Andi Deris has now been fronting the illustrious HELLOWEEN 19 years, can you dig it? Those few still clinging to the archaic opinion that HELLOWEEN died with Michael Kiske ought to wake up by now, because this band has soldiered on as one of the highest caliber metal acts the genre's ever known. Only a couple of hiccups through 14 albums (diehards know which ones by inference), HELLOWEEN has produced an enviously consistent catalog that continues in brisk fashion with "Straight Out of Hell".
Moving at top flight on the first two opening numbers, "Nabataea" and "World of War" and then "Far From the Stars" and "Burning Sun", HELLOWEEN seems hardly interested in innovating their craft further than it already is. Rather, they keep to task from recent offerings such as "Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy", "Gambling With the Devil" and "7 Sinners", focusing strictly on refinement. They possess what DRAGONFORCE digs hard for but doesn't quite tap into because of the latter's obsession with scorching arpeggios delved in milliseconds. HELLOWEEN has historically been about thrash and power metal opulence without the gratuitous embellishments, yet expect nothing less than the best these guys have to give.
Using the opening numbers of "Straight Out of Hell" to vent about war and destruction in a classy manner, "World of War" touches on the financial and human costs of mass conflict. "Nabataea" discusses the ancient civilization near Jordan and its capital hub, Petra, only discovered in the early 20th century behind a curtain of cliffs. Legend has it the citizenry of Nabataea was the only peace-loving society of its time. Leave it to Andi Deris and HELLOWEEN to throw accusation against modern warmongers in gentlemanly fashion. A little more blatant in their indictments, however, comes on the blistering closing track, "Church Breaks Down".
Then there's the trad metal shanty "Live Now!" which HELLOWEEN is frequently good for at least once an album ever since their breakout anthem "I Want Out" from "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2". "Live Now!" sounds straight out of an "Iron Eagle" or a late-Eighties teen angst flick soundtrack, only with a couple of subliminal textures such as brief string touches and a cybernetic feedback to portions of the electric jerks. Likewise, the ornate proto ballad "Hold Me In Your Arms" might not scorch up the singles charts of today, but it certainly would've haunted "Headbangers Ball" for a long time back in the day.
"Waiting For the Thunder" pulls the reigns back on the forthright speed in the early goings of "Straight Out of Hell", and in similar fashion to "Live Now!" HELLOWEEN executes a tone-heavy power jam straight outta yesterday. It's easy to pound a fist against your thigh along with "Waiting For the Thunder" because it's flawlessly executed and so confident in its pounding effect you don't care what year it originates from. The title track maintains the same mid-tempo stride, only with heavier, meaner touches on the downstrokes yet with colorful bridges leading to vibrant, dichotomous choruses.
Not that this album doesn't have a couple of left-of-center moments such as the tribal incantation "Wanna Be God" and the juvenile if hilarious roasting of contemporary AOR bands with "Asshole". Picking the pace back up with the breezy grandeur of "Years", the agro thrash of "Make Fire Catch the Fly" and the compelling speed whirling about the stamping verses of "Church Breaks Down", "Straight Out of Hell" becomes another fan-pleasing spell cast from HELLOWEEN's steeping metal cauldron.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.