I don’t get it, why don’t Power Metal bands just dump classical intros? RHAPSODY I can deal with since classical music is a part of their musical concept but when it comes to other bands, especially HELLOWEEN, I just wait for it to end or skip it if it doesn’t catch me after hearing it the first time.
”Better Than Raw” contains eleven tracks of Melodic Power Metal, what else did you expect, Death Metal with Punk influences? I think it’s a very heavy album by HELLOWEEN standards (“The Time Of The Oath” still is their heaviest ever); this album has some very heavy and energetic songs like ”Push”, ”Falling Higher”, ”Midnight Sun” and the monstrous ”Revelation” which is the best song on the album, so damn powerful and well written, reminds me of ”Mission Motherland” from ”The Time Of The Oath”.
As tradition would have it there are some slower songs but they don’t do as much as the fast and heavy ones; come to think of it I don’t think they have ever been that good with ballads or anything mid-paced. However doubtful the quality and capabilities of HELLOWEEN’s skills in writing slow stuff may be, ”Hey Lord” and ”A Handful Of Pain” are two noteworthy mid-pacers which proves they can if they put enough inspiration into it.
Kai left an empty space that has yet to be filled. After his departure every HELLOWEEN album has had some pretty lame songs; ”I Can” could have been used as the theme to a modern ”Rocky” movie and nothing more, ”Don’t Spit On My Mind” fails to catch my attention because of the weird and atypical atmosphere it has (why the silly keyboards sounds?). There’s more. ”Time” is probably the most uninspiring ballad in the HELLOWEEN catalogue and things don’t get better when you hear Deris preaching in Latin language in ”Laudate Dominum”, the chorus is not gifted at all, it just doesn’t do the trick.
The guys play their instruments with such precision and power, that’s the one thing you can never complain about. The sound is heavy but polished compared to the raw sound on ”The Time Of The Oath”. You’ll find all trademarks the band is known for though it’s clear they want to enrich their sound on this release. There are flaws, no big secret; the band just hasn’t been able to hold the standards from older albums.
You should enjoy this album if you like Power Metal executed with unmatched precision, if it fails to entertain you can always laugh at the funny pumpkin drawings in the booklet, the pumpkin never disappoints. (Online April 8, 2004)