Top critical review
To hell and back
on 24 January 2014
An album cover depicting a war-torn battlefield. Pumpkin soldiers engulfed in flames and surrounded by flying bullets. With song titles like "World Of War", there seems to be a strong conflict-influenced theme involved here, something that these Germans aren't exactly famous for. But worry not, Helloween haven't gone all political: the hilarious gas-masked pumpkin in the band logo is evidence in itself that despite the odd statement here and there, the power metal veterans' tongue is still very much in cheek.
While Helloween are known for having had rather great difficulties in maintaining the same line-up for very long, "Straight Out Of Hell" is no less than their fourth studio release with the same personnel. Interestingly, a large portion of the songs on the album have been penned by bassist Markus Grosskopf and "new" guy Sascha Gerstner, breaking the pattern of latter-day Helloween albums having usually been mostly written by vocalist Andi Deris.
While these ears didn't exactly regard the band's previous offering, 2010's dark and heavily down-tuned "7 Sinners" as a bona fide classic, "Straight Out Of Hell" sees the band once again harking back to more melodic ground. Album opener, the 7-minute "Nabataea" kicks things off promisingly with its flying melodies and up-tempo feel. "World Of War" and "Far From The Stars" are rather standard power metal, while the mid-tempo "Waiting For The Thunder" is surprisingly catchy, not unlike "A Handful Of Pain" from "Better Than Raw". "Hold Me In Your Arms" could best be described as a power ballad, although less sappy than, say, "Forever And One (Neverland)". The title track ranks amongst the finest numbers on this platter, along with "Nabataea".
Of course, a Helloween album wouldn't be complete without an awkward moment or two: the down-tuned "A**hole" is rather puzzling with its swearword-littered lyrics, as is the 2-minute interlude number "Wanna Be God". Still, the majority of the material on offer wouldn't have sounded out of place on "The Time Of The Oath" (1996).
Unsurprisingly, the glory days of "Walls Of Jericho" and the first two "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" albums, or even the highlights of the band's 1990's output are once again left unmatched. However, with a surprising six new songs in their live set (as witnessed on a recent gig), Helloween seem to show a rather unexpected confidence in their new material, more so than they have in ages. If you prefer "Rabbit Don't Come Easy" to "The Dark Ride" or "7 Sinners", then this one is for you.