Album of the Week 34-2019: Helloween – 7 Sinners


After the departure of guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch, Helloween was adrift for a while. ‘Rabbit Don’t Come Easy’ was a confused mess and ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy’ an overlong double album that tried too hard. ‘Gambling With The Devil’ was a welcome return to form for the Germans. The album’s highlights – the brilliant ‘Paint A New World’ in particular – are still among the band’s best material, but the album did have its consistency issues. ‘7 Sinners’ fixes these with a collection of powerful, melodic power metal anthems that will refuse to leave your head any time soon.

In the years preceding ‘7 Sinners’, Helloween had gone from a leader in the power metal field to a band forcing themselves into formula they had devised themselves two decades prior. ‘7 Sinners’, on the other hand, sounds like the band wasn’t trying to be anything. The album is filled to the brim with generally well-written songs that are often catchy, sometimes a bit silly and usually quite bombastic. Unlike ‘Gambling With The Devil’, ‘7 Sinners’ doesn’t really feature any skipworthy songs, though ‘The Smile Of The Sun’ isn’t exactly one of the stronger ballads the band has to offer.

Bassist Markus Grosskopf stated that ‘Where The Sinners Go’ and ‘Are You Metal?’ were the first two songs written for the album and they are the opening tracks of the record, as kind of a mission statement. The former is a midtempo stomper with an above average amount of aggression, while the latter proves that on a good day, Helloween knows perfectly well how to inject a little silliness into the music without sacrificing any of the melodic and catchy qualities they possess. The anthemic flute solo showcase ‘Raise The Noise’ and the excellent semi-epic ‘If A Mountain Could Talk’ are other prime examples of that craft.

Despite those moments, ‘7 Sinners’ is one of the darker Helloween albums in overall tone. And it’s there where the album truly shines. ‘World Of Fantasy’ is a tale of escapism wrapped in a fantastic power metal tune of which the melodies are full of hopeful melancholy, while the odd theatricality of the proggy ‘My Sacrifice’ accounts for one of the album’s most pleasant surprises. ‘Who Is Mr. Madman?’ reprises the main melody of ‘Perfect Gentleman’ in what is furthermore a delightfully defiant power metal tune with an incredible chorus. ‘Long Live The King’ and the amazingly epic diptych of ‘Not Yet Today’ and ‘Far In The Future’ display a degree of dark aggression I thought was lost after ‘The Dark Ride’.

Helloween sometimes loses direction and needs someone to put them back on track every once in a while. Whoever it was this time – the writing credits would suggest their expressive singer Andi Deris – it really worked. ‘7 Sinners’ is the most consistent Helloween album since ‘Better Than Raw’ and certainly the crowning achievement of the line-up with guitarist Sascha Gerstner and drummer Dani Löble. The only minor complaint is that Charlie Bauerfeind’s ultra-bombastic production sometimes makes Helloween sound more like former Helloween-worshippers Blind Guardian than themselves, but it just works for this material. For what it’s worth, I prefer this to the original two ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys’ albums.

Also, bonus points for bringing back the little pumpkin illustrations depicting each song. Especially because Marcos Moura’s comic style is much more fun to look at than the dull computer art of the pumpkins in ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy’. His style also feels like a tribute to the cool illustrations Frederick Moulaert did for the classic Helloween stuff.

Recommended tracks: ‘World Of Fantasy’, ‘My Sacrifice’, ‘Far In The Future’, ‘Who Is Mr. Madman?’

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