HELLOWEEN – Better Than Raw (Expanded Edition)


Sanctuary Records
Release date: May 16, 2006

User Review
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Welcome to the last of a series of eight total reviews that Metal Express Radio has written to cover each of the recently released Helloween “Expand Edition” releases. In review, the first eight full-length studio releases by Helloween have been re-released as remastered, expanded edition CDs by Sanctuary Records. Each edition includes several bonus tracks consisting of single B-Sides, remixes and live renditions.

Part eight of this “mini-series” focuses on the Expanded Edition of 1998’s Better Than Raw release. Just like the other USA re-releases in this series, the packaging is a glossy, heavy-duty cardboard sleeve that engulfs the plastic jewel case. The front and back of the sleeve contains artwork from the original LP sleeve. The back of the sleeve also contains the track listing, including the bonus tracks.

The solid offering of 1996’s The Time Of The Oath studio release, followed closely by a double disc live album High Life, proved to put Helloween back on solid ground once again with fans. Following up with Better Than Raw (the title is based on an inside joke by the band as discussed in the liner notes interview), which not only had the same line-up for the third studio release in a row, but was also another solid offering that was more than the “icing on the cake.”

Better Than Raw produced two singles in “I Can” and, perhaps the most infectious Helloween song ever in Helloween history, at least up to and including 1998, “Hey Lord!” The release opened with another classic, stereotypical intro with “Deliberately Limited Preliminary Prelude In Z” (what a mouthful), which was Classically influenced, leading into the speed and frenzy of “Push” and “Falling Higher,” both classic Helloween tracks. The musicianship on both the opening tracks is masterful, especially the frantic over the top drumming of Kusch. The completely Deris-penned “Hey Lord!” features an infectious, almost self-spoken, melody line — yes melody … in a Helloween song! Another shining moment is the memorable riff in “Handful Of Pain,” once again showing off utterly brilliant songwriting. End to end, there really is no weak track; even the Latin-based “Lavdate Dominvm” is very tolerable.

This particular re-release edition is a single disc set that includes only four additions from the original release, stemming from one Japanese bonus track and the remaining three from the B-sides of the two singles released for the original album. The four bonus tracks are represented by two studio tracks and two live tracks. The studio tracks include “Back On The Ground” and “A Game We Shouldn’t Play,” both non-filler Helloween tunes and both worthwhile to own. The live tracks are “Perfect Gentleman” and “Moshi Moshi-Shiki No Uta,” which is an entertaining live drum solo. Both tracks can be taken or left depending on how you feel about live tracks in general.

Once again, highest marks for the liner notes. This one features a 12-page booklet that includes the original LP cover on the front page and a reprint of the vinyl album’s original jacket sleeve. Like the previous Expanded Editions, this one contains another 2006 interview with guitarist Weikath offering insight into the band during this time frame. The liner notes contain reprinted lyrics for all original LP tracks and credits for each set of tracks.

Bottom line, this album delivered more quality Helloween Metal to the masses in 1998. The bonus tracks, while not as “valuable” as some of the other Expanded Editions in this series, are still welcome additions to an avid Helloween fan’s collection. If you’re a new Helloween fan and have bought the discography up to this point, then this Expanded Edition is a no-brainer “must buy.” Diehard fans will need to justify the cost of repurchase based on only four bonus tracks, even though they most likely won’t be displeased with the purchase!


Andi Deris – Vocals
Roland Grapow – Guitar
Michael Weikath – Guitar
Markus Grosskopf – Bass
Uli Kusch – Drums


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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