Looking at the cover of the new Helloween album, it strikes me that these chaps made quite a career out of the whole “not taking ourselves too seriously” schtick. They’ve been at this for 30 years, eternally projecting the same jokey-hokey, fun-timey German thing while essentially creating the entire Euro-power genre singlehandedly. That intrinsic lack of seriousness permeated the music more over time, and the cutesy pumpkin monsters and cornball lyrics have at times been too much to bear, leading some (me) to take their music less and less seriously as the years went by. And while they have some classic albums under their bright orange belts, they’ve also dropped some clunkers that reinforced every nay the naysaying were naying. My God-Given Right is their sixteenth album and it’s business as usual at Camp Gourd. You get the same lightweight, poppy Euro-power with more hard rock and traditional metal creeping into the writing. At times this sounds like a half-assed collaboration with Europe and Accept and it’s mostly easy listening, mildly infectious powder puff metal devoid of depth or I.Q. But when it’s fun, it’s fun and the balance of the material is enjoyable enough to please the sweet tooth of long time Helloweenies, while probably giving everyone else insulin shock.
Things start off exceptionally cheesy but solid with the oh so wacky “Heroes” which is essentially a primer on what the band has been doing for the last 10 years. It’s bouncy, poppy and reasonably metallic with the inevitable build to the big sing-along chorus of “everyone can be a hero. We are! We are!” Is it silly? Are you seriously asking? But hey, it’s harmless and fun will probably go over gangbusters live. Follow up “Battle’s Won” is even more over-the-top gouda with what passes for an epic power metal chorus these days. It’s good but so painstakingly generic it hurts to like it. The title track is one of the best on offer with a more meaty, metal approach and the anthemic chorus has more oomph and less pouf. It’ll still be forgotten in a week’s time though the Pumpkin Storm troopers in the video can never be forgiven.
The rest of the album drops off from here, though it’s hard to deny the pop appeal of lunkheaded tunes like “Stay Crazy” and “Lost in America.” Then there are the less successful bits like “The Swing of a Fallen World” (huh?) and “You, Still of War” (huh??), neither of which leave much of an impression beyond the pressing need for an ESL instructor. Later on they swipe a riff from the Blue Oyster Cult classic “Astronomy” and proceed to waste it, and later still they cram a Russian styled jig into a mega-cheese sandwich called “If God Loved Rock n’ Roll.” Mileage may vary based on tolerance for dairy. The heaviest they get is the relative barn burner “Claws” and while it’s a nice change in pace, it comes so late in the play order, the damage has been done and the heavy-minded are long gone.
Despite the quality of the particular song, Andi Deris does a capable enough job vocally and he’s become quite adroit at the droll delivery these ditties usually require. The man has a good voice but isn’t asked to do as much with it as in the past. The best part of the album is the guitar-work of Michael Weikath and Sascha Gestner. Though the bulk of the riffs are pretty straight-ahead and simplistic, they do generate some memorable harmonies and the solos are adequate to elevate some of the lesser material a notch or two.
The biggest issue facing My God-Given Right is that it’s so lightweight and also over an hour-long. That’s a lot of piffle to piff upon and by the ninth or tenth tune I was overpiffed. Add to that the fact there are at least three ditties that could go bye-bye and not be missed and you have yourself a classic filler conundrum.
At this stage of their career, there’s no point in knocking them for being silly since that IS their career and they made some degree of bank on it. This isn’t as memorable as Straight Out of Hell, but if you like your Helloween silly, poppy and mindless, this is your Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. For me, it’s an exercise in cherry picking and moving on to the next orchard (which better not be a cherry orchard).