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Review: Helloween - The Dark Ride
The Dark Ride

Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2000
Duration: 52:37
Tracks: 12
Genre: Power Metal


Review online: March 22, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Readers' Rating
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Rated 3.99/5 (79.75%) (81 Votes)

Helloween had been on an uphill stride for a couple of albums before this, after having weathered several rough storms with lineup changes and such, and I have to agree with all the hype here: The Dark Ride is just about the best album Helloween ever put out. Yes, the Keepers albums are classics, and Walls of Jericho is a high quality burst of Speed Metal ferocity, but in my books, nothing they've ever done touches this one.

Let's talk about the band in general, first. Helloween is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the very best Power Metal bands active today, simply due to their boundless creative energy and masterful songwriting power, two things which the band utilizes in spades on The Dark Ride and the three albums before and after it. Few bands can manage both in one album, either using all of their creative energy without the strongest songwriting (Blind Guardian) or the other way around (Gamma Ray). Helloween, however, have been consistently challenging and innovative ever since the inception of fantastic vocalist Andi Deris, with every album sounding different from the one preceding it, and all with dynamic twists and turns around every corner. Yet, despite the rather spastic nature of the band's artistic development, they've never actually strayed from their Power Metal roots. Helloween really is a fantastic example of a band evolving within their own style, and while not everything they do is on-target, quite a bit of it is.

Now, now, don't leave just yet, for I haven't even begun to speak of The Dark Ride itself. This album gets touted as "dark" and "evil" quite a bit, but really, that is not entirely true. If you go into this expecting something as bleak and evil as Beherit, Celtic Frost or even Dark Angel, you will be terribly disappointed - while this album is not QUITE as happy-go-lucky as the band's previous outings, it is still not THAT dark and brooding, either, not like the band and several other reviewers have claimed. There are several songs here with darker, more mystical/creepy lyrics than usual for the band, as well as several with grinding, heavy rhythm sections and slower tempos, but they are all still catchy and rather accessible, boasting commendable sets of hooks and lots of big, anthemic choruses, and there are several that fit the mold of the classic Happy Helloween Power Metal speed cooker, too, serving to lighten the mood after a darker, grinding tune like "Escalation 666."

There are really no bad songs on this album, and only a few that aren't absolutely stellar. "Salvation" is definitely a shoo-in for best song here, a stunning Power Metal epic with blackened, frayed edges that give the song a remorseful, nostalgic feeling, as if it were the choir of a thousand oppressed peasants, crying out to the dark skies for a redemption. The title track is also amazing, with Andi Deris's most dynamic and emotional performance yet, and a superb performance from the guitar team - about half of this song is a galloping, triumphant Power Metal solo for the ages! The slower part in the middle is also beautiful, providing just the right amount of epic grandiosity to what was already a great song. "The Departed (Sun is Going Down)" is the third great track here, and it's quite unlike anything Helloween have done before or since, a slow, epic piece with resonating, echoing riffs playing off one another and a tremendous, anthemic chorus from Deris, along with the best lyrics on the album. The rest of the stuff here isn't quite as godly, but it is all high quality Power Metal in the way that only Helloween can do it.

As I stated before, this right here is Helloween's highest peak, and if you like Power Metal, you should love this album. For a rock-solid collection of great songs with addictive hooks, top-notch guitar work, and a stellar vocal performance from one of Power Metal's best, look no further than The Dark Ride.

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