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Helloween – Gambling With The Devil

Label: SPV USA
Format: CD
Released: 2007
Reviewed By: Rich Catino


After originating the Euro Power Metal style and sound 20 years ago with the landmark album "Keeper of the Seven Keys", Helloween continue brandishing the sword into today and decide to gamble with the devil in the process to make life more exciting.

 

In 2007, the lineup still consists of original members Michael Weikath on guitar and Markus Grosskopf on bass joined by now long time singer Andi Deris with second guitar duties handled by Sascha Gerstner (who came on board for "Rabbit Don’t Come Easy") and Dani Löble on drums who made his first recording appearance on "Keeper Part III".

"Gambling" sees this lineup really finding its groove and playing in the pocket as "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part III" from 2005 was clearly a daunting challenging task and overall a success given what it had to live up to (still I think make it only one disc of the better songs and it would have been a ten). "Keeper’s" predecessor "Rabbit Don’t Come Easy" was clearly a time of adjustment in sound and composition given the addition of guitarist Sascha and you could hear it in the music which was more modern and clumsy at times.

In traditional Helloween fashion ('Push' off "Better Than Raw", 'We Burn' from "Time of the Oath") the aggressive 'Kill It' starts off "Gambling" followed by the upbeat double bass driven 'The Saints'. The excellent first single/video single 'As Long As I Fall' I find is one of the highlights, that chorus is classic Helloween and Andi soars. At this point on the album already it is evident Helloween are more than comfortable with this lineup. The formula is well seasoned coming up with new music that does not copy the successes of the past and clearly wants to be vibrant and interesting for ’07.

"Gambling" is a darker heavier album, just listen to 'Paint a New World' and 'The Bells of the 7 Hells' that includes some ominous keys and recalls the aggressive nature heard on past releases like the “Better Than Raw” with moments from "Walls of Jericho". Helloween play with a lot of purpose in ’07 and show non believers that even though Euro Power Metal may be happy and upbeat that in no way means a lack of balls and shear power. Andi Deris exemplifies this in 'The Bells' as his voice expresses not only melody but anger at appropriate times during the tune.

At the time, 'Falling to Pieces' would have been a prime candidate for 2000’s "The Dark Ride" with its acoustic guitar base and progressive movement into the guitar solo section and ride out. Still as always the melody line written and carried by the guitar and Andi vocal is the focal point. Another strong moment on the album.

'Can Do It' is the only stumbling block for me. Once and a while Helloween will write that song which is quirky, catchy and kinda poppy ('Ms. God', 'Dr. Stein') but this one just doesn’t work for me.

After all is said and done, regardless of whether or not you accept the fact that Michael Kiske is no longer on vocals nor Kai Hansen on guitar (shouldn’t we be past this by now?), Helloween have put out another strong album and their best I think since "Better Than Raw" ("Time of The Oath" and "Master of the Rings" also recommended).

Helloween do not have to live and pay the bills only based on their past (not taking anything away from it of course) or to be relevant. Their place among the Metal Gods is established and maintained because of not just a moment in time but years of great music over a long period of time.

 
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