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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews


Gambling with the Devil

Review by Gary Hill

Considering Helloween’s legacy and how much they’ve brought to the metal world over the last years, there’s a bit of a desire to just “rubber stamp” this as, “here’s another great album from Helloween.” The truth is, that wouldn’t really be fair or honest. Don’t get me wrong, there is only one song on here that would have trouble standing next to the best stuff coming out today. It’s just that Helloween seem capable of much more. While there is a lot here that is every bit as powerful and trademark as their classic material, they also seem to be trying to hard to fit into the modern metal era. Extreme metal vocals here and there, nu-metal arrangements at other points, all point to a band that’s trying to find their place in a changed world of metallic music. The thing is, Helloween is legendary enough and talented enough that they don’t really need to do that, and it feels a bit contrived at times. They should just follow their hearts and not worry about keeping up with the metal trends. The truth is, the classic bands will endure and remain long after the more trendy groups have gone. Gambling With the Devil is a great album. It just has a few weak points.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at
Track by Track Review
Crack The Riddle
A bit less than a minute in length, this is carnival sound effects with a weird voice challenging you to “bet your soul” in a gamble with the devil.
Kill It
This is frantic metal with a technical epic approach. The vocals alternate between more extreme (just a bit short of “cookie monster” singing) and more melodic old school metal. The guitar sounds and riffing are stellar and the chorus is quite catchy. They drop it back to a sedate, soundtrack music motif mid-song. A verse is sung over the top of this, then they shift it out to the heavy and dramatic in a dark epic metal approach. A tasty guitar solo is worked over the top and symphonic elements flirt on this arrangement, too. They turn it out into a killer grind from there with more soloing coming in on top of this backdrop. They work it back out to the song proper after a time to take it to its close.
The Saints
If you thought the last one was fast, fasten your seat belts because we’re about to kick into overdrive on this introduction. After several measures of super-fast fury, they shift out to a melodic sort of epic metal approach. When it moves to the song proper we get a more straightforward metal sound, but when they take it away from the verse, the progressive metal gears click into control. We get some very progressive like changes and musical creations, but all delivered with metallic crunch. This song is quite dynamic and very powerful. It’s a classic example of what has always made Helloween the powerhouse that they are. This is one of the strongest pieces on the disc and the chorus is extremely catchy. The melodic, yet extremely crunchy instrumental segment is nothing short of brilliant. An old school movie music sort of sound closes the track.
As Long As I Fall
They start this one with keyboards. As they build this up and add the vocals it seems a bit like modern nu-metal. They pound it out to one of the most melodic and catchy jams on the disc. If they are looking for a track to release for airplay, this would be it. It’s an interesting change up and quite accessible. I’m just not sure that it’s a standout. It seems like the band is capable of so much more. Still, the staccato, segment, feeling a bit more like neo-prog like Dream Theater than anything else, is a great touch. So is the guitar solo that follows/continues this.
Paint A New World
This is a step back in the right direction. Here we get more frantic Helloween complete with technical, melodic instrumental work. This is a screamer that has a lot of elements of vintage Helloween. It’s kind of like a more modern take on the vintage sound. It’s one of my favorites on show here. The turbo charged guitar tour-de-force later is simply incredible.
Final Fortune
This one is a bit more straightforward and less technical. That said, it’s a scorching metal tune with its roots in the true steel, old school sound. It’s another highlight. The twin guitar instrumental grind later is classic. So is the frantic guitar solo segment that scorches out afterwards. The track definitely turns more technical from there for a time, but then drops back to the main song structure to carry on to the conclusion.
The Bells Of The 7 Hells
Sound effects and a tolling bell gives way to another scorching riff. This one reminds me a bit of Judas Priest and is simply incredible. The only trouble is when they drop it back to the more nu-metal techno ballad approach for the first verse. The good thing is, that doesn’t last long and they come screaming out again in great fashion. It’s brutally hard edged and still extremely catchy. Now, that’s a combination. The melodic instrumental segment and guitar solo that follows it are very tasty. When they drop it back after this to a more stripped down mode it doesn’t really have the nu-metal feel to it that the piece suffered from earlier. They turn this out into a dark, technical jam from there. The stuttering section that follows is another movement that feels a lot like Judas Priest. From there they return for a time to that nu-metal portion, but it doesn’t remain long, giving way to a reprise of the more aggressive sounds. This is another highlight of the disc.
Fallen to Pieces
Effects with spoken vocals bring this in. Then a modern metal balladic type motif takes over and the first singing of the tune debuts. While this segment doesn’t work all that well, it shifts out into a powerhouse sort of epic metal jam from there that more than makes up for any weakness in the mellower segment. The track alternates between these two motifs. The guitar solo section on this is simply awesome. A killer riff lays down the backdrop from some exceptionally tasty fret work. This gives way to a motif that feels a bit like a cross between vintage Helloween and Queen. Then we turn towards more melodic modern prog rock. This moves to another crunch-fest grind. Then we get more of the nu-metal ballad stuff. From there it ramps back up to the best epic power metal sounds. This is really a great track that would have probably been a bit better without the nod to modern nu-metal.
Coming straight out of the previous number, this one doesn’t mess around. It’s heavy and fast paced with a classic metal approach. They play it a bit more straight forward on this one. While it has some elements of more modern metal, they pull it off a lot better here. They seem to be more committed to the sound. The guitar solo section is a killer and when they drop it back to a more sedate verse afterwards, it works quite well, too.
Can Do It
If there’s a loser here, this would be it. It leads off like something from “Grease” given a metal treatment. Once they shift out to more pure metal it’s still quite generic. This one just feels awkward and a bit silly. The instrumental section almost saves the track, but even on that segment they have that “Grease” mentality. I know this is supposed to be the empowering, singalong stomper, but it doesn’t make it.
Coming in with a sound that feels like a combination of soundtrack music and some old time jazz, they shift out into a smoking, technical power metal jam from there. This is just what the doctor ordered to get us over the doldrums created by “Can Do It.” They drop it back to vocals and just the rhythm section for the verse and power back up into some of the most trademark Helloween sounds of the whole disc. The instrumental section on this one is stellar. This is definitely a highlight of the disc and a new classic from the group.
Heaven Tells No Lies
This pounds out of the gate with a screaming, classic power metal sound. It’s another new classic from the band, feeling like it could have come from any of the classic albums. Melodic fast paced metal sounds, potent vocals and some killer progressions and changes all combine to put in one of the disc’s best pieces. It’s a great way to end the CD.
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