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Better Than Raw
Released: 1998, Castle
Helloween have returned with their best album since Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II. The majority of this CD is filled with what made Keeper Pt.II so great - soaring vocals, speedy tremelo picked and machine gun riffing, lots of great leads and a big "fuck you" to the current non-musical trends prevalent in much (but not all) of North America's new bands.
Probably the best track on the CD is the second one "Push" - extremely intense for Helloween and really fast and full of thundering double kick drums. Other ear catching songs on the CD include the ultra heavy "Revelation" with its machine gun riffing followed tightly by the snare drum similar to the heavy section in Metallica's One. Then there is "I Can" which to me is reminisant of the classic Helloween song "I Want Out" only not as speedy. "Lavdate Dominvm", sung entirely in Latin is another of the CD's highlights as is "Midnight Sun" which has some nice guitar harmonies near the begining. It's not hard to picture these tracks on the Keeper CD! Better Than Raw even has a classicaly influenced introduction like Keeper Pt.II.
There are only a few songs on the CD that I'd call "fluff" or "filler." An example of this would be the song "Hey Lord." Silly title, and for the most part a silly song that sounds like it came from a radio friendly 80's metal band, not the mighty Helloween.
Even though I have a few minor complaints about the CD, it really has turned me onto Helloween again. I've had Better Than Raw in the car on replay for two weeks straight. I don't think it's because I'm too lazy to change the CD, it's because I'm hearing something new every time it plays. This is definitely one of the surprises of 1998 and to me it's a comeback album of sorts. It's allot better than stuff like "Pink Bubbles Go Ape" and the other weird stuff they played after the Keeper CD's. This is probably not a major surprise to anyone who's been following Helloween's career...They have been building towards a glorious CD like this with their recent CD's - Master of The Rings and The Time of The Oath. They were clearly a step in the right direction. With Better Than Raw they have a CD that can stand proudly alongside the Keeper CD's.
As you know by now, gone is Helloween vocalist, Michael Kiske (the Bruce Dickinson inspired god who really made Helloween stand above many others). To me the "new" vocalist, Andi Deris, is not Kiske. Andi has major fucking talent and cannot be criticized, just don't expect quite as powerful of a performance as Kiske gave us.
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