Listening back to Helloween’s Gambling With The Devil now – it was first released, you’ll remember, in 2007 – the first thing that strikes you is that how well the album has aged. Not because it was a particularly forward-thinking record when it was originally released, although the strategic use of symphonic keyboards all over the record was quite a departure, albeit a very successful one – but rather because the songs on the original version of the record were almost uniformly excellent – certainly good enough to withstand re-perusal now.
This iteration carries added value for the collector in the tacking on at the end of four bonus tracks. The last of these, Never Surrender, is quite superb, being a curious mix of the band’s own battering Euro metal and Whitesnake circa the 1987 album, and is quite possibly worth the price of admission on it’s own depending on your viewpoint. (For the record I think it’s one of the most marvellous things I’ve ever heard Helloween do).
But back to the album proper. Opening spoken word intro Crack The Riddle still remains a ridiculous exercise in confused doggerel, not even aided by Biff Byford’s stone-faced delivery. But after that, the band hit the ground running and, clunking Eurovision-styled disaster Can Do It apart, don’t let up for the rest of the record. The ‘’proper’ opening track Kill It features Andi Deris in lascivious, growling style backed by meaty guitars and the first in a series of winning contributions from (then) newish drummer Dani Löble. But, good though the track is, far better lies beyond as you journey deeper into the album. The Saints is the band at their best in the speed/power metal field, marrying neoclassical melodies and middle-European bluster in equal measure, and the excellent Paint A New World prompts memories of Walls of Jericho, but the most effective material here finds the band laying off the hammer slightly; As Long As I Fall is the sort of euphoric radio metal later perfected by Tobi Sammet and Avantasia, whilst the more progressive delights of Final Fortune and Fallen to Pieces both show the band in unfettered creative mode, Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner weaving sonic tapestries in beautiful style.
Sentinel Daily editor Scott Adams asked me to place this album in the Helloween Pantheon in the course of this review, and that’s a hard one, but for my money it’s the best Deris-fronted album apart from the excellent Master of the Rings. If you don’t already own this album but do enjoy the music of Helloween, then there’s every reason to get hold of this with record with all celerity. And even if you don’t count yourself as a fan, there’s enough here to make a successful reacquaintance. Go to it!
Gambling With The Devil is reissued by Nuclear Blast on April 19th.