It's been often debated that Helloween have been sliding in recent times, yet releases like Gambling with the Devil can easily refute any negative claims against our German buddies and their contemporary material. Honestly, the Andi-Deris era has had its flaws with previous efforts, but everything that could possibly go right for Helloween's second musical stage is found in this sensational CD. For the first time since Keeper of the Seven Keys II, these power metal idols have finally hit the lucky jackpot with Gambling with the Devil.
So do you like the epic atmosphere of Keeper of the Seven Keys II, or the heaviness of The Dark Ride? Whatever you enjoy, you'll find it here. Helloween remains wonderfully poetic with flying music and catchy songs, yet the blunt heaviness of everything adds such a great element to this CD that it's simply golden. Gambling with the Devil is just straight-forward power metal the way Helloween created it to be. Don't expect any silly experimentation or unneeded genre alterations; it's just the power metal performance we all love to hear.
Andi Deris has been in the Helloween camp for years, and after a decade of filling Michael Kiske's shoes (whom is conclusively the more superior of the two); our longtime buddy has finally found his niche. Vocally, Deris is absolutely impeccable compared to his previous material, meaning he's wildly improved on his pitch, vocal tone, singing ability, and general style. As one could expect, he nails high wails and screams like it's a piece of cake, but not without applying a great transition between higher and lower worlds; it is a truly amazing voice this man has. Also, Deris carries the traditional flame of singing like the happiest man in the world, but he really avoids the cheese factor when performing it here. Hearing his voice makes me want to plant flowers and help old women cross streets!
There is just one issue that stops this CD from being Helloween's best release to date, and it's the somewhat predictable atmosphere found in every track. The boys have established a unique sound over time, and that voice has been applied in every CD that holds the Helloween moniker; this one is no exception. Occasional periods of familiarity will strike without warning, which has always been a minimal burden in Helloween's lifespan; yet be aware the wonderful other things within this disc crush this tiny inconsistency will ease. Still, Gambling with the Devil is unquestionably one of Helloween's prime items, even with the slight déjà-vu episodes.
In retrospect, Gambling with the Devil is one of the strongest releases from the Pumpkin Crew in a very long time. Everything is spot on: the vocals, the riffs, the drums, and the whatever-I-missed; it all connects flawlessly. Haters of Andi Deris and his current reign in Helloween will be surprised by the pure consistency of this CD, and it'll certainly turn their views right around. It's definitely the best thing to emerge from the Andi Deris-era thus far, and probably ever.