“Nabataea” kicks things off with a bit of a Middle Eastern introduction that grows into a stronger similar atmosphere in the lead chords. Things definitely do seem a little more upbeat, and the aggression the band has shown lately, laced with a decent amount of energy, some additional complexity, and epic elements prior to and during the chorus. The second the music kicked in, I was banging my head right along. I didn’t notice at first this is an over seven minute track until the huge shift to a bit of a darker tone around four and a half minutes in, sticking with this until a good minute and a half to the end when it goes back to the chorus that had me singing along, falsettos and all.
“World of War” does find a bit of a dismal tone, but one that is approached in a glorious manner. Coming in at a traditional length of just under five minutes, the main verses have a much heavier sound to the chugging guitar riffs, and the bass really sticks out here a lot more. The chorus itself is when things start to appear a little more hopeful, shifting into a far more melodic approach that also picks up the speed a little more. There is a guitar solo that ushers in a bit of chaos at first, having some tight fretwork going on throughout before heading into more of a classical Heavy Metal output that simply sounds beautiful against the music. There’s a few slower sections that follow, as well as a brief secondary solo that helps to break up any monotony as it builds back up to the faster chorus with some very loud crashing cymbals that erupt two random times before closing on the heavier, dismal note it started on.
“Live Now!” introduces some crystal-like keyboards that sound fantastic, but largely drowned out during the heavier moments of the loud music. The chorus is a largely simple performance with a little more of an open sound to it, making it easier to get into, especially with the louder keyboards that try to take on a sound more like the guitars. The less intricate vocal performance and lyrics seem to work well with it. In the end, it’s nothing too spectacular, but works as a good anthem at least if you approach it that way.
“Far from the Stars” throws back to the largely melodic Helloween approach. The riffs are a little stronger than “Live Now!” but there’s no denying the main verses are a little weaker, but far from bad or bland. The chorus builds up nicely from it, and the riffs end up a little tighter and faster than the choppy ones that made up the other sections, though it still isn’t anything that fantastic either. This is the farthest thing from filler, but you can’t deny it’s some of the most basic Helloween you can come across. That is, for the most part. Towards the four minute mark, it does pick up the speed, as well as richness, and throws some more keyboards in for good measure that are added into the recap of the chorus once more before the song concludes.
“Burning Sun” finds some more of the intricate guitar work, but in a more intimidating manner that rings of Judas Priest influence. The additional keyboards that appear from time to time give it a grander tone, usually before the chorus that goes back into a melodic approach once more. This finds plenty of layered vocals at work as well that give it a bit of an operatic approach.
“Waiting for the Thunder” really stands out. While it’s definitely a basic Hard Rock meets Heavy Metal performance, it’s handled quite well. The main verses focus on the bass and drumming, largely the cymbals, and uses a near-spoken harmonization for the lyrics. The bridge builds the music up a bit more once again, crashing into an emotional, moving melodic piece complete with subtle keyboards that really add a stunning atmosphere to the track. If this song doesn’t become a single at some point, I will genuinely be surprised, as it definitely is geared towards that role.
Much of this can also be said for “Hold Me in Your Arms,” except there is no speed to it. This is a slower ballad piece with some acoustic guitar work in the main verses, but again finds more of an epic performance in the chorus that sounds great. The vocals don’t really pack that much enthusiasm or passion, but it works for the subtle performance overall that greatly benefits from the additional guitar work.
While I’m liking much of Straight Out of Hell, I caught myself kind of wishing it were over in some spots. There are plenty of stand out tracks that I’ve heard so far, but when things do become basic Helloween, it literally becomes the most barebones rendition of the group’s sound. On top of that, I noticed a pattern not too far into the album, usually verse, bridge, chorus (or two) two times, guitar solo, chorus, conclusion. There were a few variances here and there, but for the most part it largely became predictable. As a fan of the band myself, I’m definitely gonna be eyeing this up for my collection as the release date draws near. It still has plenty of catchy tracks that already are lodged in my head on repeat. But, I don’t see myself spending as much time with it as I did with 7 Sinners, something I’m sure many others may do as well based on what I’ve sat through already. Hopefully the rest of the album offers more material as inspiring as the first few tracks.