Better Than Raw



by VTK USER (5 Reviews)
September 17th, 2009 | 12 replies

Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: As the title suggests, the album is better than raw. Actually, it's much better than that.

Better Than Raw's team:

* Andi Deris - Lead vocals
* Michael Weikath - Guitar
* Roland Grapow - Guitar
* Markus Grosskopf - Bass Guitar
* Uli Kusch - Drums

* Jorn Ellerbrock - Keyboards
* Tommy Hansen - Keyboards
* Jutta Weinhold, Ralf Maurer, Christina Hahne, and Helloween members - Backing vocals


During the end of the 80's and early 90's, Helloween suffered from several setbacks - firstly, guitarist Kai Hansen suddenly decided to take his leave mid-tour. Then, the quasi-non-sensical "Pink Bubbles Go Ape" and... for a lack of more appropriate words, the very disappointing "Chameleon" and its abrupt straying from the band's original style, triggered a commercial failure as well as the fateful split with vocalist Micheal Kiske and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg going their way. Most bands would probably either fold or retire in obscurity after such disasters and with the peak of their career long gone. Amazingly enough, Helloween survived, and got right back on track with "Master of the Rings". The following album, "The Time of the Oath" confirmed that the band had returned and was dead serious about it. Now, "Better Than Raw" is the definitive proof of said seriousness - it ventures into stranger and more experimental field, and ends up sounding even better. Now, a song by song overview:

Deliberately Limited Preliminary Prelude Period in Z (1:45) - 'Tis the intro. Just by looking at the track's title, it wasn't for any reason that the previous paragraph describes the album as "stranger" than the others. The content confirms the suspicions - it has an obvious neo-classical influence to it as the string section sound dominates the song and booming percussion, with the distorted guitar only joining in halfway through the introduction and serving rhythmic purposes. It is quite neatly composed, and induces the listener into a strange dark air with its mid-tempo - which can be felt throughout the album. An excellent prelude - with the exception that there won't be a lot of neo-classical influences to be heard. 4/5

Push (4:47) - The opener. So to say, a very maniacal one and something a listener wouldn't really except after the more inviting introduction. Deris sings in pitches high enough to make one think he'll shatter glasses alla round the globe - but to everyone's reliefs, it is not that high. The guitars do not stop quiet and are always blazing, whether if in the background infiltrating your ears or in front of everyone in the solo (which is quite forgettable, by the way). The bass remains somewhat hidden, but quick and changing notes fast enough to enhance the aggressive feel of the song. And the drums just keep pounding relentlessly, with some nice snare and bass drum work being executed by Uli Kusch. All in all, a highly aggressive opener that, er, really "pushes" itself into your head. Very violent (in a good way!) - 4/5

Falling Higher (4:48) - Not as aggressive as the previous song, but still going as fast as a sprinter. Helloween sounds more like themselves in this song, playing in a more familiar ground but not disappointing by any means - uplifting riffs, a drumming that wakes anyone up, a catchy yet interesting chorus, a frantic guitar solo - and le gasp - a very audible and prominent bass line! Markus Grosskopf makes his impression, whether if he's side by side with the guitar or doing his thing during the solo. A remarkable track. 4.5/5

Hey Lord! (4:07) - It could be said that "Hey Lord!" is the album's obligatory ballad, as it is remarkably slower than any other song in Better Than Raw (except "Time") and of course lacks the double bass pedals. What happens in most "ballads" (with Power Metal albums, at least) is that they try to melt the listener's heart or get them to cry, or feel sorry for someone, etcetera. However, "Hey Lord!" doesn't fall for the clichés. Despite its slower tempo and a violin(ish) intro, the guitar riff instantly lift one's head up, while the bass guitar and the drums work together very well, creating a magnificent groove that one can't help slightly and slowly headbagging their heads. But truly, no one that exposes their ears to this song will never, ever forget the powerful vocal chorus and always keep in mind that time is short. 5/5

Don't Spit on My Mind (4:25) - This one falls a more on the eerie category as the song's introduction might transport the listener to a swampland at night. It then proceeds to maintain a strong groove throughout the song. Coupled with a somewhat slow-moving chorus (and Deris constantly reminding you to not spit on his mind) and a synth work during the guitar solo (probably) meant to further the song's peculiarity, it's a good song but not as outstanding as what the album had put forward thus far. 3.5/5

Revelation (8:23) - Hinted by the track's length in comparison to the other ones, Revelation is Better Than Raw's "epic", if there must be one. The tracks open with an obscure keyboard and an easy-going guitar solo, but soon the song erupts into a frenzy similar to what was originally seen in "Push", but a little bit groovier and "thrashier". The diamond shines stronger when the track reaches its middle portion, where a staccato riff and proper use of the drum's toms brilliantly accompanies Deris's low-pitched delivery. The guitar speeds up soon after and the bass drum mauls on the background for a short while before embracing a slower pace which is highly pleasant to the eyes. A short shred follows, then the song returns to its course, navigating towards the chorus for the last time and finishing strong. Revelation may seem a little bit boring when dissected part by part, but it is worthy of being called an epic with its well-timed slow downs, memorable guitar work and precise drumming. 4.5/5

Time (5:45) - This one here is overall quieter and slower - at first, although it definitively sounds like the band itself, the song starts off as a track that could've been laid by a prog rock band. It can make the listener lay back his head, but not make him sleep - Deris does a great job at singing low registers in the verses and Grosskopf maintains the calm atmosphere with categorical long notes with his bass. "Time" really picks up during the chorus and from the midsection onwards, also featuring a solo that doesn't need to go as fast as Usian Bolt to remain interesting. A solid song, overall. 4/5

I Can (4:39) - "Highly energetic" are the two words that best describe "I Can". Although aimed at a wider audience, the band manages to keep itself very strong throughout the song - despite Deris never threatening glasses, or either guitarists shredding the guitar much or Kusch unleashing the double bass pedal. It has a very catchy introduction where the drums (via hi-hat and strong bass drums), guitar (via chords) and bass start off, then another guitar joins in with this strange but addicting riff, then everything speeds up - no individual will be spared of the massive energy influx they will feel. Afterward, the listener only gets awesomeness - a blasting bass guitar which does not stop quiet and goes "up and down' in the pre-chorus, a vocal work by Deris that can be appealing to anyone, a chorus which really makes you think that you can (please do not listen to this song while handling unknown substances - it may encourage you a little too much) and a short yet striking solo. It has all of the ingredients for an anthem. Only if more people were exposed to Helloween... 4.5/5

A Handful of Pain (4:48) - "I believe what we call a game it's just more than a handful of pain". Doesn't sound too cheerful, does it" It's quite dark, featuring some really thick bass lines and in particular, some really tight harmony between Weikath and Grapow (nohomo) which makes one think that somehow a single guitarist is playing the main riff and the accompanying notes at the same time, as well as showcasing's Deris' wide pitch range and showing he's more versatile than he seems like. Another highlight is the chorus with the vocal harmony tying it perfectly with Deris' singing. One more rock-solid song to the collection. 4.5/5

Lavdate Dominvm (5:12) - In terms of strangeness, "Lavdate Dominvm" easily takes the cake - largely for the fact that the lyrics are in Latin (they're supposed to be humorous (Author's note: I think), but who speaks Latin AND listens to Helloween nowadays") and that Deris' singing in the verses is unusually rough for the album's standards - which is actually quite fitting for the language but sounds somewhat out of place at the same time. The track is overall cheerful, though, with happy riffs and bass lines, a drumming that does not go overboard and a cute-sounding vocal chorus, with your usual shreddin' solo. Doesn't stand out too much and feels a little bit cliché (despite the language), but is still a pretty fun ride. 3/5

Midnight Sun (6:20) - Better Than Raw could hardly have a stronger finish than "Midnight Sun". It opens up with a swift guitar supported by Kusch's bombastic drumming and Grosskopf shifting his hand left and right in the strings of his bass guitar, followed by an ultra-fast solo which is again enhanced by the durmming. The verses and the chorus all feature very aggressive drumming, guitar picking and bass playing - but not as abrasive as "Push". Deris sings a fairly high pitch and stays strong throughout the song, but his performance is somewhat forgettable because the instruments really take over during the 2 minutes and a half long solo. All of those truly leave a mark in the solo - despite much of the guitar solo amounting to little more than quasi-mindless shredding, the darkish feel is perfectly bolstered by Grosskopf's persistent yet shifting bass and Kusch's merciless drums(Author's note: I actually listen the solo for the bass and drums!). The solo ends powerfully with a drum solo that keeps up with the song's air and full of kinetic energy - the last verse and chorus follows. If one was to walk to the nearest hill, put his headphones on and play "Midnight Sun" while watching the sun set and the night take over the sky, he'd be assured to feel so good he wouldn't give a crap about anything else while the track ran its course. 5/5

Overall - 4.25/5 (rounded down to 4/5 given the website's rating limitations) - A very, very solid effort by Helloween that doesn't sound like any other. It is a definitive improvement since The Time of The Oath, too - none of the tracks fail to deliver something and the album keeps the steam going regardless of how fast or slow a track is. Better Than Raw may not be revolutionary and get a wee repetitive here and there, but every Power Metal fan should own this one. Other metalheads might even get into the genre through this record (albeit they'd be better off by exploring the Keepers first).

Recommended Tracks:

Falling Higher
Handful of Pain
I Can
Midnight Sun

user ratings (293)
other reviews of this album
Venpts16 (3)
It may be “better than raw”, but there are much better Helloween releases than this....

Comments:Add a Comment 
September 17th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

Took me some time to do this one, happy to see I've finished. Second review, go lightly!

September 17th 2009


why the track by track, why?
But not a bad review writing wise.

September 17th 2009


Oh manomanoman this is a long review. It's pretty good though.

September 17th 2009


Could never get into this band.

September 17th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

I'm somewhat attached to this album, so I felt the need to single out every song. I'm not a fan of the style either, but I couldn't really come up with a review any other way. :c

September 18th 2009


Album Rating: 3.5

Not a fan of the TBT, but I do like this album. It's their first good album since the Keeper of the Seven Keys albums. If you haven't heard "Gambling With The Devil" than you should because it is an awesome album.

September 18th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

Very good review, this is one my favorite Helloween albums.

July 26th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

For me one of the best albuns of helloween... 4.5 rate

July 26th 2011


no more track by track

August 10th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

The next one will be better but Better Than Raw was the first really above average record these guys made since Pink Bubbles Go Ape. My favourite songs here are Hey Lord!, Don't Spit on My Mind, I Can, A Handful of Pain and specially Push. Andi Deris performance on Push is unbelievably powerful.

Digging: Venom Prison - Samsara

October 26th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off



January 21st 2015


Album Rating: 3.5

'It's their first good album since the Keeper of the Seven Keys albums'

I know it's an old comment but they have other good ones since Keeper II. I will say that it's probably their best since Keeper II though.

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