Helloween - 7 Sinners (Sony)

The third in a trilogy of exceedingly superb records, 7 Sinners continue Helloween’s galactic return to form.

Metal as Fuck talked to Helloween veteran guitarist Michael Weikath not too long ago and we both agreed on a salient point – the fresh blood injected into the wintry veins of Helloween in the form of guitarist Sascha Gerstner and drummer Dani Loble have resurrected a sleeping metal leviathan from the bed of mediocrity. The debut of the pair on Keepers – The Legacy made people stand up and take notice; Gambling With the Devil lured their attention further; 7 Sinners will definitely get them cheering and raising the flag for Helloween once again.

This doesn’t sound like a 25 year old band that’s past its prime. They sound fresh, invigorating and decidedly new by all accounts. The cuts are tight, modern yet still giving a solid nod to their 80s roots. The cheeky self-referential track Are You Metal? might be funny in tone but the chops are nothing to be trifled with. Deris’ more strident vocal style is in abundance here as heard on the Weikath penned The Sage, The Fool, The Sinner and in the bombastic sequel to the award winning (for Most Tasteless Video) Perfect Gentleman, Who Is Mr. Madman?

Fluid and dizzying soloing is the order of the day, found on each and every track – they even bust out the old “chattering” standard for If A Mountain Could Talk, sounding like an offcut from Master of the Rings that was denied entry for being too progressive and too ballsy. The great strength of this record is the songwriting; they don’t stick to their usual formula – they almost outright reject it.

Even the obligatory ballad The Smile of the Sun isn’t typical, taking acoustic twists and turns into grandiose choral territory that Andrew Lloyd Webber once planted his flag in so firmly. Thrashy crunch and thrilling guitar-driven melody can be heard on the aggressive cuts My Sacrifice and Long Live the King while 80s hard rock meets the metal instrument Jethro Tull made famous (the flute, that is) in World of Fantasy. The epic, classically oriented closer Far In The Future really does throw down the gauntlet to their contemporaries – Tobi and Kai – you’re officially on notice. It’s real Keepers era brilliance, rich with magnetic and majestic vocal attacks, speed, guitar wizardry and an outstanding orchestral approach to their rhythm and melody. The clear, chunky and bright production by Charlie Bauerfeind (Blind Guardian) is certainly a big plus.

7 Sinners is another proud moment in Helloween’s slow but steady resurgence in power metal and metal in general. They put back the power in their particular brand of power metal with tidy and diverse songwriting, vocal and choral attacks that always strike their target and demolition-grade drumming that isn’t afraid to dominate for great effect. It’s a great album; I expect to see Helloween in Top 10 lists once again!