, 2011

This time of year is a wonderful time of year for a sports geek like myself. It's the major league baseball playoffs, and my customary thoughts on metal have been muddled with thoughts of what's going on in the "ol' ball game". So I could not help but when I got to the latest full length effort by Helloween, the definitive creators of power metal, that I somehow had to make a baseball comparison. I found this album after being on a bit of a power metal shortage at the end of last year, and bought it for the equivalent price that a pro scout pays for a switching hitter from some Latin American country. Popping it in to get a sense of what this album was all about, I was not sure what was I getting. Helloween, while having consistently good albums in the Andi Derris era that have been anywhere from good to very good, have not had an album that has outright wowed me the way I had seen them before. Well after a few years away from the spotlight and making an acoustic album, a new look Helloween that had been working out in the musical batting cages and doing some backroom strength training is now stepping up to the plate.

The baseball player known as Helloween is now incredibly muscular and jacked up on testosterone. Imagine that, a head that is louder and bigger than ever before, arms that can swing a bat faster than the speed of light, and legs that can move just as fast. In other words, 7 Sinners is like listening to Helloween on anabolic steroids. Somehow, Andi, Mike, Markus, Sascha, and Dani met Jose Canseco in a dark alley and he gave them the last of his needles and juice and told them to take them, and that it would make them stronger. It appears to have worked, but you cannot help but realize that when you're listening to 7 Sinners that while the product sounds good, it just doesn't sound like natural output from Helloween.

The album starts on a groove based piece with a little harmony in it called "Where The Sinners Go". For me to hear this track off of a Helloween album, it sent up red flags immediately. In the grand scheme of songs, it's actually not that bad. The riff is very catchy and the harmonies do add a degree of spookiness. But it's not Helloween! When have you ever heard Helloween play anything that isn't a ballad this slowly and this rhythmically? Thankfully, Andi Derris jumps in and you realize it really is Helloween after all. Steroid usage suspicions were in the back of my mind for the moment after that track, but I was rather suspicious.

For the remainder of the album you get some feelings of music that sounds like Helloween and music that does not. Tracks like "Are You Metal", "Who Is Mr. Madman", "Word of Fantasy", and "If a Mountain Could Talk" do sound like Helloween. The drumming is omniprescent, the riffs are melodic with a harmony going over them, and the lyrics are silly but with a deeper meaning about people and society. It also is not boring. These tracks grab your attention the way Barry Bonds could crush an inside fastball. But like Barry Bonds, you know these tracks could only sound that way if the band was on anabolic steroids. Now that might not be an entirely bad thing. The riffs are exciting, the drum work rocks, and it seems like everyone is fully giving their entire effort to produce this awesome music. But then you get into ones like "Long Live the King", "The Sage The Fool the Sinner", "My Sacrifice", and "Far Into the Future". This is where things start to go really awry. The problem that I see though is that these tracks, while containing elements of Helloween tracks, just do not feel like Helloween tracks. The only track I can say that really feels like a Helloween track is World of Fantasy, which I must say is a downright beautiful track throughout and is truly awesome. But the other tracks I listed, while they do sound exciting, just don't seem to have the soul, the emotion, and the sense of fun that other Helloween tracks have had.

Much of this I feel like has to do with the perucssion. The drum work on 7 Sinners is downright overpowering. Not surprising considering that's a new trend in more modern power metal bands. Since the rise of Dragonforce, the role of a power metal drummer has gone from someone who just pedals away at a steady pace fit for a Sunday afternoon bike ride to near death metal levels of speed, force, and technicality. Its' not uncommon now to hear power metal bands play blast beats and do double bass at speeds that are more fit to be heard by the likes of George Kollias of Nile or Behemoth's Inferno then someone like Jorg Michael of Stratovarius or the late great Ingo Schwittenberg. Dani Loebe just goes all out on this album, blasting away with double bass the likes of which you would never reasonably expect on a Helloween album. Like I said, this does make the music wildly exciting and it is very heavy. But it also is so overwhelming that it detracts from the feel and melody of the piece.

What this does is take away from the fact that the guitars on this album are really awesome. The riffs throughout are brutally heavy but very melodic. Same goes for the harmonies that match with the riffs as well. But this is only the case when the riffs are made up of more than a chord or two and not some mindless chugging to go with the bass drums. Now I bet you're wondering what I'm thinking, because lots of power metal riffs just plod along during the verses and the guitars are really nonexistent until outside the solos. This is true, and Helloween makes sure this is not the case for the most part. 7 Sinners in that regard is an improvement over it's predecessor because it's not as choppy sounding riff wise. It's also far more catchy. Helloween has always done a pretty good job at that, especially during the Andi Derris era. But after the shred fest on Gambling with the Devil, the solos sound weak. Sascha Gertsner has gone back to playing leads that were on Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy. Mike Weikath's haven't changed much but he's playing too many solos that are really just pinch harmonics. This is something that I cannot understand. I don't want Helloween to be a neo-classical guitar orgy, but I do want them to at least show some continuous improvement.

Markus is Markus I'll say that much, aside from the fact that there are no bass solos on this album. Skipping over to Andi, I have to say this is definitely one of the better performances by Herr Derris on a Helloween record. While Gambling With The Devil showed Andi's different vocal varieties and really pushed his talents to the limit, he's reigned ever so slightly on 7 Sinners. He sounds less varied tonally, but the emotion is still very much there. Most of the voicings are based off of what was heard on Gambling with the Devil, but I do not feel he sounds quite as vicious. Just to put it straight really, Andi's Andi. The vocal patterns are catchy and there are plenty of choruses that are worth singing along to. Most of them though are rather simplistic (sic Are you Metal?). The lyrics I feel like really were done well compared to Gambling with the Devil, which I felt like was an overtly gloomy and dark affair that just did not sound as fun. Here, the lyrics are much more light hearted overall. There are a few tracks that have the creepy factor in them like "Where The Sinners Go", but overall the stuff about music and living life to it's fullest are really awesome. They sound like Helloween lyrics, not like Helloween trying to disguise Megadeth lyrics with their own lyrical touches.

I did like the mix on this album a lot better than Gambling with the Devil. 7 Sinners sounds much more equalized. Nothing really sounds louder than anything else. The drums sound more like drums to me and the guitar tone is wonderful, especially in the riffs. I do feel the vocals though could have been louder, and the bass could have been brought more to the forefront. Otherwise, it is a very good studio job for Germany's favorite pumpkin boys.

7 Sinners in short has all the stuff you'd want on a Helloween album, but does not feel like a Helloween album. Brutally heavy, very catchy, and wildly exciting, it sounds like it has the recipe for a lot of success. But the thing is, despite having all the elements, you cannot help but feel as if this album sounds hollow. To put it short, it's like Helloween were on steroids.