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The first part of the Deris-era. - 79%

Nightcrawler, September 19th, 2003

Helloween is one of the most well known power metal bands, and is also the best in the genre. While Master of the Rings is their weakest albums (of those I own), this still has it's share of utter ownage.
If you're looking for intelligent, unique, brutal, emotional or epic music, this is not the place to look. This is just a whole barrel fun in the traditional Helloween vein. A major focus is as usual put on the vocals, with the underlying riffwork having the main mission of enhancing the vocal lines.
Andi Deris handles vocal duties on the album since Michael Kiske left after Chameleon. And like both of Helloween's previous singers, he is a totally killer vocalist. He doesn't have the wide range of Kiske, but his alternations between the clean and gruff voice work very well, and his voice is perfect for Helloween's new sound. They are now a bit more straightforward and formulaic, but all the songs have their own special touch and feeling, and there is no lack of variation on the album.

There are two reasons for why Master of the Rings ends up below their other material on my list. There is the production, which is rather weak and one dimensional. The vocals and guitars lack punch, and the whole thing loses alot of effect due to this. Also, the band doesn't really feel as tight as they would become on albums like Better Than Raw or The Dark Ride. It's a little edgy at times, and it just doesn't feel like they're working really well together.

But, both of these problems become rather overlookable when we actually take a look at the songwriting. The only song that actually stands out as weak is the boring balladic Why, which just feels uninspired and never gets anywhere at all.
The rest is all power metal bliss. Opening track Sole Survivor is probably the album's biggest highlight. It has a one minute long intro with several memorable melodies in the classic Helloween vein, an incredibly catchy chorus and some wicked heavy riffwork underneath. Where The Rain Grows is a bit sub-par, but has that divine lead section towards the end of the solo which plain kicks ass. Mr.Ego is a midpaced tune with an awesome sense of groove overall. The drum rhythms are excellent; powerful and catchy. The underlying basslines during the verses are killer, and the vocal lines are extremely groovy. The song reaches over 7 minutes, and never gets boring. Definitely another highlight.
Perfect Gentleman is Helloween at their silliest and funniest, but it rocks insanely much. A very fun yet strangely produced main guitar melody stands out, along with the hilarious lyrics ("Oh lord, what can I do... I can't resist my own reflection. How would possibly anyone?" That bridge always manages to crack me up) and memorable vocal lines.
The ownage continues throughout the rest of the songs. The Game is On- any song about game boy has got to own. Secret Alibi- awesome melodies, more hilariously silly lyrics ("Ding by ding, can you dig my dong") and a fantastic melodic chorus. Take Me Home has this weird 70's styled groove to it, especially in the fast paced drum rhythms and the basslines.
In The Middle of a Heartbeat is probably the weakest Helloween ballad, although it has a very nice chorus and solo. The closing track, Still We Go, has some killer melodies and soloing. Great closing track.

In conclusion; the album has a few missteps and probably their weakest production job, and they would get far better. But, this is still pretty essential for any power metal freak, cause the good stuff on here is power metal at it's very best. It's very silly from time to time, yes, but otherwise it wouldn't be Helloween.