Thursday, 7 March 2013

Helloween's 'Straight Out of Hell' - Album Review

Germany's Helloween have been on a bit of a resurgence of late. Their last few studio albums have been released to critical acclaim, with their last album 7 Sinners that was released in 2010 being the pick of the bunch. Straight Out of Hell carried on the trend set by those albums. While the overall sound of the album is nothing original, there is still plenty to be enjoyed here and fans of Helloween's heavy brand of power metal will be sure to lap it up. I shall start by saying that I do not think Straight Out of Hell is as good as 7 Sinners, but that album was so good that I defy any band to follow up an album of that quality with like material. It is also maybe a couple of songs too long, which is a common complaint that I have with a lot of albums released in recent years. However, there are still plenty of heavy, melodic and slightly progressive power metal songs to merit a purchase and fans of the band - and the genre as a whole - will certainly not be disappointed.

First up is the single Nabataea which is about the ancient civilisation that had Petra as it's capital city. This really gets the album going with a bang and the eastern themes that are weaved throughout the song create a great atmosphere. It is a pefect slab of good, old-fashioned speed metal with furious double drumming from Dani Löble and the distinct wail of frontman Andi Deris creating a racket above the noise from the band. The chorus is trademark Helloween with layers of vocals and plenty of hooks to sink your teeth into. Up next is World of War. This is straight-up power metal and all the better for it. The opening guitar lines reek of Iron Maiden before the verse runs away from the song like a freight train out of control. It is almost classic Hellowen, and I could imagine this song fitting on one the seminal Keeper of the Seven Keys albums from the 1980s. It possesses another great chorus before a breakdown kicks in, revealing some great bass work from Markus Grosskopf before a dueling guitar solo steals the show. Live Now! follows and this sees the band putting a foot in a more commercial camp. It is still heavy, but something about the song just feels poppy. This is no bad thing though, and the song still feels like Helloween and would work well as a single. Far from the Stars is next and gets the album back onto the proper power metal path. Some great staccato guitars move the verses along before a sing a long chorus brings the best out the song and some excellent twin lead guitar work adds the icing. This is a song from Grosskopf, and I feel that over the past few albums, he has written some of the very best songs on them so I always look forward to his contributions.

The next highlight is the anthemic Waiting for the Thunder. The song starts off with a piano intro before the guitars come in over the top of it and then drop away leaving just the drums and bass to accompany the verse, letting it slowly build up with layers of sound before a fist-pumping chorus kicks in. Deris gets to show off many sides of his excellent voice on this track, from a menacing almost spoken deliever in the verses to soaring control in the choruses. Hold me in Your Arms is a delicate ballad with gentle piano and some acoustic guitar to back Deris' melancholic voice. It is well placed in the album and gives us a break from all the furious metal. This song is proof that metal bands can also have a heartfelt, softer side - and that they are not afraid to show it. The title track is the next highlight. This gets straight back on the power metal bandwagon and benefits well from a little lull in proceedings. The verses here are probably the best on the entire album and grab you by the throat and never let go. This is the sort of song that will work really well live with the crowd rocking out during the verses, sing the simple yet excellent chorus and then lapping up the fantastic lead guitar work. After this, the album takes a little dip in quality with a few medicore tracks but it ends in style with the epic Church Breaks Down. Tolling bells and some operatic vocals get the track started before some haunting church organ lays down an eerie sound - then the band come in with a crash of drums and the roar of guitars. It makes sure that the album ends on a high. Overall, this is an excellent album and carries on a great run of form for the veteran band. It is a snarling beast of an album that will delight fans of power metal and good old fashioned speed metal. Well worth checking out!

The album was released on 18th January 2013 via Sony Music Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Nabataea.

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