HELLOWEEN are known as the inventors of ‘German Melodic-Speed-Metal’ and are creative pioneers and one of the most successful Metal bands in personal union since their beginnings in 1984. If there is a golden thread throughout more than 25 years of band history, 13 studio albums, countless headliner tours around the globe and far more than 5 million sold records, then it’s the special kind of humor: don’t take yourself too seriously and simply live statements like: “just have fun with the shit you’re doing.” Maybe it’s exactly this easiness, that allows HELLOWEEN to be one of the most constant bands of the genre, and yet the one that at the same time dares to experiment more than others and has defined Metal in advanced and modern ways for decades. While some copycats rather stick with the same old patterns, Andi Deris, Michael Weikath, Sascha Gerstner, Markus Großkopf and Dani Löble aren’t afraid of risking something – and are rightfully rewarded with success.
“7 Sinners” proves all that once again. It’s definitely one of the fastest and hardest albums in the band’s history, bursts with vitality, presents sensational novelties – and still is a record in best HELLOWEEN tradition. That might partly be due to the versatility of the various songwriters within the band, who over time have become so homogenous, that the 13 songs have formed a unity on their own in the studio – but there also is a very concrete explanation. The album was recorded completely without a click track, which, considering the extreme speed of the songs, borders on ‘high-performance music’. Especially drummer Löble showcases that his technique is at world-class-level. Following his excellent inner clock, bass and drums drive tracks like “Are You Metal?”, “Long Live The King” or “Who Is Mr. Madman?” to dizzying tempos and still neither sound strained nor sterile. Bands who dare such a technique, have been situated in slower realms to date.
“Who Is Mr. Madman?”, whose intro is again congenially spoken by Saxon’s Biff Byford, is interesting for another reason as well. The composition by guitarist Gerstner is effectively the successor of ’94s “Perfect Gentleman” and lets the protagonist look back on his life full of lust and what is left of it 15 years later. The so-called mortal sins, among which lust is one, are the overall concept of the album. “7 Sinners” plays light-heartedly with the heavy symbolism of the seven main vices. The artwork, once again stylishly designed by Martin Häusler, mirrors the motive just as masterfully. This is also a specialty of HELLOWEEN: touching dark themes and turning them into something constructive, owed to their positive attitude.
And this quite deliberately. Not audible for the normal ear, yet another important aspect of “7 Sinners” is the instrument’s tuning to chamber pitch 432, instead of 440. Although musicology agreed on 440 Hz in the 50ies, it’s been found today, that 432 Hz is the more natural frequency for the human ear and therefore radiates a relaxing effect. It was the band’s idea, to record this extremely hard album in a calm frequency and in such a way oppose balancing vibes subconsciously to the supposed agitation of Speed-Metal. Definitely a unique approach, at least in this genre.
The atmosphere was equally as relaxed beneath the palm tree roof of the “Mi Sueno Studios”, where the recordings took place from April to August 2010. Charlie Bauerfeind, the long time producer, describes the sessions to “7 Sinners” as maybe one of the most casual productions with the band. Disregarding climatically difficult circumstances – a power cut destroyed one mixer, two computer modules and at least three microphones – the recordings had holiday flair.
Additional contributions came from a second sound engineer who relieved the production side, as well as from keyboarder Matthias Ullmer, who – like on the two previous albums – has in the meantime nearly become a band member during recordings.
This explains why more keyboards than ever can be heard on “7 Sinners”, adding another facet to the record. The fact that Ullmer doesn’t have long hair and isn’t a die-hard Metal head meanwhile is of no significance to the quintet. HELLOWEEN just don’t think in these categories.
It was agreed, that “7 Sinners” shouldn’t only be sounding lively, but also emanating a live feel was crucial to the selection and arrangement of the songs. And the anticipation of performing stadium smashers live, like “Raise The Noise”, “Where The Sinners Go” and “Are You Metal?”, is clearly audible on the album. Complexity doesn’t have to contradict this disposition, neither in regards to lyrics nor music. “You Stupid Mankind” is the best example for the fact that social criticism can be presented in a multi-layered and modern way. Andi Deris puts it like this: “I love Metal. I listen to a lot of music, new stuff too. Why shouldn’t I develop my songwriting with sounds, that I have just fallen in love with?” This way a quiet song has found its place between the tough Speed-Metal tracks like “Long Live The King” and the in the best sense typical HELLOWEEN songs like “If A Mountain Could Talk”. “Not Yet Today”, the intro to the last song of the album, describes a time when Andi cared for a friend lying in coma and had to confront the topic of letting go. Fortunately, everything turned out to be all right – but the feeling of “corresponding with another world” as a “silent witness” lingers on.
“7 Sinners” with its typically strong melodies and the tangible joy of playing, is a straight album whose range reaches astonishing dimensions, even for HELLOWEEN: the experienced five manage to develop further and break limits once again, without selling their ‘Speed-Metal soul’. Not only the front man looks forward to the “7 Sinners Tour”, which starts in November and will take the band all over the world one more time until the end of 2011. The singer casually puts the band’s vibe in a nutshell:
“We are still fans.”