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The Dark Ride
Released: 2000, Nuclear Blast Records
I’d heard nothing but good things about this CD ever since people with more technical know-how than I began downloading it in MP3 format nearly 2 months ago. Having been a Helloween fan for a few years now, my desire to purchase The Dark Ride increased quite significantly. So I went to my favorite on-line music retailer and placed an order for it as soon as it became available. Of course, being a European import (The North American release is scheduled for sometime in January, I think...) the disc had to be placed on "Special Order" and took over six weeks to arrive at my mail box. But now that I finally have it in my grimy paws, all I can say is WOW!!!
Produced by up-and-coming Metal Guru Roy Z. and Charlie Bauerfeind, Helloween has recorded their finest CD since The Keeper of the Seven Keys albums of the mid ‘80's. Their last disc, 1998's Better Than Raw, was met with rave reviews after a string of mediocre and substandard albums, but I can say with complete honesty that The Dark Ride is even better. After a short intro track ("Beyond the Portal") the band kicks into high gear with "Mr. Torture", an upbeat song with heavy riffing, a traditional sounding Helloween chorus, and humorous lyrics about a guy who sells S&M services via the phone and the internet. The ride continues with "All Over the Nations", the down-tuned and sludgy (and surprisingly good) "Escalation 666", and "Mirror, Mirror", the chorus of which has a similar feel to Judas Priest’s "Burn In Hell" (from Jugulator). I could continue to list the best songs, but I’d only end up listing them all! The whole CD is excellent, IMO.
Production-wise, I was impressed with the overall sound of The Dark Ride, especially in the guitar department. Even though Better Than Raw had it’s share of great songs, the guitar sound on that CD was very poor. The distortion levels simply weren’t high enough and several songs ended up sounding like the band recorded them using a Country band’s music gear! (Way too much "twang" for a Metal album.) Fortunately, Weikath and Grapow cranked up the gain settings a bit on their amps this time around.
So if you like Helloween at all, then pick up The Dark Ride. And don’t whine about how "Deris isn’t as good as Kiske"... Deris sounds better than ever on this disc and even wrote five of the album’s twelve songs. So to all you nay-sayers... GROW UP!!! My only complaint about this CD would be the fact that it doesn’t contain the track "Deliver Us" (found only on the "Mr. Torture" single... Or is it the "If I Could Fly" single??? One of them...) or the Japanese only track,... Uhh... I can’t remember the name of it at the moment, but there IS an extra track on the Japanese version. Hopefully I’ll be able to find those two songs somewhere on the net and download them. I bought the CD and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna pay extra for songs that should have been on the disc in the first place. Nuclear Blast... Kiss my ass!
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