Picture of Helloween

Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I

Helloween - Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I ©1987 Noise/RCA
1. Initiation
2. I'm Alive
3. A Little Time
4. Twilight Of The Gods
5. A Tale That Wasn't Right
6. Future World
7. Halloween
8. Follow The Sign

Arguably a blueprint for the power metal scene as a whole (though I always referred to this band as speed metal or even thrash back in the era it was released), Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I was a strong album that quite obviously deserves the classic title. Helloween finally got a real singer into the band, letting former vocalist Kai Hansen concentrate more on his guitar playing. Michael Kiske was young and quite adept at hitting the notes that are sure to irritate your household pets. Keeper also stepped a bit away from the more thrashy vibe of Walls of Jericho, putting forth a cleaner, slicker version of Helloween. Much can be said about the melodic and exciting dual leads of Hansen and Michael Weikath, especially in "I'm Alive" and "Twilight of the Gods". Even on the pseudo-balladry of "A Tale That Wasn't Right", Helloween is able to avoid schlock cliche. And their signature track "Future World" aptly captures everything Helloween is about: a certain optimism, superbly catchy songwriting and a grand epic feeling. Speaking of epics, "Halloween" isn't quite up to the level of other epic Helloween songs and is a bit of a bear to wade through. Regardless of that aspect, Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I shows Helloween at what I consider their creative peak and is more necessary in your collection than any current power metal.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/1999

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Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II

Helloween - Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II ©1988 Noise/RCA
1. Invitation
2. Eagle Fly Free
3. You Always Walk Alone
5. Dr. Stein
6. We Got The Right
7. Save Us
8. March Of Time
9. I Want Out
10. Keeper Of The Seven Keys

At the time of this album's release in 1988, I was convinced that Helloween was going to be the next big thing in metal. After all, they had built greatly upon their speed metal/Iron Maiden tinged sound of Walls of Jericho (which had been my only previous outing with the band before Keeper II) and with new singer Michael Kiske only getting stronger and the songs getting better, I was certain that soon all of metal would be singing the praises of Helloween.

Amazing how things turn out. That was the last great album the band would release for quite some time and after a couple years, the band seemingly vanished from the stateside musical radar, except for rumors of a European-only release called Pink Bubbles Go Ape.

Regardless of how things turned out for Helloween, Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II was a very worthy follow up to the first album of the pair as well as one of the best albums of 1988. Building upon the power metal blueprint (still known as speed metal by most in 1988), Keeper II offered listeners classy metal with a strong sense of humor, a great selling point in a genre that has long taken itself far too seriously for its existence. And even with the tongue occasionally planted firmly in cheek, the music was dead serious. Even in its silliest moments, particularly the goofy but remarkably strong "Rise and Fall", the band still could put together a song that worked. The band still brandished their polished speed sound on songs like "Eagle Fly Free" as well as anthemic tunes like "I Want Out", "Save Us" or the powerful "We Got the Right". And naturally the band finished out the saga with the thirteen minute-plus epic "Keeper of the Seven Keys", a multilayered and far ranging song that ended the two album theme. Kiske's singing at times was a bit shrill but most of the time he nailed his melodies with utmost precision. Meanwhile, the band behind him played at peak form throughout, as though nothing could ever stop them in their path.

Nearly every song on this album is close to excellent or in fact, exquisite. It would seem that a huge number of bands have since tried to copy the formula of the Keeper albums and even Helloween themselves have never quite lived up to them (though it can be argued they topped themselves in a different light altogether on 1993's excellent Chameleon). Regardless of where history would take the band, Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II is a phenomenal album that was altogether fun, flawlessly played and well written.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2000

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Live in the U.K.

Live in the U.K. ©1989 Noise
1. A Little Time
2. Dr. Stein
3. Future World
4. Rise and Fall
5. We Got the Right
6. I Want Out
7. How Many Tears

When this live EP came out in 1989, it seemed as though Helloween was on the cusp of worldwide fame and fortune. Their Keeper of the Seven Keys albums were certifiably fantastic and it seemed as though their trajectory pointed only upwards. Enthusiastic fans, such as myself, pictured them becoming as well known and revered as Iron Maiden. This particular album, known as I Want Out: Live in the United States and Live in the U.K. in Europe, furthered my belief in this band.

The seven songs (six on the US version) perfectly capture just how fun this band was during the second Keeper tour. Recorded in Scotland, the band shows tremendous interaction with the crowd, the ability to improvise a bit onstage and play their songs with gusto. Vocalist Michael Kiske has the stage jibber-jabber down pat. I'm sure everyone has seen bands that come onstage, barely say hello, play their songs and leave. There's nothing wrong with that. But there's also a lot to be said for fun banter and recognition by the band that people came to see a show, not carbon copy of their albums. The EP suggests that Helloween would have been a hot ticket to see in 1989.

As we all know, this was the last hurrah of the "classic" Helloween lineup. Guitarist Kai Hansen left the band to form Gamma Ray and Helloween would flounder for a number of years, leaving a wake of acrimonious departures and a degree of tragedy. This EP is an excellent snapshot of the band in their prime and one of the few live releases that becomes a very necessary inclusion in a discography.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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Pink Bubbles Go Ape

Helloween - Pink Bubbles Go Ape ©1991 EMI
1. Pink Bubbles Go Ape
2. Kids Of The Century
3. Back On The Streets
4. Number One
5. Heavy Metal Hamsters
6. Goin' Home
7. Someone's Crying
8. Mankind
9. I'm Doin' Fine, Crazy Man
10. The Chance
11. Your Turn

In the spirit of such major career blunders as Cold Lake and St. Anger, Helloween's Pink Bubbles Go Ape stands as one of the more baffling releases of the early 1990s. The band ended the 1980s as one of the best up'n'coming bands, having issued their fine Keeper of the Seven Keys albums to much praise and fan attention. However, founding guitarist Kai Hansen unexpectedly bailed from the band to form his own band, Gamma Ray. He was promptly replaced by Roland Grapow. Then, to complicate things further, Helloween spent some time battling their record label, Noise, and faded somewhat from the spotlight. And worse yet, by the time the follow up to Keeper II was issued in 1991, heavy metal was beginning its decline.

Back in 1991, as a young, dedicated fan of Helloween (who are one of the very first thrash/speed metal bands I discovered when I was all of 15 years old), I anxiously awaited the follow up to Keeper II and scanned the record store racks. Eventually, I saw an ad for import titles in some magazine and saw Helloween had finally come out with a new album.

Pink Bubbles Go Ape. And it had a song called "Heavy Metal Hamsters".

Needless to say, I didn't send a large sum of money away to buy the album and undoubtedly my reaction was akin to all the other Helloween fans. Apparently the title is a pun of some sort, but perhaps it's a form of humor that lacks the funny. Worse yet, Helloween had shifted their style somewhat, moving away from the speed metal, epic and perfectly pompous material that had catapulted them to fame in the first place. Their humor was still somewhat intact, but seems very misplaced on this album. The biggest drawback to Pink Bubbles Go Ape, surface indications aside, is that these songs are generally quite awful. There's maybe two decent songs ("Kids of the Century" is a pretty good anthem), but for the most part the music is a tepid, muddling affair. It's no wonder their audience fled in droves and their subsequent tours featured abysmal attendance. At the very least, if you're going to shift styles, you should do a good job with your new chosen sound. Helloween brought a bunch of musical abortions to the table and completed the task of completely alienating their fans.

I might be one of the few who feels Helloween did get their act together on 1993's Chameleon, but needless to say, the scorn heaped on this dreadful album is well deserved.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2008

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The Best, The Rest, The Rare

Helloween - The Best, The Rest, The Rare ©1991 Noise Int.
1. I Want Out
2. Dr. Stein
3. Future World
4. Judas
5. Walls Of Jericho
6. Ride The Sky
7. Halloween
8. Livin' Ain't No Crime
9. Save Us
10. Victim Of Fate
11. Savage
12. Don't Run For Cover
13. Keeper Of The Seven Keys

Amidst the belly-up process the US office of Noise International Records went through in the early 90s, certain curious items appeared in the record stores, such as this collection of Helloween's greatest hits as well as rarities. Unlike Relativity's shameful repackaged hits packages that they put out while Combat was losing their battle, The Best, the Rest, the Rare is actually a somewhat worthwhile purchase. Why a band with only three studio albums, two EPs and a live EP would need a "best of" collection is a little bit suspicious, but at least some harder to find tracks appear here.

Predictably, certain songs are included: "I Want Out", "Future World" and "Dr. Stein". Also included are the two epics from the Keeper albums: "Keeper of the Seven Keys" and "Halloween". I rather feel the package could have been better served by removing those two songs, which take up nearly a half hour of time, and including either some unreleased songs or other, shorter songs from the studio releases. But some b-sides, such as "Livin' Ain't No Crime" or the re-recorded "Victim of Fate" with Michael Kiske on vocals, do appear here. Of course, one might argue that a handful of b-sides still do not make this a mandatory purchase, but that's up to each individual record buyer. None of the b-sides are particularly fantastic (why do you think they were relegated b-side status anyhow?) but aren't necessarily bad either.

Overall, I'm rather ambiguous about this collection. If I'm in the mood for Helloween, I'd be better served by picking out one of the studio albums to play as this CD doesn't stand out from the other records. It is somewhat worth having the rare tracks, but not exactly the most demanding of purchases. Check your Helloween Fan Barometer level and decide if you are a fanatic or just casual listener and make your choice based on that.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2000

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Helloween - Helloween ©1993 Noise Int./Futurist
1. Starlight
2. Murderer
3. Warrior
4. Victim Of Fate
5. Cry For Freedom
6. Walls Of Jericho
7. Ride The Sky
8. Reptile
9. Guardians
10. Phantoms Of Death
11. Metal Invaders
12. Gorgar
13. Heavy Metal (is The Law)
14. How Many Tears
15. Judas

Resurfacing in repackaged form, Helloween's landmark 1986 album Walls of Jericho finds itself in the company of their first self-titled recording and "Judas", from the EP of the same name. These original recordings from this long running German band find them in an era when "power metal" truly didn't mean a whole lot and their music was perceived as a thrashier and darker stepchild of Iron Maiden.

The first five songs are from the 1985 self-titled mini-LP and show the band in a very embryonic form. Kai Hansen's vocals, as has been noted often, are nearly comedic in their thinness, wavering quality and overall lack of skill. However, early Helloween's sound was partially defined by them and regardless, they're so bad, they're good, as the old platitude goes. Helloween didn't completely find their niche until their 1986 release, Walls of Jericho. While Hansen was still wailing away on vocals, everything else had stepped up a notch. The guitars, while underproduced and lacking a deep end of the pool, interweave and play exciting riffs and dual leads throughout. The songs are infused with a ton of speed and are played with reckless abandon. I recall having this tape as a fifteen year old and feeling this sound defined the thrash/speed metal thing I was so desparately hankering at the time. "Ride the Sky", "Guardians" and "Metal Invaders" are all spine tingling in their intensity and excitement. Occasionally, the band would lapse into lyrical silliness, such as "Gorgar will eat you", jump into fist pumping metal worship in "Heavy Metal (is the Law)". But hey, they were young and it was 1986. It's easy to forgive stuff like that, unlike those thirty-five year old grown men still trying to act like sixteen year old boys.

The 1993 reissue is a good package, although the liner notes are severely lacking. You get just about all the early Helloween material on one long playing disc and of course, get one of the band's finest works, Walls of Jericho. Definitely more recommended than nearly any band Helloween ever influenced.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/2000

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Helloween - Chameleon ©1993 Sanctuary Records
1. First Time
2. When The Sinner
3. I Don't Wanna Cry No More
4. Crazy Cat
5. Giants
6. Windmill
7. Revolution Now
8. In The Night
9. Music
10. Step Out Of Hell
11. I Believe
12. Longing

Paired with Pink Bubbles Go Ape, Chameleon is one of the two "lost" albums for Helloween, released during a time when the band had no US distribution and, at least in theory, had lost their direction. Yet strangely, Chameleon, though wildly different from any other Helloween release, is one excellent effort on the part of these German metal legends. The band unexpectedly took some time off from their well known and often imitated speed/power metal sound to record a metal tinged rock album with a healthy dose of swagger and arena sized sound.

Even though Chameleon isn't necessarily an innovative record, the surprising changes on the album are quite unexpected for a band like Helloween. The inclusion of horn sections, acoustic jams and stadium sized anthems was simply not something I would have expected from this particular band. But considering their talent, it is not startling that they can pull it off as well as they do on this album. Thought "First Time" starts off the album in a vein that is familiar territory for the band, "When the Sinner" is an immediate ear opener with a throbbing synth line and then the eventual horn section. "I Don't Wanna Cry No More", as well as "In the Night", is a solid acoustic based number that allow Michael Kiske to really shine as a vocalist. In fact, Kiske's finest performance with the band is on this album, although it turned out to be his farewell performance as well. "Crazy Cat" is where the band lets down their hair and allows some groovy boogie and swagger to play ball. "Revolution" has a huge sound as well as a superbly played snippet of "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)" that, though just a brief moment in the song, utterly pushes the song into a new dimension. "I Believe", regardless of your particular religious stance, is an uplifting, motivating song and one of the finer Helloween epics. "Longing" finishes out the album on a melancholy, orchestrated note. Overall this hour plus is simply a great listening experience. It is too bad that Helloween reverted to a more traditional "power metal" sound after Kiske left the band because it was evident that the band could accomplish nearly anything they wanted in any particular genre. Chameleon does actually live up to its reptilian namesake, but no matter the color, this is a phenomenal record.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2000

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Master Of The Rings

Helloween - Master Of The Rings ©1994 Castle
CD one:
1. Irritation
2. Sole Survivor
3. Where The Rain Grows
4. Why?
5. Mr Ego
6. Perfect Gentleman
7. The Game Is On
8. Secret Alibi
9. Take Me Home
10. In The Middle Of A Heartbeat
11. Still We Go
CD two:
12. Grapowski's Malmsuite 1001 (In D-Doll)
13. Cold Sweat
14. Can't Fight Your Desire
15. Closer To Home
16. Silicon Dreams
17. Star Invasion
18. I Stole Your Heart

The resurrection of Helloween in the United States came with Master of the Rings, covering up a few years of mystery and intrigue where the band's lineup burped and shifted yet again. Out of the band were singer Michael Kiske and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg to be replaced by new boy on the block Andi Deris and former Gamma Ray drummer Uli Kusch. Not letting the the musical chairs die there, Helloween reverted back to a style a touch more similar to their fan-favorite Keeper of the Seven Keys era than the experimental and adventurous Chameleon album. Unfortunately the new and "improved" Helloween lacked a certain charm of the old lineup and the reversion to a more expected power metal sound was a bit of a disservice to where the band had previously been going.

Singer Andi Deris possesses a voice that is able to aptly cover the high vocal range of his predecessor, but comes across a bit too much in the vein of hair metal for me. (Or that could just be his look in the liner notes. Not sure which.) While capable, he doesn't quite sell the songs as effectively as Kiske did. However, a lot of that problem falls directly on the less than amazing songwriting on the album. "Perfect Gentleman" is one of the rare interesting tracks, while surprisingly "In the Middle of a Heartbeat" is a very effective soft ballad. But the remainder of the album falls into the category of plain-Jane or at worst, mediocre. Fortunately, Castle included a great bonus second disc that reminds us exactly what the appeal of Helloween generally was. As standard with pretty much everything Helloween has ever released, the bonus disc starts of with a classically motivated instrumental song. From there, the band covers Thin Lizzy, Kiss and the classic rock staple "Closer to Home" with a ton of energy and fun. The original songs on the bonus disc are strangely better than the actual Master of the Rings material. "Silicon Dreams" has a bit of the Helloweenie humor of old, covering the topic of those women who feel the need to modify their bodies to be noticed as well as the trappings of superficiality.

Because of this bonus disc, I still retain this disc. It is not exactly the album I would want to hear from Helloween but at least there is some hint at what they are capable of throughout.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2000

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Better Than Raw

Helloween - Better Than Raw ©1998 Velvel/BMG
1. Deliberately Limited Preliminary Prelude Period In Z
2. Push
3. Falling Higher
4. Hey Lord!
5. Don't Spit On My Mind
6. Revelation
7. Time
8. I Can
9. A Handful Of Pain
10. Lavdate Dominum
11. Midnight Sun
12. A Game We Shouldn't Play

I guess that my interest in Helloween sorta died a long time ago. While Better Than Raw is probably more in sync with the infamous Keeper albums of a decade ago, it really offers nothing to capture my interest. Andy Deris sounds like he's paid some attention to previous Hello-singers and thus is a bit more high-pitched and less "hair-rock" than he was on his previous two outings with the band. But overall, the album lacks the punch to make me even want to put this on very often. To me it's just another typical power metal album and for Helloween to be anything but spectacular is simply wrong.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1998

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