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Next review: » Helloween - The Dark Ride
The Dark Ride
Released: 2000, Nuclear Blast
Its about time! The new Helloween has hit my house after being on back order for the last couple of weeks!!! It was like an early Christmas because Helloween are one of my favourite bands. Needless to say that I was eagerly awaiting the new disc. To add to my anticipation was the fact that Roy Z was co producing this release. He had done such a fantastic job with Rob Rock and Halford earlier this year that I had high hope for this disc. Z is joined by Charlie Bauerfeind behind the console. The rumour was that this disc would be a heavier CD for Helloween. Well they have definitely delivered on that. This CD is indeed heavier overall than Better Than Raw without sacrificing any of the signature Helloween sound.
What would a Helloween album be without the ever present intro. This time out it is a subdued :46 minute piece entitled "Beyond the Portal" which leads into the hilarious "Mr. Torture". I guess you can call this an updated "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" for the year 2000. Up next is "All Over The Nations" which to me is kind of reminiscent of classic Keepers era Helloween. Andi Deris is no Michael Kiske but he has a distinctive voice that fits perfectly with the Helloween sound. "Escalation 666" is one of the heavier tunes on the CD. If anyone says that power metal is too happy then they should listen to this track. Deris growls his way through the lyrics which deal with the inner darkness of the soul. "Darkness is spreading, I warm my hands on the flames of lies, in vain I scream - against the wind, they don’t understand my last temptation". Nothing happy there. The first single is "If I Could Fly" is a mid tempo track that uses piano to augment the main riff. When I first heard this track on an advance single it too me a few minutes to warm up to the sound but it has since become one of my favourite tracks on the disc. Now, for some reason, "Salvation" reminds me of Gamma Ray. It could be just because both bands are so historically intertwined but my first thought when I heard this song was of Kai Hanson’s band of merry metallers. "Immortal" is a very good ballad that sets up the CD closer "The Dark Ride". This is an almost 9 minute track penned by guitarist Roland Grapow. As with most of the other tracks this song deals with a darker side of life. "One way ticket, there is no returning, leave your soul at the gates. Out of doubt - No hope, Satan feeds our madness, insanity confirms where we stand." Very cool stuff and a bit of a different path for Helloween.
Better Than Raw was one of my favourite CDs of 1998. And is indeed one of my favourite Helloween albums surpassed only by Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts I and II. I eagerly waited to see how this CD would stand up to BTR. Well it does an admirable job. The music is indeed darker and heavier than its predecessor. The production is also chunky yet doesn’t seem out of place and actually fits the Helloween sound very well. Hats off to Roy Z and Charlie Bauerfeind. In keeping with the darker atmosphere of the disc, the CD artwork is also done extensively in black and white and is some of the best seen on any Helloween release. The producers even have their pictures in the booklet which is very rare indeed. Overall this is a great CD. Helloween have definitely outdone themselves with The Dark Ride.
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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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