My luck this year with new albums has been a bit crazy. Several of my oldest, favorite bands have put out great new albums (BLIND GUARDIAN, NIGHTWISH, KAMELOT). HELLOWEEN was on the list of upcoming releases, and as another old favorite band (who are admittedly pretty hit-or-miss album-wise), I was really excited to see if my luck would hold out for another album. They’ve been slowing down in the past few years, not releasing as many good albums (I was always more of a fan of their heavier albums, like “Time of the Oath” or “The Dark Ride”), but after seeing them play some new songs at South Park -festivaali, I hoped to hear some good material on a 16-track album!
The album starts with pretty good energy right off the bat with “Heroes.” It seems like a bit of a throw-back to their older stuff, maybe “Master of the Rings” -era, and it’s pretty catchy. I kind of wondered if Andi Deris is using a bit of auto-tune though. The solos are pretty good. The song isn’t earth-shatteringly good, but it’s still worth listening to. My mind hasn’t been immediately blown though, the way “Nabataea” did on “Straight Out of Hell.”
The first track transitions really smoothly into “Battle’s Won.” This one seems a little more power metal in style. Honestly, the song doesn’t really do much for me. It’s not annoying or irritating in any way, but it doesn’t hook me either. The chorus has kind of a classic HELLOWEEN-ness to it, which is kind of cool, but it represents an era of HELLOWEEN that wasn’t my favorite either.
“My God-Given Right,” the title track of the album, improves my hopes a bit. It’s immediately something I could imagine off an album like “Master of the Rings” or “Time of the Oath.” It’s a bit more catchy, kind of a radio hit -type, but in a good way. The riff is catchy, if a bit simple. It worked really well live though, so it’s nice to hear it sounds good in the album version as well. It’s also nice to hear the keys a bit in the middle; they often blend in so well with the rest of the instruments that they don’t stand out.
Next up is “Stay Crazy,” which at first I didn’t really like, but it grew on me a bit after a while. It’s got kind of a mid-range energy, but it’s got a bit of a hook to it, and maybe, just maybe, I like the concept of staying crazy (especially when taken into account the lyrical relation to them being “crazy” as a band – I hope they always stay crazy if it means they keep making music). I remembered “Lost in America” from the live show and again, it was pretty cool on the album as well. I recalled hearing it and thinking, “This sounds like something I should know, but it’s not familiar.” I think that says some good things about it, if it’s holding to the quality of HELLOWEEN I remember.
“Russian Roulé” is the kind of song that I first thought was a bit weird, but grew on me in it’s kind of strange silliness. It almost feels like a guilty pleasure song somehow. You feel like it’s not a great song, but you are endeared to it anyway for unknown reasons. On the flipside, I feel like I should like “The Swing of a Fallen World” more than I do. The heavier almost-industrial style of it is appealing, but the song itself doesn’t really prove itself against any of their other material.
The first slowish song on the album is “Like Everybody Else.” Again, it doesn’t do much to top anything they’ve done before, even as recently as “Smile of the Sun” from “7 Sinners,” but it has nice ambiance and there’s a bit of much-needed passion in it, making it one of the better songs off the album so far. “Creatures in Heaven” starts out with a unique sound that has some serious potential, but ends up falling a bit flat as a rather dull song.
Perhaps the cheesiest song on the album is “If God Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Lyrically, I find the song pretty amusing (and pretty true – if God loves rock ‘n’ roll, heaven sounds a lot more interesting), but as a song it’s not really anything special. It reminded me of a KISS song, “God Made Rock ‘n’ Roll for You,” and I found out shortly afterward that the song was influenced by KISS, which was neat. “Living on the Edge” sounds lyrically a bit like Skid Row -era (“18 and Life,” anyone?) but again, doesn’t really do much for drawing me in. At least it does have a bit of the lyrical heart that some other songs lack. “Claws” tries again to match their heavier time periods, at least at first, but doesn’t hold a candle to any prior material. Maybe the fact that the heaviness doesn’t stay consistent throughout the song is what brings it down, as there are some decent riffs in it.
At this point, the album is feeling awfully long and “You, Still of War” ends the official album. The theme is fairly dark, and the music matches. Objectively, this might be the best song on the album. It reminds me a bit of songs like “The Dark Ride” or even “Dreambound,” with just a hint of “Halloween.” Yet, once again, this song doesn’t manage to pull ahead of any of its predecessors in quality.
There are three bonus tracks on the album via various versions that can all be found on Spotify (at least in Finland). The first is “I Wish I Were There,” which sounds quite different from everything else almost immediately, but then falls back into a more HELLOWEEN-y sound that clashes a bit awkwardly with the unique part. I had really hoped that “Wicked Game” was a Chris Isaac cover, because HELLOWEEN has done some amazing covers in the past (and HIM certainly knew how to kick Isaac’s song into overdrive), but my wish was not granted. In fact, this song almost sounds like an alternate version of “Heroes,” as they are very similar in style and progression. I feel like I could sing the “Heroes” chorus to this song. Lastly, I can’t really say anything about “Free World” that I haven’t said about the rest of the songs. There is nothing special in it either.
Sadly, “My God-Given Right” didn’t quite hold up against the other albums of 2015. It’s a bit long, and doesn’t seem to quite have the heart and soul of some past HELLOWEEN albums. There is a lot of great musicianship in it, some really nice riffs, but very few of the songs have hooks at all, and the ones that do can’t match the quality of anything HELLOWEEN has done in the past. It gives me an impression that a lot of ideas were just set free, rather than being fine-tuned, which leads to a large number of mediocre tracks instead of smaller number of good ones, much like with “Straight Out of Hell.” On the plus side, I do agree that (maybe save for the heavier phases and the two unspeakable albums that shall not be named) the album really does seem to cover their whole discography in style, and those who liked their straight-up power metal albums and/or that ’80s vibe might enjoy this a bit better than I did, but ultimately the whole album falls a bit short of things they actually did in their strict power metal era (and the ’80s). I could see others enjoying this album more than I, but if you were a new fan, this certainly wouldn’t be where I’d recommend you start.
Written by Bear Wiseman
- Battle’s Won
- My God Given Right
- Stay Crazy
- Lost in America
- Russian Roulé
- The Swing of a Fallen World
- Like Everybody Else
- Creatures in Heaven
- If God Loves Rock n’ Roll
- Living on the Edge
- You, Still of War
- I Wish I Were There
- Wicked Game
- Free World
Andi Deris – vocals
Michael Weikath – guitars
Sascha Gerstner – guitars
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Dani Löble – drums
Nuclear Blast Records