Helloween – “My God Given Right” (Nuclear Blast)
30 years on and this year is the anniversary of Germany’s power metal gods Helloween! As if rebelling against convention and stereotypes these were happy smiling Germans (!) whose sense of uplifting elation and joy flew in the face of the very metal world at the time, even adopting a cartoonish ‘pumpkin man’ mascot guaranteed to rile up everyone from corporations to Maiden’s own Eddie the ‘ead. Musically it was something else: helium vocals, high speed metal with plenty of singalong melodies, double bass drumming and a feeling of high beyond high that saw the band soon reach success. Sadly offstage, there were plenty of line up changes with original drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg taking his own life in ’95 and some dodgy albums like “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” along the way too. These days it’s only guitarist Michael Weikath and bassist Markus Grosskopf that remain from the founding line-up, although they are joined by Pink Cream 69 vocalist Andi Deris, Freedom Call guitarist Sascha Gerstner and Blaze Bayley drummer Daniel Löble. Despite its serious title the underlying concept of Deris’s clarion call is for people to follow their dreams instead being sheepish, and symbolized by the grey ‘Day After Tomorrow’ 3D cover deliberately featuring little color variation. Musically, however, I would say that it’s back to the good old days of 80s Helloween but with a modern take reflective of the maturity and experience of the band if ‘Living On The Edge’ is anything to go by. Deris’s more rock and mid range vocal style add a stylish flair to the material thought back in the day by some as being frivolous, whilst the rhythm is also somewhat heavier, the double bass drum work now having plenty of pummeling toms thrown in as well. The dual guitars of Weikath and Gerstner are also somewhat grown up, still churning out heaps of memorable uplifting melodies but equally lots of hard driving metal riffs like on ‘Claws’. Overall, the mix is more balanced between the instruments with the high end being less prominent, arguably displaying a more rounded band these days. Still, you’d be hard pushed not to appreciate the likes of ‘Lost In America’ which reminded me of my fave Helloween anthem ‘Future World’, or the Freedom Call sounding ‘Battle’s Won’ complete with heavenly trumpets, and ‘If God Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll’ is where the band is heading it’ll be my god given right to support and singalong merrily once again to Germany’s pumpkin men!!!