Hellryder – The Devil Is a Gambler Review

Imagine a world where members from Domain, Gregorian, Grave Digger, and Orden Ogan join forces. This world is full of cheesy heavy metal and even cheesier power metal. There are castles and dragons, maidens and jesters, kings and queens. But genres have mixed. Instead of shiny armor, the knights are clothed in black leather. The queen serves as a groupie to the local tale spinners. And, the womenfolk have hair bigger than the menfolk’s broadswords. This is a place where stories of love are equally as common as those of war and mythology. It’s a strange time. Conformity and individuality struggle daily. Can members of this society compromise? Evolution is inevitable. Can they combine their best traits and push on to build something greater than their two parts? Lo and behold, this world exists—for better or worse. It’s the world of Hellryder, and according to them, The Devil Is a Gambler.

The masterminds behind this bizarre supergroup are Grave Digger‘s Chris Boltendahl and Axel Ritt. Both playing the same respective roles here: the first at the mic, the second on guitar. The difference here is that this ain’t Grave Digger. Or even Domain, Ritt’s previous band. There’s a lot more urgency in The Devil Is a Gambler than there ever was in Domain‘s repertoire. This is mainly due to the gruffy, punchy voice of Boltendahl. It’s also due to the modern heaviness the band brings to an old-school style that mixes ’80s heavy metal with Motörhead. The band’s debut record is a short and sweet rock album. No song exceeding four minutes so, let’s get to it before it ends.

The opening title track hits the road running, delivering gruff and tough vox to match the beefy guitars. It’s Road Metal in its truest form. Cruising down the highway on a motor-pickle belting out a chorus charged with Motörhead. Follow-up track, “Sacrifice in Paradise,” shifts the bike into an even higher gear. With one of the most satisfying riffs on the record, this song powers down the centerline with a chorus straight from Gormathon‘s Following the Beast. Then biker buddies “Night Rider” and “Bad Attitude” join the ride. Like “Sacrifice in Paradise,” “Night Rider” has a killer riff. It gallops side-by-side with the opener, delivering a Lemmy-esque chorus with Boltendahl flair. But “Bad Attitude” is my favorite track on the album. No, not because it describes my everyday attitude. It’s because of the fun, hard-hitting similarities to “Night Rider.” Not to mention the fact that Boltendahl goes all-out Chuck Billy on this one.

On the flip side, the band also tackles slower-paced pieces. “Passion Maker,” for instance, is a sorrowful Motörhead piece. Short and sweet, it doesn’t deviate from its gentle approach. On the other hand, the title track is an old-school, mid-paced rocker and chuggier than the rest. Unfortunately, after “The Devil Is a Gambler,” the album begins to go from fun and energetic to stale and generic. “Jekyll and Hyde” and “Chainsaw Lilly” are two of the problems. These tracks would be enjoyable without vocals. The latter track’s lyrics, in particular, are cringeworthy. And its chorus is maybe the least pleasing of the lot. Then there are the verses of “Jekyll and Hyde.” Those are the worst.

All in all, The Devil Is a Gambler is a fun ride. The front half outweighs the back, but it’s enjoyable road music for sure. Unfortunately, the middle of the album is the weakest, and it’s hard to look forward to back-half numbers like “Bad Attitude” and “Harder Faster Louder.” And while the closer is a solid cover of Domain‘s “I Don’t Wanna Die,” I’m not sure why it’s there. It comes off as odd self-promotion, being that some of its members are part of Hellryder. Regardless, The Devil Is a Gambler is definitely fun, if not consistently fun.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: ROAR! Rock of Angels Records
Websites: rockworld24.bandcamp.com | hellryder.de | facebook.com/hellryderofficial
Releases Worldwide: May 28th, 2021

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