Originally released in 1998, Better than Raw is, in my humble opinion, the absolute best album Helloween has released since the classic Keeper of the Seven Keys albums. By bringing in former Pink Cream 69 vocalist Andi Deris to replace Michael Kiske, the band seemed to regain the focus and energy missing from the last couple of Kiske albums. All of the Deris-era Helloween albums are quite good, especially those released in the 1990’s, but Better than Raw stands out as the best of the bunch.
This is Helloween doing what they do best – delivering the kind of high-energy melodic power metal that they pretty much invented in the first place. Everything about this album, from the songwriting to the music to the cover art is an improvement over its predecessors. The album is full of strong tracks, though songs like Push, Hey Lord, I Can, and Midnight Sun stand out. This is the kind of album that would bring old-school Helloween fans back to the fold, and one of the only albums released since founding guitarist Kai Hansen left that is truly on par with his band Gamma Ray’s albums.
Sanctuary finally got around to remastering the Helloween catalog earlier this year, and they certainly did it right. In addition to digitally remastered sound, the reissued version of Better than Raw serves up 4 bonus tracks – Back on the Ground, A Game We Shouldn’t Play, and live versions of Perfect Gentlemen and the bizarrely titled track called Moshi Moshi-Shiki No Uta, which is essentially a 7-minute drum solo with some guitar soloing thrown in for good measure. You also get expanded liner notes, photos, etc. plus a nifty slipcase for the disc.
This is what a remastered version of a great album is supposed to look and sound like. If you’re already a Helloween fan, it’s time to replace your old version!