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Good band gone stale - 61%

TheWaltzer, June 3rd, 2015

Of all the bands I used to worship in my teens, the one that stuck with me and remains the biggest guilty pleasure has to be Helloween. Because, sometimes you just want to switch off and sing along. I still look forward to hearing the new stuff, despite the occasional disappointment. The last record was one of those, though, so I hoped “My God-Given Right” would fix the bad aftertaste.

What I got left me a bit confused. This is indeed your typical Helloween record – all of the typical elements are present and by this point, the band knows what pleases the hardcore fans. You get something over 7 minutes, some happy-happy-Helloween, a token ballad, some aggressive stuff... the thing is, that this time, the usual suspects actually shine, which is unusual. And not comforting, at all. Helloween used to be at their best when sidestepping a bit (See: The Dark Ride).

Take “Lost in America”. A fun little sing-along riding a cool melody, with lyrics that are actually funny, for once (“We should plunder the sky bar!”). One of the highlights, simply for the fun factor. But fresh, this is not. Also, the unavoidable ballad, “Like Everyone Else”, is actually well done, being bombastic and emotional, but not overblown.

Yet, there is this haven't-I-heard-this-before vibe that I get from the record. As fun as “Lost in America” is, the vocal line in the chorus is not far from “Who is Mr. Madman” from “7 Sinners”. And isn't “Stay Crazy” basically a bad version of “Power”? I cannot help it – this record just re-uses the formulas from the Deris albums. They worked, sure, but nowadays are hardly innovative. Helloween has shown us that they can experiment without being faceless or just that they can stretch the boundaries of their tight little niche. That is almost the exact opposite of what's happening here.

What's worse, though, when the band actually tries something out of the ordinary, it tends to backfire. “Living on the Edge” is just a mess of a song, with a lot of ideas that aren't cohesive at all. “You, Still of War” is a chore to listen to with that grating chorus. And there are some other songs that, at their best, feel very lazy. Laziness is what I got from the last album, and it still lingers here.

The sole exception is the one blast of creativity that this record has, track 12, “Claws”. I have no idea whence it came, but fuck yes, I'll take it. The riffs are furious, borderline thrashy and it's full of minor tempo changes and some built up solos. It relies solely on the chorus to tie it together, and that's all it needs. Successful on all fronts, this is the second coming of “Midnight Sun”, folks. And the odd thing... Weikath wrote it. You know, the guy usually responsible for the goofballs and upbeat tracks. I don't understand anything anymore, except that “Claws” is his best song since forever.

This review has been mostly focused on the songs, for the sheer reason that when take as one entity, it falls flat. Overall, the tracks tend to be catchy and somewhat poppy. When “My God-Given Right” gets average, it is the band going through the motions, using tested formulas and a tested producer. Sure, the band is tight, but I'd consider that more of a necessity than a bonus.

As is always the case with Helloween, I like this album a bit more than I should. I cannot avoid the fact that it is formulaic and a rather overlong, with some truly dumb lyrics (though not dumber than usual). A pair of stand-outs and a few enjoyable guilty-pleasure songs will not redeem the flaws, so I cannot possibly rate it higher. The cover art is telling, though. This is a band frozen in place. Can I get a blowtorch?