Released: 2013, The End Records
The last couple of Helloween albums have been a bit heavy and dark, so STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL (14th album) marks a return of a more lighthearted muse, employing modern variations of Helloween’s proficiency with major key melodies. Let’s face it, the most prolific and ascendant style of metal right now worldwide is probably power metal and Helloween has more to do with a that style than anybody (Hammerfall helped re-ignite the fire, but they could not have done it without hearkening back to Helloween). Helloween is aware of their legacy, yet keeps a firm eye to the future, cognizant of their importance but never content to ride solely on the laurels of the past. It is this commitment that makes STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL such a welcome and appreciated album
I will not exaggerate and call this their finest album or any of that hyperbole, but that does not detract from the worthiness of an album composed by a band nearly thirty years into their career. “World Of War” is a track that reflects old and new Helloween, speedy guitars with outstanding vocal melodies, and a mix of aggressiveness and happiness. “Live Now!” has the only wah wah effect that I can ever recall hearing on a Helloween record, though employed far differently than say Jimi Hendrix would have. Weikath and Gerstner are musically on the same page, the guitar work being expectedly impressive and complementary. Deris is likewise on top of his game, offering incredibly catchy verses and choruses while the rhythm section upholds their end of the bargain. “Far From The Stars”, while a great tune offers more than a passing nod to Dragonforce, which is not a slight, but c’mon! This is Helloween and they need not borrow from followers.
While few, there are some flaws on STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL. “Asshole” is one such flaw that seems to exist merely to show how these Germans have mastered English profanity. Remove the lyrics, and the songs still kinda sucks, a very basic detuned affair, underwritten at best, planned filler at worst. “Hold Me In Your Arms” is the obligatory ballad, not the worst ever written but certainly nothing worth praising either. Last, is the weak Judas Priest inspired, made for stadium loudspeakers “Wanna Be God”, a fairly doltish track to be sure. But with twelve tracks, it is actually a pretty good ratio and when added up, one of the better Helloween albums in the last decade or so. The production is definitely decent, but safe and predictably German, like Blind Guardian the band enlisting the prolific Charlie Bauerfeind to capture the sound. However, I have great respect for Helloween and while they have not always produced stellar albums, STRAIGHT OUF OF HELL is a one that is worthy of every fan’s attention.