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Label: Nuclear Blast

Date: June 16th, 2021

Let’s see if I can write a review about likely the most eagerly awaited metal record of the year, perhaps even a couple of years before, without pointing a finger to the elephant in the room.

Is there anybody reading this article that can honestly say Helloween made even one good record since “The Dark Ride”? I’m sure many are convinced they had their swansong with “Keepers”. The original two, not the pathetic attempt at rekindling the old flame in 2005. If we’re being honest, despite the shock of the conservative metal crowds of the 1980’s, the Germans kept the imaginative levels quite high throughout the end of previous century. Unfortunately, seems like age caught up with them and the creative juices simply stopped flowing around.

A series of mediocre records leads us into the massive line-up of today, surpassing even the risky, but in the end fruitful, Iron Maiden teaming. So, the big question is, how does it function now that it seems like all that’s left to reunite in rock are Pink Floyd?

Yes, I’m pointing at the elephant but he doesn’t seem to care all that much.

What is evident from the very first spin, “Helloween” is bursting with energy. I dare claim that it’s a whole nuclear power plant above “My God-give Right” or “Straight out of Hell”. Whether it’s the three guitars, the two vocalists or the combination of youth (did I just call a 48 year old man young?) and experience in the rhythm section, the guys sound like a group of unleashed teenagers. Commendable, to say the least and a great sign for those who patiently awaited volcanos such as “Walls of Jericho” or the mentioned “Keepers”. Or “Heading for Tomorrow”, why not?

However, when it comes to the songs themselves, the album shines through on just a couple of occasions. Too few for a record that spans across sixty five minutes. Tracks that could hold up the tension of Helloween’s live performance are too few and far between. “Mass Pollution” is a good example. “Skyfall” would be too if they could’ve been able to compress it to five-six minutes. Perhaps a song or two more, but that’s already stretching it too far.

It sounds to me like they should’ve taken a bit more time to consolidate the effort and tighten the grip on these songs. The way the album turned out is like they tried too hard to let everyone have his moment in the spotlight, made too many compromises and thus let the bigger picture slip away. There are just too many fragments in each song and it gets very hard to keep the focus at times. To catch it completely, you need several listening sessions and then you get the whole idea. But then it just dawns on you that though it is notable Helloween is on the rise, they are still not where they intended to be.

Still, keep in mind that we’re talking here about one of the most talented group of musicians to ever emerge on the metal scene. Their skills unquestionable, their imagination limitless and it genuinely seems as if they are having the best time all together like they are. With ranks consolidated, I have high hopes for the next album.

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