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Solid, if somewhat wanting. - 82%

hells_unicorn, January 14th, 2011

The highway of Helloween’s career has been one with mostly straightaway driving, a few well placed twists and turns, and the occasional pothole which thankfully does little damage to the tire tread. There have been great times, good times, and somewhat less than stellar times, but nothing that really ended in the great steel tormentors crashing and burning. “7 Sinners” can be qualified as being somewhere in the good times boulevard, alongside the earlier material that was put together with Deris at the helm, rather than the more impressive works that followed the entry of ex-Freedom Call axe man Sasha Gershner and latest addition drummer Dani Loble. In fact, brushing aside the similar production tendencies of this with the dark and heavy “Gambling With The Devil”, this is largely a composite of “Master Of The Rings” and “Time Of The Oath”.

There’s much to like, but only a few things here that demand eternal love in the way that a devoted Helloween cultist would seek. Generally the album tends to be a bit more streamlined and portfolio-like in fashion, rather than the impressive batch of epic compositions and blazing speed anthems more typical to the band’s “Keepers” albums. This can be readily observed in straight up cruisers like “The Saint, The Fool, The Sinner” and “Raise The Noise” which will be instantly memorable, but don’t offer any jolting surprises (apart from the Jethro Tull inspired flute solo on the latter) that will command a multi-month obsession with the album. Likewise, the predictable and fairly slow going album opener “Where The Sinners Go” doesn’t get much beyond a pleasant mix of groove chugging and a solid vocal performance.

This band is always at their best when they are throwing more than a few ideas at the listener, or when they are cooking at full speed, and the case here is no exception. Right from the moment that “Are You Metal?” kicks in, the greater moments of the mid-90s version of this band start showing through, where in spite of some lyrical shortcomings, the flash, flair, and unrelenting speed takes everything over and little else matters. In similar fashion, “If A Mountain Could Talk” and “Who Is Mr. Madman?” just cut to the chase and match hard hitting speed riffs with powerful chorus work, and also touching upon past lyrical and musical subjects from their 1994-96 days. There’s not really a singular song that defines this album, but more that there is a dual tendency of going fast and furious, and simply going for tried and true, and the better songs are in the first category.

While definitely not the pinnacle of this band’s 30 years in the business, this is a largely consistent and worthy album for such a veteran outfit. There have been albums in this genre that have taken far more risks and come out with riveting results, even in the somewhat dry prospects of today. But Helloween has always tended to be better suited for power metal orthodoxy, as their early 90s experiments have tended to be the most poorly regarded, to speak nothing for their genre bending “Unarmed” experiment earlier in 2010. There is a time and place for getting really fancy, loading up songs with multiple variations on riffs and melodies, and it’s called Wuthering Heights. But the man of simpler pleasures who was taken in by the consistency of “Time Of The Oath” will find a more welcoming situation with “7 Sinners”.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 14, 2011.