The third consecutive release from Helloween with lead singer Andi Deris, Better Than Raw is a power metal gem from start to finish, cementing the German bands legacy as pioneers of the genre. After a few albums in the early 90's with their former singer Michael Kiske failed to live up to expectations, Helloween brought on board Deris and returned to form with Master of the Rings and Time of the Oath, both hailed as winners from critics and fans alike. 1997's Better Than Raw was once again produced by Tommy Hansen, and most of the lyrics this time around were tackled by Deris, with both guitarist's Michael Weikath and Roland Grapow contributing the music.
There's plenty of speed metal classics here, like the rampaging "Push", the manic "Revelation", and the power metal chug of "Falling Higher", each with no shortage of dual guitar riffing, blinding solos, histrionic vocals, and relentless rhythms. The anthemic "Hey Lord" and grindingly heavy "Don't Spit On My Mind" both offer up something a little different from the band, and really show the talents of singer Deris. Other highlights include the catchy yet proggy "Time", the intricate grooves and melodic hooks of "A Handful of Pain", and the crushing thrash of the killer 1-2 punch that ends the CD, "Lavdate Dominvm" and "Midnight Sun". Both these tracks offer up an assortment of metal riffing, wicked solos, and some of Deris' best primal screams on the album.
As with all the Helloween Expanded Edition remasters, you get a bunch of bonus tracks and full booklet with Weikath interview, photos, and full lyrics. Two of the bonus tracks here are especially good-the Japan only "Back onthe Ground" and the b-Side "A Game We Shouldn't Play", both blistering power metal barnburners that every Helloween fan will want in their collections. Once again, kudos to Castle/Sanctuary for a solid remaster of a Helloween classic.
1. Deliberately Limited Preliminary Prelude in Z
3. Falling Higher
4. Hey Lord!
5. Don't Spit On My Mind
8. I Can
9. A Handful Of Pain
10. Laudate Dominum
11. Midnight Sun
12. Back On The Ground -bonus
13. A Game We Shouldn't Play -bonus
14. Perfect Gentleman -bonus
15. Moshi Moshi-Shiki No Uta -bonus