And so continues a new segment, in which I will listen to an album for the first time and give my impressions of said album as I go through. I will provide background information, a track by track review and then final thoughts. Enjoy!
Background – Helloween are the greatest power metal band in the world. As I chronicled in a post earlier this year, these guys have consistently persevered through lineup changes, shifts in popularity and subtle changes to their style, to remain at the top of the power metal genre. Straight out of Hell follows up the fantastic 2010 release, 7 Sinners, and sees the band return with a lineup, largely unchanged for almost 10 years.* This consistency in lineup has allowed a greater level of contribution across the board, as the liner notes inform us that every band member has contributed to the songs here, whereas singer Andi Deris has written much of the material on the last several albums.
*This is only the second album for drummer Dani Löble, though everyone else is unchanged.
Will a more varied level of band contribution make this another solid release from Helloween? Will this album be as balls out heavy as their last album? As these guys have settled well into middle age, they have only gotten heavier and better. A new Helloween album is always a great event in my household, so I am very pumped to start listening to this thing.
1) Nabatea – Whereas 7 Sinners started off with a slow groovy track that is not the case here. This Andi Deris pinned tune kicks right in with the power/thrash speed that we have come to expect of recent Helloween releases. I like this chorus, though I’m not blow away by it. It uses somewhat of a strange melody on the opening “AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Nabatea,” which is interesting, but doesn’t resolve the melody as well as I’d like.
After the second chorus, we go into an interesting slow down section with a solid heavy guitar behind it, but where they go from here will make or break this song….and um….its decent I guess, a solid guitar harmony melody, even if once again, I’m not blown away. And this is getting strange. Structurally, this one is all over the place, all the while trying to incorporate these chords progressions which aren’t typical for Helloween. They went to a breakdown section, fast again, then a clean section and then the best part of the song comes at almost six minutes in, the end of the bridge before the last chorus.
All in all, a pretty cool track, but not overpowering…the mid-eastern vibe just never allowed this one to totally come together.
2) World of War – Yes! You can tell right off the bat you’re in for a classic Helloween jam here. Those guitar melodies to start things off just have me feeling good. What in blazes???? This one changed very fast into an almost Symphony X styled verse, extremely heavy with a lot of double bass. This one was written by youngest member, guitarist Sascha Gerstner, so it has a bit more of a modern feel to it. This is really unlike any Helloween song I’ve ever heard. If you were to just listen to the verses, you’d never know you were listening to Helloween at all. The chorus sounds like a classic power metal offering and is cool and the solo/bridge is pure melodic awesomeness! All in all a cool, if different song for the band.
3) Live Now! – This track, co-written by Deris and Gerstner is a mid-tempo rocker, which is somewhat forgettable upon first listen. About halfway through this track, I was hitting my spell check and completing the listing of the tracks on the album. Not a terrible song, but I really was not moved by it at all.
4) Far From the Stars – Now we’re talking! Bassist, Marcus Grosskopf, gets his first credit and provides us with a track which is classic Helloween. You have an awesome melodic opening, a great heavy verse and a huge open sing along chorus. This is everything you want in a Helloween song and sounds a lot like the class “Keeper’s Era” of the band. It is songs like this where Helloween are at their best.
5) Burning Sun – This Michael Weikath penned tuned starts off with a nice guitar melody and some heavy riffing. In what is reminiscent of some of the mid-90s Helloween-era tracks, this one is heavy and melodic at the same time. The chorus doesn’t quite pay off as well as I would like, but this is still a pretty decent track.
6) Waiting for the Thunder – The guys slow things down a bit on this track, adding a piano to the main guitar riff. The lyrics here are pretty terrible though, with additions like “sometimes I am tough and bold, just sometimes I am frightened. Sometimes I’m dull and cold, sometimes I’m enlightened.” The cheesy lyrics, combined with a song which honestly just doesn’t do much, makes this one a bit of a dud.
7) Hold Me In Your Arms – This one starts off with an acoustic guitar and has the feel of a ballad coming. Following right after another slow track, I would question the logic of putting this one here on the album. And sure enough, we have a pure ballad here. Another rather forgettable track…the lyrics are corny and the chorus doesn’t salvage anything else in this song. Meh.
8) Wanna Be God* – Dedicated to Freddie Mercury – Fascinating. I never would have figured Helloween to write a tribute to Freedie Mercury, so this should be something. Umm…this one is largely drums and vocals. The lyrics are pretty terrible and the chorus made me laugh. I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish here and I also have no idea how this relates to Freddie Mercury. Bad, bad track.
9) Straight out of Hell – Grosskopf is gonna try and save the album here. While being largely predictable, this is a good, fun song, which has a nice opening melody and good chorus. You will not be blown away by this track, but it’s a solid offering nonetheless.
10) Asshole – Maybe letting Gerstner write so many songs wasn’t a good idea. This is another track which doesn’t really sound much like Helloween. The pre-chorus is kind of cool and it is heavy, but what we really end up with is another forgettable track. And while Helloween have never been known for having incredibly thought provoking lyrics, the choice of words in this chorus is incredibly laughable. The inclusion of the words Asshole and Mother Fucker just made me laugh out loud. I can’t wait to play this for my buddies and see if they laughed like I did. Pretty bad song.
11) Years – This is a really strange song. It has all the elements of a great Helloween song, but it fails to deliver on all levels. Taken individually, all the parts are here to have a fantastic song, but when put together, this one just left me scratching my head. I’m starting to think this album is really a bust.
12) Make Fire Catch the Fly – Another boring track. Once again, this one has the elements which should make it a great song, but I was left doing Wikipedia research two minutes into the thing. I just heard the chorus to this song and I have already forgotten it. Damn it!
13) Church Breaks Down – A solid offering to close things out. This one is heavy and fast, even if the chorus leaves a lot to be desired. Despite its faults, this is probably one of the best tracks on the album. What disappoints me is, this song would have been among the worst songs on the last album. You win some and you lose some I guess
Conclusion – Shit. I hate to admit this, but I am completely underwhelmed by Straight out of Hell. I guess I can’t really complain too much, as Helloween hasn’t had a misstep since 1993. You could certainly do a lot worse than this album, but coming off one of the band’s strongest releases, I certainly had high expectations. All in all, if you are a serious fan of the band, pick this one up. If not, there are so many other releases you could go with to get you into these guys. 2/5