With no less than 3 masterpieces, two of which are still considered genre defining and heavy metal classics, Helloween were hailed as the new Iron Maiden of their time. They didn’t live up to this title; instead, they became the most influential European power metal band of all time. However, when they released “Chameleon” and “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” they left their puzzled fans wondering if they will ever be able to stand on their feet again, especially without guitarist Kai Hansen, let alone become as huge a name as Iron Maiden. A few changes in formation later (exit singer Mikael Kiske , enter Andi Deris) and the band begun a career full of descent records, with very few highs and lows and a faith to the sound they had pretty much invented themselves. Only 2000’s “The Dark Ride” found the band straying a little from this path, with its darker aesthetics, something odd for a band with a healthy devotion to a happier, “feelgood” sound.
The mention of “The Dark Ride “ isn’t accidental, because if I were to name the closest relative to “7 Sinners” among Helloween’s discography, it would most certainly be that one. Not that we are talking twin records here, it’s just that “7 Sinners” is again very heavy for a Helloween record. Curiously enough, “7 Sinners” starts with two mid tempo songs, “Where the sinners go” and the album’s single, “Are you metal”, the former starting with tribal drums (!), the latter including aggressive staccato riffing and ironic lyrics. And then with “Who is Mr. Madman” the band introduces the basic idea of the album; the song starts with a very heavy, downtuned riff that will also sound appealing to fans of the US power (personally it reminded me of an overweight edition of Hall of the Mountain King by Savatage, with modern production) only to explode with an anthemic, trademark Helloween chorus and twin lead guitars later during the solo. This is pretty much how the record sounds, except that it is a little moodier than typical Helloween. The use of American-friendly riffs is very characteristic of this record. Take for example “Long Live the King” that sounds as close to thrash metal as Helloween can ever get.
As always there is room for a nice “ballad”, however “The Smile of the Sun” brings to mind “If I Could Fly” rather than “A tale that wasn’t Right”, Furthermore, a big part of the record, while darker than usual retains the good vibe found in Helloween records; such is the case with “Raise the Noise”, “The Sage, the Fool, the Sinner” and “World Of Fantasy”, whose intro must be their tribute to Ronnie James Dio as it sounds exactly like a part from the solo of “Light In the Black”.
The only problem with this record is that, as usual with every band that has a long career and a trademark sound, at times it may sound too familiar, despite all the effort of this old dog to learn new tricks. Not all songs are memorable, not all choruses deliver and in general the record is a little uneven. “Raise the noise”, “You stupid Mankind” and “My Sacrifice” they all make a good first impression because of the excellent riffs, but in the end they are way too generic to be appreciated. Same goes with “World of Fantasy” and even “Far in the Future” this record’s progressive (i.e. longest) track drags a little too much.
In conclusion, while Helloween’s new record won’t break any grounds this time, it certainly won’t disappoint any fan of the genre either. If anything, given that the experiment which finds them fusing their classic European Power Metal style with some heavier chops is overall a successful one, this new approach makes them more interesting. For a band that serves for 26 years the world’s most stubborn audience (you know how open minded power metal fans can be…), this is everything.