If there is one thing to say about Helloween’s sixteenth studio album, it’s that it is the most Helloween record of their career. That’s why he could only be eponymous, Hello. Such sightings are sure to whet fans’ appetites and arouse the curiosity of others. What this does mean, however, is that melodic power metal is reaching opera heights while still remaining an energizing album for beer halls.
It’s not just a question of style either. The current incarnation of the group is a fusion of several past talents brought together. Several years ago, the Pumpkins United World Tour brought former members Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen back into the fold. As such, the contributors to each Helloween range dating back to their first record, the years 1985 The walls of Jericho, put something in the mix. Through vocals and guitars, Kiske and Hansen add those elements that only they can bring to the album.
This record contains a lot of the past. This can be a barrier for musicians of lesser quality. However, Helloween manages to capture the magic of previous albums while spicing up the old one with fresh flavors. While this is a return to form, it is not a revamp of old records. Perhaps there is a freedom in this sixteenth album: the group has nothing more to prove. However, they’ve put together several attention-grabbing leads; Helloween always puts the pedal to the ground.
The opening track “Out for Glory” begins the journey, and make no mistake, this record is an adventure. A showcase of all the band’s talent, from the quick and wicked guitar licks to the thumping drums, it’s a lyrical testament to where the band is. One hero has conquered it all and wants to rest on the laurels of the past, but there are still epic days to come. In addition, the “devoted old guard looks forward to your presence at the Colosseum”. There is no other choice but to stay “Out for Glory”.
The album immediately slips into “Fear of the Fallen” which the band released as a single in May. What begins slowly soon tears itself apart. Switching from steel opera to speed metal revival, the group takes listeners further in the sound journey. If heads weren’t banging before, they are now.
“Best Time” and “Mass Pollution” follow to bring the perfection of power metal. Both are catchy tunes that are sure to be a hit at any concert. They are the sound panacea for lazy blood.
The tone changes a touch on the song “Angels” without ever sacrificing intensity. The musical offspring of guitarist Sascha Gerstner, the song shows how members past and present combine their talents to stave off gold. It’s sort of one of the few tracks that could only exist on the current album.
“Rise Without Chains” is a resounding hymn metal invocation. It sounds familiar in the sense that it could have been composed at any point in the band’s history. “Indestructible” follows suit before giving way to the growl and rock of “Robot King”. The disc then plunges into “Cyanide” leaving one to wonder if the album will ever slow down.
The frantic rhythm subsides in the blink of an eye before triggering the maniacal sizzle of “Down in the Dumps”. While the lyrical content is more depressing than the generally uplifting material here, it never feels like a depressing track. Sad without wallowing, it is a piece electrified by frenzied guitars and soaring voices.
The instrumental track “Orbit” is easy to miss as it seems like a long intro for the final song “Skyfall”. However, it heralds the arrival of the closest to the epic opera so perfectly that there is no reason for them to be separate tracks. Yet the point is that Hello ends wildly with a 12 minute song that must be heard to be fully appreciated. If for no other reason than this is a phenomenal example of each singer – Kiske, Hansen and Andi Deris – in turn. While everyone has their own wonderful moments throughout the album, the way they all come together on “Skyfall” makes it not only a stunning display of vocal complexity, but a prime example of what makes this record special.
Like the whole album, the closing track brings together the best of Helloween over time. A notion reinforced by the cover of the artist Eliran Kantor, with visual elements from the entire history of the group. The whole record is heavy metal at full throttle. He attracts attention and never loosens his grip. Lead guitarist Michael Weikath is at the pinnacle of metal music mastery. The voices make acrobatic leaps through the octaves, transporting the listener into the stratosphere. The drums and bass pound a heartbeat keeping things more than alive, they seal the nails of the coffin on any doubt: Helloween is at his peak.
Fans of the band are sure to have a lot of fun. However, while the casual listener might not initially be interested in 12-minute tracks, there are plenty of songs for metalheads in a hurry. “Best Time” and “Mass Pollution” can satisfy any speed metal fan, while “Fear of the Fallen” is ideal for the nostalgic headbanger. It’s quite likely, however, that sampling any track will eventually make the listener want more. Fortunately, there is a feast on Hello.