31 October 2010
by Tom Dare
The course of power metal greatness had never run smoothly, particularly in the case of Helloween. After all but defining the genre with the classic Keeper Of The Seven Keys pair of albums, founding guitarist Kai Hansen departed to form Gamma Ray, and after such forgettable records as Pink Bubbles Go Ape (who knew that that one wasn’t going to be a classic just from the title? Oh. Everyone.) vocalist Michael Kiske also left the fold. While a succession of line-up changes have followed in the years since, it wasn’t until a stable core within the band emerged, with it coming some level of consistency.
Fifteenth album 7 Sinners continues this form. While some will inevitably look back at the so-called “classic era” and with excessive nostalgia, the verve and power of a band that has spawned a thousand imitators is still there in spades. The ebullient stride of ‘Where The Sinners Go’ emphasises this at the outset, the pumping pound of the drums and the purposeful swagger of the riffs giving way to one of Andi Deris’ instantly memorable vocal lines, before the requisite widdling solos take over. Immediately following this, the roiling gallop of ‘Are You Metal?’ stands at the door and demands to see your credentials. Poseurs will be steadfastly refused, you feel.
Things are very much in keeping of Helloween’s recent incarnations– plenty of guitar and keyboard riffs and melodies with rapid double bass drum-kicks and über-manly vocals. It is an interesting stylistic progression they have followed- having been one of the crucial founders of the traditional power metal style (exceptionally fast picking, but with fairly slow chord changes when the vocalist is singing), they long-since joined the modern school of more orthodox riff-led stylings. It says something about their innate ability that they can keep up with younger bands like Firewind or Primal Fear.
Watch the video to ‘Are You Metal?’ by Helloween:
If you’re of a power metal persuasion and your foot isn’t tapping to songs like ‘Where Is Mr. Madman?’, there may be something wrong with you. Even if 7 Sinners is a little lengthy and in need of a prune in places, there is plenty to like, and there are songs here that could be dropped into a live set alongside ‘Future World’ and not be totally overshadowed. After 25 years of releasing, Helloween still have much to offer. Long live the kings.
Sounds like: every other power metal band that owes them their career
Top tracks: Where The Sinners Go, Are You Metal?, Long Live The King
Helloween – 7 Sinners tracklisting:
Where The Sinners Go
Are You Metal?
Who Is Mr. Madman?
Raise The Noise
World Of Fantasy
Long Live The King
The Smile Of The Sun
You Stupid Mankind
If A Mountain Could Talk
The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner
Not Yet Today
Far In The Future