"My God-Given Right"

(Nuclear Blast)

01. Heroes
02. Battle's Won
03. My God-Given Right
04. Stay Crazy
05. Lost in America
06. Russian Roule
07. The Swing of a Fallen World
08. Like Everybody Else
09. Creatures In Heaven
10. If God Loves Rock 'n Roll
11. Living on the Edge
12. Claws
13. You, Still of War

RATING: 8.5/10

HELLOWEEN are unstoppable. Now through 31 years and fifteen albums, the German power metal legends show no sign of quit and plenty of signs they'll do whatever they damned well want on their latest offering, "My God-Given Right". The way this band can play to the fast and melodic level of the inspired (if sarcastic) "Battle's Won" is genuinely moving, but it's just one of many varying tones to be found on this often looney album. "My God-Given Right" sounds passionate if delightfully crackers, and with the benefit of a stable lineup that's hung together through five straight albums now.

Michael Weikath and Markus Grosskopf have to be pleased as hell (or HELLOWEEN, if you like) their troupe shows no sign of fatigue after three decades, a revolving door of players and a couple of prog-weird moments that could've easily done them in. HELLOWEEN have announced that "My God-Given Right" is considered a back-to-the-roots album and there's some substantiation of that, but the actual motif is…there is none.

The title track is both harmonious and step-heavy (ditto for "Creatures in Heaven"), spanning much of HELLOWEEN's career, while the stupidly infectious rocker "Stay Crazy" heralds portions of "Master of the Rings" along with 1980s power rock, particularly the way it jettisons then settles back into a power pop chorus. Perfectly placed after "Stay Crazy" is "Lost in America", a riotous jam in the vein of "I Want Out" and equally sardonic in talking about HELLOWEEN's stranding for 17 hours after a flight cancellation and their subsequent inebriation in-wait.

Andi Deris has a ball singing the mid-tempo thumper, "Russian Roule" as he recounts the pivotal moment in his post-school life to become a professional singer—and the affiliated external influences, both positive and negative. Deris hits some funny falsettos and the band slogs through a whimsical gang chorus as "Russian Roule" whumps giddily along.

Before this album turns into another nutty, hip-slung affair like the "Metal Jukebox" covers album (the rump-shaking "If God Loves Rock 'n Roll" notwithstanding), HELLOWEEN gets a bit more serious on the cumbersome trudge of "The Swing of a Fallen World", (and later, the 7:21 apocalyptic closer "You, Still of War") which Andi Deris likens to "The Dark Ride" years. It's certainly the heaviest and fiercest cut on the album with a killer thrash burst amidst the song's overt traipse. Guitarist Sascha Gerstner wrote the somber ballad "Like Everybody Else" during the "Straight Out of Hell" recording sessions. With a stout set of backing vocals and sprinkled piano behind Andi Deris, his song bleeds without melodrama.

Some critics are dismissive of the capricious dynamics on "My God-Given Right", but that should hardly deter most HELLOWEEN fans. Veteran listeners know this band drops dimes without notice, if "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2" wasn't warning enough in 1988. If you're wanting a smorgasbord of thrashers and stompers ("Claws" being one of the faster bits on this album), then drift back to "Walls of Jericho" and "Better Than Raw". If you're open-minded to what the band's doing here, "My God-Given Right" is full of diverse throwback pleasures. Hey, it's not "Pink Bubbles Go Ape", so chill out already.


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