Pumpkins and weird shit. That’s been the basic Helloween formula since 1986 when some clever bugger thought it’d be fun to hide sheep noises in power metal albums. The musical progression of the band since 1998’s stupendous Better Than Raw has consistently delved into the additional of keyboards, and despite Unarmed splitting opinion with a stripping down of their most famous numbers, the German metal machine has ploughed headfirst into 2010.

Ever a self-referencing band, 7 Sinners has it’s fair share of nods to previous work, the most obvious being Who Is Mr. Madman?, the title along with the musical malevolence tipping a hat to 1994’s Perfect Gentleman. The band said that this record would be a return to form and it’d be a heavy one, and they haven’t failed to deliver but it’s nice to see it’s slightly quieter than the previous album who’s sound suffered a little of Death Magnetic Syndrome. The lead single, Are You Metal? is oft said to be a backlash at those who lambasted the band for Unarmed, claiming they weren’t metal, but Bodom-esque keys and a chilling video inspired by the Saw franchise say otherwise.

While keeping the metal boot firmly on our neck, Helloween once again deliver a barnstorming chorus or two with Raise The Noise and If A Mountain Could Talk, the former being a stadium barrage of heavy metal, the latter a melancholic lament of despair. The ‘cheese’ factor of Helloween has long been washed out of the sound, the oddities in the music like pan pipe solos have a quirkiness to them instead of the outright juvenility of something like Rise & Fall.

At times, Andi Deris is exceedingly visceral in his vocal delivery, after 16 years screaming for the band, you wouldn’t complain if he couldn’t hit the highs anymore, but Are You Metal? has the man screaming like he’s in his twenties. The songwriting is as hook laden as ever, World Of Fantasy filled with vocal lines that’ll stay with you through the entire album.

Helloween have by all means had their dodgy stage, the early 90s, but those who deprive themselves of the world-class metal on offer here are clearly in need of intrusive ball surgery. Think about it this way, Kai Hansen hasn’t put out a decent album since 2006 and Michael Kiske doesn’t like metal. If it still makes sense to want these two in Helloween , give me the nod and I’ll get the men in white coats to take you to the room with comfy walls.

8/10

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