The Tim Burton-style cover art should have been a dead giveaway, hinting at the distinct possibility of Straight Out of Hell being one of the most cinematic and expansive records in the Helloween canon. This being their 14th studio album, Straight Out of Hell is rife with war imagery, uplifting messages, cosmological exploration, angry recrimination, and in one instance, a Utopian tale of a doomed imaginary empire … oh, and there’s also a love ballad, a sweeping epic really titled “Hold Me In Your Arms” that Hollywood ought to snatch up before investing in another one of Nicholas Sparks’ cloying romances.

No one can accuse the veteran Germanic power-metal outfit of repeating thematic lyrical patterns. Still lightning fast and intent on constructing increasingly grandiose arrangements, Helloween balances heavy, mauling riffage and speedy, mind-bogglingly complex guitar solos and twin leads with mellifluous melodies here. All this, plus Dani Loble’s blinding blast beats and Helloween’s flair for unexpectedly fluid dynamic shifts are on display on tracks like “Burning Sun,” the piano-laden “Waiting for the Thunder” and the hook-filled “Far From the Stars.”

This is classic Helloween, always willing to switch galloping speed-metal horses mid-stream and go for the throat, as triumphant anthems “Live Now!” and “Another Shot of Life” are shot through with undying optimism and fist-pumping choruses – as well as whirling keyboards, slickly executed tempo changes and churning guitars. On the other hand, “World of War” washes radiance over trampling, trudging death-metal rhythms, while the exotic, charging, head-spinning sand storm “Nabataea” should be splashed across the silver screen – in 3D, of course. Straight Out of Hell’s most interesting and gripping track, the massive “Nabataea,” so reminiscent of Iron Maiden, is also one of its most diverse, with incredibly scenic descents and majestic, breathtaking climbs onward and upward well past where eagles dare.

An absorbing sonic experience from beginning to end, even if the simplistic and bitter “Asshole” seems beneath them and the record appears to be bereft of standout tracks, Straight Out of Hell: Premium Edition isn’t a game-changer for Helloween. Nevertheless, it does find Helloween closing in on perfecting their dramatic, shock-and-awe formula, blowing away audiences with their dazzling musicianship and bombastic instrumental flourishes, the occasional daring trespass into prog-rock territory, ambitious songwriting from Michael Weikath, Andi Deris, Sascha Gerstner and Markus Grosskopf, and the ability to weave fantastical tales made for the widescreen.


Read Powerline’s interview with guitarist and co-founder Michael Weikath


Read editor Pat Prince’s review of Straight Out of Hell.