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Raise The Noise - 94%

metroplex, February 25th, 2012

Helloween keeps improving each time they release an album with their current line-up. The Keepers III album was a warm up, and they started delivering the goods with Gambling With The Devil. New guitar player Sascha Gerstner is getting more used to the Helloween trademark sound and keeps improving his songwriting. Drummer Dani Loble is a beast behind the drum kit, lots of energy, and gives the band a darker more heavy sound. Would like to see him writing songs to keep the band fresh with new ideas.

Now onto the veterans. Weiki is Weiki, and he will still write the best songs from each album. The man gets too much heat because of Helloween’s past, but nobody can deny he can craft songs as good, if not better than Kai Hansen. Anyways, I like his approach a lot more. Markus Grosskopf is a weird case. He is a founding member, yet for some reason his songs used to be kept as B-sides. That was justified since his early songs weren’t good, but man, starting with “Deliver Us From Temptation” off of The Dark Ride he has been writing the best tunes after Weiki. I am glad his songs are making it into the latest albums. Finally, Andi Deris, this guy saved Helloween back in 1994 and I’m part of the 50% of Helloween fans that like him. To me Helloween is a whole different band with him on vocals. Much like Dio/Ozzy Black Sabbath. Sadly Andi Deris has been the opposite as Markus over the years. His songwriting keeps going downhill. I’ll get into that later in the review. Now, production wise they got Charlie Bauerfeind who engineered, mixed and mastered the album. The result is high quality, crisp, clean production. And on top of that the best use of keyboards on a Helloween album, courtesy of Matthias Ulmer.

Now onto the songs. First song is “Where The Sinners Go”. I have heard lots of complaining about this song, but to me it is a good opener. Not perfect, not bad, just like "We Burn" on The Time Of The Oath. I love how the album starts with those tribal drums, and the Loud/Quiet structure of the song (reminiscent of the Pixies, which is one of my favorite bands). Following is lead single “Are You Metal?”. This is really a grower, simple lyrics, cool keyboard riff and I love the part when they blend the 1st chorus and the 2nd verse.

“Who Is Mr. Madman” is a sequel to “Perfect Gentleman”, the spoken intro is TOTALLY unnecessary. The rest of the song is superb. Definitely a highlight on the album, and Sascha's best song to date. Very nice ideas all over, nice verses, lyrics, vocal lines, solos. This is a total winner. “Raise The Noise” is tied for best song of the album. The lyrics are funny and clever (me being a sci-fi fan), the main riff is very rock-ish, and we have seen Weiki using this rockish style ever since "Nothing To Say". The flute and guitar solos are amazing, full of melody, typical of Weiki. The arena chants are nice too, sadly, they never played this one live. The band is on a roll, because next comes the third winner in a row: “World Of Fantasy”. Markus’s songs are the most Power Metal-ish and sound similar to the other PM bands, but with that special Helloween style that makes them even better. Solos, riffs, lyrics, everything is good in this song. A plus for me is that it borrows the Megaman X theme song which i love.

So everything sounds nice so far, but, 7 Sinners has the same problem GWTD had. What I mentioned earlier and I call it the Deris effect. The nice flow of the album gets ruined right in the middle with 3 not so good songs. GWTD had the average "The Bells Of The Seven Hells" , "Fallen To Pieces" and "I.M.E." which weren't as good as the rest of the album, and should have been replaced by the bonus tracks. “Long Live The King” , as most of Andi's songs on this album, this was supposed to be a song for his solo album. It doesn't sound Helloween at all, yes it is heavy and has a headbangable riff, but, it is just not Helloween. Andi should let Weiki write the ballads, seriously, the guy has been trying too hard to replicate the success of "Forever and One" and keeps failing. "The Smile Of The Sun" is a boring song, has no ideas, repetitive, makes me wan to go to sleep.

This 2 songs are a testament that Andi is writing too much. Since RDCE he has written the bulk of the songs on the albums. This mainly because they lost Uli and Roland who could write too. See how Weiki write just a couple tunes and they are usually the best of the record. Andi should try and focus all his energy and creativity into writing a few songs. Maybe 3 songs maximum, 3 Sacha, 2 Weiki, 2 Markus, thats 10 songs....enough for a record. Last of the fillers is “You Stupid Mankind”. Talking about overrated songs....Sascha has a history with those. "Open Your Life", "The Invicible Man", "Paint A New World", and this song. I still don't get the hype of those 4 songs. The lyrics are good, the vocal lines are terrible, so is the music. Just because it sounds complex, progressive or experimental, does not make it a good song. This song has no Helloween in it, no melody, tedious, boring.

Back to the good... and here comes Markus, once again to save the album ("Hell Was Made In Heaven" anyone?) “If A Mountain Could Talk” is what “You Stupid Mankind” wished to had been. The topic is the same but the music and ideas is far superior. This IS a Helloween song, catchy vocal lines, and the awesome twin guitar solo that every Helloween song should have (no idea why they don't use them as much). Another highlight of the album. Then Weiki strikes again with the catchiest song on the album, “The Sage, the Fool, the Sinner”. This song has a rock-ish riff too, just like "Raise The Noise", the vocal lines are catchy, and the chorus is so memorable. Weiki has a sense of melody that nobody else has. The only problem with this song is that it is too short, maybe adding a third verse would have made it even better than it already is. “My Sacrifice” sounds similar to "Dreambound" from GWTD, same songwriter, same ideas of mixing aggression with melancholy. It is not a bad song, it is not a masterpiece either. Still i give it thumbs up. Finally, after a brief spoken intro “Not Yet Today”, which sets the mood for the last song on the album and the other song tied for best song on the album “Far In The Future”. "The Dark Ride" is my favorite Helloween ever, no song has ever come close to it in terms of greatness , epicness and memorability. But hell did "Far In The Future" came so close to achieve this! This song ladies, gentlemen and pumpkins, is THE best Helloween song since "TDR", fuck "KF100Y", this is the real deal. The topic of the song is very direct, nothing too poetic, the different ideas are superb, vocal lines, solos, heck I will even forgive Andi for writing "The Smile Of The Sun". This is probably Andi Deris best song ever. It takes me back to the same atmosphere of greatness "TDR" had.

Is this better than GWTD?, I would say they are on the same level, maybe 7 Sinners a tad bit above. Weiki and Sacsha do their job with the guitars, so does Markus, whose bass doesn't have a big role as in other records. Andi's voice, man, please stop smoking so you can have a better color like in MOTR (same to you Kai). First place goes to Dani though, hats off to you man. I missed Uli but you bought me with this record.

One last piece of advice, try to get the other editions. As you probably already know Helloween likes to leave songs that should be on the album out of it. Had the 3 bonus songs been in the album instead of the fillers, I would have given the album a perfect score. I hope they learn from their mistakes and keep improving over time. Can’t wait for this year’s new Helloween album.