Album Title: My God-Given Right
Label: Nuclear Blast
Year Of Release: 2015
There’s always an exception to the rule. In the case of Helloween, they are the exception to the rule that Germans have no sense of humour. That’s utter nonsense of course, it’s just a silly stereotype and the five musicians that go by the name of Helloween are the proof if proof were needed. Helloween Throughout their career, theirs is an output that has always been laced with more than the occasional joke and self-deprecating good humour. In fact it is their general bonhomie that has endeared them to metal fans the world over who don’t always want their listening experiences to be serious and po-faced. Of a high quality, yes, but ingrained with a sense of the light-hearted and fun. The fact that crowds at their live shows chant ‘happy, happy Helloween’ serves to underline the manner in which they are regarded by the band’s faithful.
My perspective on the self-monikered pumpkinheads is arguably a little different from many others. There are those who go all the way back to the band’s earliest incarnation with Michael Kiske on vocals and consider ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1’ and ‘Part 2’ as near God-like classics of the power metal genre. They are indeed very fine albums but I myself came to Helloween a little later and I fail to have such a powerfully-held affinity with these releases from 1987 and 1988 respectively. Instead, I discovered Helloween via their 1994 album ‘The Master Of The Rings’ and promptly took the record and the band to my heart. The choruses were so damn catchy, the songs so memorable and, with tracks like ‘Perfect Gentleman’, ‘Where The Rain Grows’ and the absurdly fun ‘The Game Is On’ that sang the praises of the Nintendo Game Boy and even sampled some of the device’s most famous sound effects, Helloween’s sense of playfulness was underlined.
By discovering Helloween at this stage, I was also unconcerned by the band’s change of singer; indeed I rather enjoyed Andi Deris’ heavily accented, unique approach and still do. For me, he is as much a part of Helloween as his predecessor Kiske; more so if you consider their relative involvement over the years.
Personally, I prefer Helloween when they deliver music that is fast, melodic, catchy and here’s that word again: fun. Over the course of their fourteen previous albums, original members Michael Weikath, Marcus Grosskopf and Co. have toyed with a number of incarnations including more epic and dark themes (‘The Dark Ride’), a more grandiose and symphonic approach (‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy’) and the downright odd (‘Pink Bubbles Go Ape’). With ‘My God-Given Right’, they have chosen to return to their more straight-up power metal anthem territory and as such, I can’t help but enjoy the results.
I’m not meaning to sound disingenuous when I say that album number fifteen, ‘My God-Given Right’ is what I’d refer to as ‘minimal effort enjoyment’, it’s more a statement of fact and one that I believe works in the band’s favour. I refer to my opening paragraph – not everyone wants serious and challenging music all of the time. There are times when I want a blast of classic melodic power metal that offers the kind of music when I can throw back my head and sing along with manly gusto. ‘My God-Given Right’ provides just this kind of tonic and, for the most part it is fantastic.
The album opens strongly with a trio of tracks that are simply brilliant. ‘Heroes’ offers a nicely-crafted melodic and almost soothing verse with a punchy chorus, ‘Battle’s Won’ is a fast-paced double-pedal driven power metal anthem with an overblown, hook-laden chorus and the title track is, if anything, even better. The verse has an understated feel to it that is reminiscent of ‘Master Of The Rings’ era material but it’s the chorus that transcends the song into Godly anthemic realms. Deris belts it out as powerfully as I’ve ever heard him and, coupled with a gorgeously memorable melody and more double-pedal drumming, it is devastatingly infectious. There’s even a moment in the middle where everything quietens down before building inexorably to another rendition of the chorus. Magnificent.
The good news is that even after such a great opening, there are plenty of high points remaining within the album. ‘Stay Crazy’ features some utterly ridiculous lyrics but thanks to a classic 80s metal-meets-melodic hard rock sheen and another breezy carefree chorus, the silliness is easily overlooked. To be honest, silly lyrics are part of the charm of Helloween and would be missed if absent. To underline this point and the humorous element of the band, look no further than the preposterous ‘If God Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and the spoken word segment that suggests that ‘even in heaven you need a bass guitar, a guitar and a second guitar’. The track is not meant to be taken seriously and is saved by another chorus that’s relatively strong and worthy of attention.
As evidenced within ‘A Swing Of A Fallen World’ and closer ‘You, Still Of War’, however, Helloween demonstrate that they have not entirely abandoned their more symphonic and epic attributes. That said, these moments are definitely the exception rather than the rule on this record.
The slightly disappointing news though is that the aforementioned quality is not always maintained throughout the thirteen tracks on the album. Tracks like ‘Claws’ and ‘Russian Roule’ fail to make the same kind of impact and if I wasn’t reviewing the album, I could have been tempted to press the skip button on my stereo. They aren’t necessarily bad tracks but they have a slightly flat feel to them; they strike me as filler fodder, threatening to undermine all the good work elsewhere.
That said, and bearing in mind the awful quality of the mp3 files that were offered for promo purposes, I have to say that ‘My God-Given Right’ is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable album that Helloween have released for quite some time. The good far outweighs the not so good and when all is said and done, when Helloween get it right on this album, they get it very, very right indeed. You want melody, fun and a care-free classic metal listening experience? Then I suggest you unpack your air guitar, warm up the vocal chords and get your ears around ‘My God-Given Right’.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld