September 2020 marks the re-release of several not-too-old HELLOWEEN albums by Nuclear Blast Records: 2009’s “Unarmed” compilation/re-make album, 2010’s 7 Sinners, and 2013’s “Straight Out of Hell.” Having already gone through the first of these, now we’re looking at “7 Sinners,” the first HELLOWEEN album of its time to thoroughly nod back to earlier albums like “Master of the Rings” (1994), “Time of the Oath” (1996), and more specifically, “The Dark Ride” (2000). Having not reviewed the album prior to this, now seemed like as good a time as any to give this a re-listen.
Keeping in mind that I haven’t popped this album on more or less since the year it was released, I will mention that first track, “Where the Sinners Go” is probably (in my “The Dark Ride” -obsessed world) the best song HELLOWEEN has done since the 2000 album was released and feels like a direct sequel stylistically. The deep, heavy tone (with full use of the traditional ominous “dun-dun-dunnnn” sound) has always been my favorite style of HELLOWEEN, who are known to explore the musical ground between high shrieking power metal and the deepest, heaviest feel the genre allows. The album, however, takes a rather sharp turn with the cheesy, Manowar-y lyrics of “Are You Metal?” Far from how I remember this song, it maintains the darker HELLOWEEN tone of the songs preceding and succeeding it, with some truly evil-sounding synths in the mix. This track is way less lame than I remember it, even if the chorus is rather silly.
My other longstanding favorite track from “7 Sinners” is “Who is Mr. Madman?” I’ve always assumed this song was a sequel to “The Perfect Gentleman” from “Master of the Rings,” which is in keeping with the song’s reference to 16 years prior. The song is led by great synths coupled with heavy-as-hell guitars and drumming, creating a very powerful successor song. “Raise the Noise” could have a super power metal-y sound if the rhythm section wasn’t so straight-up heavy with some almost IRON MAIDEN -like soloing, including what also feels like a light hint of live cheering, while “World of Fantasy” is a clear Markus Grosskopf (bass) written track, with a little more cheese and a slightly more straightforward power metal sound while maintaining their unique flare.
“Long Live the King” has a very heavy intro and some creative vocal work from Deris, even if the chorus is a bit simple. The drums are fantastic throughout – truly, I’ve always appreciated Dani Löble‘s ability to take what past HELLOWEEN drummers have done, add to it, and make it his own. “Smile of the Sun” is a really strong piano-driven ballad with a lot of oomph in the chorus, definitely in HELLOWEEN‘s top-5 ballads with the intriguingly sad lyrics on top of a rather hopeful overall sound. “You Stupid Mankind” shines best musically as Deris again experiments with the vocals to an unusual but not unwelcome effect. The chorus has some nice high notes, with a lot of chugging guitar throughout – interestingly, this is the second song written by guitarist Sascha Gerstner on this album, after “Who is Mr. Madman?”
Grosskopf shows his love of writing pure power metal again with “If a Mountain Could Talk,” though it maintains an interesting keyboard sound and heavy guitar and bass tone. “The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner” is one of my least favorite tracks, written by Michael Weikath, who generally writes the most traditional power metal songs, which are rarely the ones I want to hear the most, particularly due to its cheesy chorus. “My Sacrifice” lingers too long in Deris‘ high range for my personal taste but has a lot of epic qualities in the backing music, particularly towards and at the end.
“Not Yet Today” is an unusual interlude of a song, in that the beginning feels an awful lot like “Home is Behind“ from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in the beginning, then builds into a really devious and Halloween-y HELLOWEEN sound as it takes a sharp turn into heavy metal with “Far in the Future,” the original album’s final track. This is one of HELLOWEEN‘s best finales, equal in quality to the band’s other epics like “Time of the Oath,” “The Dark Ride,” “Dreambound,” with a hint of something that was reminiscent of “Occasion Avenue” near the halfway point. It was a great conclusion to the original album. The song has an epic, conclusive feel, fantastic solos, a dark, ominous nature, and generally just gets better the further into the song you listen.
The re-master, however, has three more tracks at the end: “I’m Free,” “Faster We Fall,” and “Aiming High.” These three tracks were respectively from the deluxe and Japanese editions of the album. The former is a mid-range power metally track that’s fairly catchy; “Faster We Fall” has speedy guitars and relaxed verses, building to a more stripped-down chorus; lastly, “Aiming High” closes up the album, largely led by power metal shredding.
If both “The Dark Ride” and “7 Sinners” are unique to HELLOWEEN in that all of the songs were written by the band members individually (with no input from the others)… well, is it weird to say that HELLOWEEN are at their best when they don’t collaborate? For those who loved “The Dark Ride” but were sad when HELLOWEEN steered away from that dark power metal sound for a time, this was an album worth coming back to. While it’s not a knock-out for the band, it’s still a pretty strong album that holds up well after 10 years, in that the musicianship is top notch even if some of the songs themselves could be better.
Written by Bear Wiseman
- 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
- My Sacrifice
- Not Yet Today
- Far in the Future
Andi Deris – vocals
Michael Weikath – guitars
Sascha Gertsner – guitars
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Dani Löble – drums
Nuclear Blast Records
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