An epic sound palette and catchy choruses create a solid, captivating 14th studio album for the power metal veterans.
German power metal band Helloween follow-up 2010’s 7 Sinners with their 14th studio album, 2013’s Straight Out of Hell. Helloween, born out of the 80s, is comprises members Andi Deris (vocals), Michael Weikath (guitar), Sasha Gerstner (guitar), Markus Grosskopf (bass), and Dani Löble (drums). Helloween show their professional musical seasoning throughout the 60-minute duration of Straight Out of Hell. More often than not, the set is both consistent and enjoyable. The effort loses some steam towards the end, but ultimately there is more to laud than chide.
"Nabataea" opens the effort convincingly with a driven, powerful sound. Andi Deris’s vocals are high-pitched, packing a gutsy punch, particularly on the chorus ("Oh, Nabataea…"). Angular and diverse, "Nabataea" manages to make numerous stylistic shifts, keeping things fresh and captivating during its seven tour. Its follow-up, "World of War" is equally if not more compelling, sounding much like a 'gauntlet' as it opens. The tempo is extreme and the music technicality is awe-inspiring. As expected, the chorus is nothing short of epic, with Deris’s upper register vocals continuing to power and please. Straight Out of Hell starts off rather heavenly -- to be so savage.
"Live Now!" has a hard act to follow, but remains compelling despite sporting less distinction than contemporaries "Nabataea" or "World of War". Similarly, "Far From the Stars" is solid quick-paced metal without superseding anything. "Far From the Stars" possesses similar timbrel stylings to "World of War". Its savviest moment is the chorus, something Helloween does masterfully throughout the course of Straight Out of Hell.
"Burning Sun" continues to exhibit exceptional musicianship epitomizing the indulgence that is ‘metal’ -- pummeling drums and driving, gritty, guitars. "Waiting for the Thunder" doesn’t slack either, contrasting with the use of piano. Deris opts for his lower register initially but eventually ascends into his ‘money’ zone. Relatively straightforward contrasting the maniacal "Nabataea", "Waiting for Thunder" concedes little ultimately.
"Hold Me in Your Arms" gives the album a superb metal ballad. "Take me, take me / hold me in your arms / save me, save me / all I need is your love...," Deris chivalrously conveys on the sensitive chorus. The palette of which Deris sing is none to shabby including strings and backing vocals. Helloween grows more intense, again providing stark contrast with the assertive, arguably blasphemous "Wanna Be God" in which Deris is quick to assert "I don’t wanna be an angel / I wanna be God." Angels the band members aren’t, with pounding, devastating tribal-tom drums propelling the cut’s cutting-edge vibe.
The band destroys its halo on "Straight Out of Hell". While the cut is angular, set in minor key, and quick-paced, it’s evil poise somehow sounds glamorous. "Straight Out of Hell" is devilishly solid, but by no means tops the cream of the crop. "Asshole" proceeds with promised vulgarity insinuated by its title, but fails to relay the full expectation or excitement anticipated. Face it, when an song title sports profanity, everyone expects to be shocked. "Asshole" only shocks marginally.
The conclusion of the album is weaker than the forefront. "Years" contains many of the notable cues that distinguish Straight Out of Hell -- jagged musical riffs, pounding drums, even strings. Even so, it doesn’t wow despite its impressive sound array. "Make Fire Catch the Fly" falls into the similar boat, yielding the archetypical malicious guitars and sound effects without ultimately providing captivating, memorable songwriting. "Church Breaks Down" comes the closest of the closing trio, erupting into devastating up-tempo metal and harkening back to the brilliant forefront of the effort.
Overall, Straight Out of Hell stays true to its title musically. Hellish sounds make the music captivating and tension-laden, as metal should be. The obligatory religious allusions ("Wanna Be God" and "Church Breaks Down" namely) further lift the affair’s sacrilegious glory. The biggest quibbles? Cuts in duration would have made the overstuffed enjoyable album even better. All-in-all, it rocks.