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It sounds a bit like Helloween again - 70%

morbert, April 29th, 2008

It took me a while to get into Helloween with Deris. If left them for what they were after the Chameleon album and when Gamma Ray became pretty much the new Helloween with Land Of The Free. Incidentally I heard some Deris era song throughout the years until Better Than Raw came out and I started to get used to the new Helloween sound. I immediately collected the previous two studio albums as well.

This one is the first to feature Deris (and also new drummer Uli Kusch). First of all it is noticible this album sounds much more like the Helloween we knew than the Chameleon album did. However there are a few major differences. The ballads still have a lot in common with those on Chameleon and Pink Bubbles and are less epic or atmospheric than for instance “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” was. The typical voice of Andi Deris also gives these songs a more hardrockish and sleazier feeling. And too be honest, one Guns ‘n’ Roses is more than enough for me.

The presence of Deris does not only make the ballads sound sleazier but also the heavier compositions. Someone earlier made a comparisson with Paul Di’Anno. In a way I can agree with this. Deris joining Helloween is like Paul Di’Anno singing for Maiden AFTER Bruce Dickinson. Of course they both are the best vocalists Maiden have had but you’d rather hear Bruce singing a Paul track than the other way around. Andi Deris came from Pink Cream 69, which was the German answer to Guns ‘n’ Roses and Motley Crue. His voice has this raspy cheesy rock tone so no matter how good his performance or technique might be, he will never sound as epic or angelic as Kiske sounded. It is purely a matter of taste and as said it took me quite a few years before I learned to appreciate him.

Then we have Uli Kusch on drums. I don’t hear much difference with Ingo Schwichtenberg. Of course being the new guy he feels the need to make himself heard. Take the intro on “Sole Survivor” and you can hear him doing more than necessary. Apart from that, he really is the same kind of drummer. I don’t like the sound of the snaredrum though. It is slightly too heavy and deep.

On to the music! Has classic Helloween returned? No, they just looked around the corner with this album. There are some good tunes here but half of it isn’t much better than Chameleon was. Opener “Sole Survivor” is an old school power metal song but still lacks some punch. Throughout the song one often gets the feeling that some more speed could have made the song better. “Where the Rain Grows” is more mature, dynamic and overall better worked out with a strong chorus.

“The Game Is On” is classic Keeper-era Helloween again including the funny moments and happy approach. The nice video game details near the end of the song don’t ruin it for me. “Mr. Ego” is quite an impressive song. Being over 7 minutes but still sounding like a catchy single. Also I have a soft spot for the catchy “Perfect Gentleman”. Closing song “Still We Go“ is good but on the same level as “Sole Survirvor”. One gets the feeling the song could have even been better. The chorus is somewhat lacking.

All the other songs balance between a few too sleazy ballads and some mid paced hardrock tunes that would even have been dull on Chameleon. All in all we have an album with 10 songs and an intro from which 6 songs are worth checking out. But if we look at the album as a whole another thing becomes obvious as well: there is a real lack of speed. The fastest tracks on this album are nowhere near songs like Someone’s Crying or Just A Little Sign. So even though a large apart of this album sounds like classic Helloween, one of its key elements is missing. Over all this makes the album sound too laid back for power metal.

They were on their way back. But certainly not there yet.