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The march of the German pumpkin towards world domination had a somewhat underwhelming start, if we're to be really strict around here. Helloween's input to "Death Metal" compilation in 1984 reached almost legendary status as the years passed by, but the two contributions from the band are far from spectacular: "Oersnt of Life" is full of energy, but suffers from a not-very-solid song structure, while "Metal Invaders" sounds way less impressive than it would be two years later in the "Walls of Jericho" LP. Still, Noise considered there was a fair bit of mileage to get from signing the group, and Helloween were allowed to record some more tracks for the purposes of an EP.
"Helloween" (the mini-album, that is) brings more promises than affirmations to the table, that's for sure, but there's more than enough elements to prove that Noise had done the right thing. If any casual listener presses the play button waiting for some typical melodic power metal to come out of the speakers, I warn you that it's not going to be the case. It was a time when another subgenre - speed metal - was defining its own boundaries, and Helloween made a decisive contribution to it way before the "Keepers" were even an idea to toy with. This speedy input is particularly clear when you listen to "Victim of Fate", where the guitars of Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath show off with almost arrogant dexterity, but also with youthful enthusiasm and energy. When it comes to the instrumental parts of this song, being fast is almost a predicate in itself - and still they keep themselves miles away from overplaying it, as the sense of melody creates one hook after another for great effect. That was, still in development, the strongest side of Helloween: their ability to be very dynamic without ever losing the emotional connection with the listener. From all their earlier efforts, "Victim of Fate" (despite the really cheesy atmospheric section in the middle) illustrates it in the most effective way.
"Murderer" is another song that helped forging European speed metal, with ultra-fast picking and a relentless drive that just never takes a breath - you know, playing drums as intense as Ingo Schwichtenberg used to do is still a challenge, even for the most respectable drummers out there. "Starlight" is also good, but it clearly points to a different direction, more akin with what would later become the trademark sound of Helloween. Though as fast as anyone would expect, it is more of a typical heavy metal song than the others, perhaps like an early Iron Maiden tune recorded on a tape that runs a bit faster than it should. Besides, the intro also shows the band's inclination to humor, being perhaps the very first manifestation of the "happy happy Helloween" spirit. Even though, to be point-blank honest, it's only funny the first time around: after repeated listens, you'll be wishing you could just skip the nonsense straight to the song.
The instrumentation is faultless, as stated above, and Kai Hansen's singing, though highly unpolished and sometimes a bit too raspy for comfort, fits the songs quite nicely most of the time. But it's fair to say that Helloween still had edges to iron out. "Warrior", for instance, is an unspectacular song with a weak chorus that really ruins the listening experience - and the uneven mixing of acoustic parts, fast (but aimless) instrumentation and less-than-impressive choirs in "Cry for Freedom" is almost laughable in places, easily one of the less accomplished songs from the entire Helloween's repertoire. Still, what we have here is a beast taking shape, soon to fulfill its many promises to the bitter end (that is fortunately yet to come, as you all know). Not only a must-have for dedicated Helloween fans, this EP is also a relevant listen for anyone who wants to understand the development of European metal as a whole.
- originally published at drequon.blogspot.com
Even before there was "Keeper of the Seven Keys", the German power metal titans Helloween were flying high. Although they hadn't yet redefined the genre with which they would be most associated, there are plenty of monumental riffs and falsettos to behold in the band's early canon. Drawing upon the styles of Judas Priest and the melodic gallop of Iron Maiden, Helloween's debut EP sets a solid foundation for the glorious power metal to come. For any fan of Helloween, or slightly thrash-infused speed metal, this self-titled release shouldn't be missed.
As opposed to the more refined atmosphere and fantasy vibe of their later work, the Helloween of 1985 are much more in tune with the typical topics and sounds of metal. As opposed to singing about mythology, quests and autumnal holidays, Helloween are writing about Satan, murder, and war. As you might guess, "Helloween" is a fair bit darker and more aggressive than their future sound. Anyone who has heard Iron Maiden's "Killers" before should know what to expect. In twenty six minutes, Helloween manage to run the gamut of human misery. In contrast with the subject matter, Helloween bring many of their trademark choruses to the mix here. In particular, "Starlight" and "Warrior" stand out as great tracks that could have fit on later albums.
Although Kai Hansen was the driving force behind what made early Helloween so good, it shouldn't come as a great surprise that his vocals aren't as technically impressive as those of Michael Kiske or Andi Deris. Although his singing ability would ferment and mature in his time with Gamma Ray, Hansen's vocals don't have the same operatic bravado that later Helloween vocalists would bring to the table. That's not to say, however, that he is a bad singer. Kai Hansen's raspier style fits the early Helloween's thrashier leanings. Particularly on the Judas Priest-esque "Victim of Fate", Hansen pulls off a few pretty impressive falsettos. The latter vocalists' contributions may have brought a greater finesse to the band's sound, but Hansen's more weathered voice gives Helloween an added sense of heaviness that they may have partially lost as the years went on.
Especially considering this is the band's debut EP, the quality of the production is surprising. While not as fine-tuned as the either "Keeper of the Seven Keys", the sound quality would not sound out of place on a professional full length. The guitar duo of Hansen and Weikath are, without a doubt, the strongest aspect of Helloween's sound. Although they were both in their early twenties at the time of the EP's recording, they already have a firm grasp of the neoclassical leads and speed-oriented riffs that would define the band's later sound. As far as the lingering question of whether Helloween were already innovating power metal as early as this EP (as opposed to pioneering it with "Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. I"), the essential elements of power metal were already in the mix, but the songwriting and slight thrash edge may lure the style closer to being rightfully called speed metal, or perhaps a Teutonic adaptation of NWOBHM. Regardless of any arbitrary genre-tags however, "Helloween" is a fitting companion to "Walls of Jericho", and precursor to the band's better-known "Keeper of the Seven Keys" duology. Although it may be a pre-debut EP with the appearance of a fans-only apocrypha, "Helloween" is an excellent album and one of the better releases from one of metal's best-loved acts.
Hot damn, if there ever was a song that justifies an EP's price it's that one. Truly magnificent speed/power metal.
There's 5 songs (plus one joke song,) in total and just like the Death Metal songs, these too kick copious amounts of ass. Based on the solidness of the songwriting and how goddamn awesome they all are I'm tempted to give this a 90+, but something brought it down.
Silly intro kicks the album off, is it necessary for us to hear some dude waking up to the tune of "Happy, Happy Halloween!"? Well at least the rest of the EP is relatively free of bullshit and speeds along at around 150 BPM for 3 songs and then end with 2 'epic' songs (meaning they occasionally slow down just a smidge.) "Starlight" owns you, "Murderer" owns a bit less, "Warrior" just made you his prison wife, "Victim of Fate" owns except for one problem, "Cry for Freedom" ends the EP magnificently.
"Starlight" is the first Helloween song I heard and one of my favorite songs ever because it truly personifies all that is speed/power metal. Long solos, riffs that aren't piss-poor "Freewheel Burning/Ram It Down" rip offs, totally boss bass-playing, everything that is metal is found right here folks. Also the double bass is used tastefully...not like Sonata Arctica or something equally Finnish *koff*Stratovarius*koff*
"Murderer" and "Warrior" is pretty much the logical continuation of "Starlight" and thus should keep you headbanging and air-guitaring 'til the pumpkins come home.
On to "Victim of Fate." Ya see, the problem with this EP is the fact that Kai still has not learned how to sing. His voice is weak, "Victim of Fate" could have been an epic on par with the Keeper epics and "King for a Thousand Years" but his voice is awful here, especially during the chorus and that whispering mid section is very lacking. The version with Michi is so much better than the one here, trust me even if you don't like him the added melodic solo makes up for it.
"Cry for Freedom" starts of all slow and epic but then at 1:52 the band kicks into 78th gear and leaves other bands in the dust. Harmonized solo is also very nice, X-Japan took notes from this band, you should too!
Production is much better than the Death Metal demo (obviously,) and is on par with the following LP. Guitar tone is clearer than Walls of Jericho, or the Death Metal demo so it's not quite as heavy as either of them. Bass is very clear, you can listen to Maggi's b-e-a-utiful bass playing on ALL the songs not like modern metal where the bass is an afterthought. Ingo is very cleverly mixed, loud enough to be heard, soft enough to not bury the other instruments. Kai's voice is prominent, but the guitars are more prominent. Thanks Herr Producer!
Very nice EP, and since you have Walls of Jericho this EP's in there too! Ah yes, I forgot about the surprise track. It's "White Christmas," though it starts of with the Halloween theme (yes the one with Shatner, er Mike Myers, er that serial killer bloke) apparently Michi's on it, didn't know that.
For an EP it really doesn't get any better than this. Get it, not rare at all since it's in every reissue of Walls of Jericho.
The first Helloween EP already holds some good songs and ideas. Though not as heavy yet as they would become on their full length debut “Walls Of Jericho” this EP has some more NWOBHM elements left in the songs but manages to rage from time to time as well.
The problem with opener “Starlight” is that it takes about a minute to sit through the intro which is fantasticly dull. The song itself reminds of NWOBHM orientated early Metallica songs except for Hansen’s vocals obviously. The vocal lines are memorable and the chorus is strong. The song could have been slightly shorter though.
“Murderer” has a very strong intro before going into a strong uptempo speed metal anthem. The vocal lines are catchy and the chorus is fairly simple but great. Good harmonies in the middle section by the way. This song could have easily made it unto Walls Of Jericho and would have even been one of the best songs.
“Warrior” is almost a pure NWOBHM song. Galloping riffs and horribly bad lyrics. Some nice things to be found here but just like Cry For Freedom the song just doesn’t stand out and is easily forgotten.
Now one of the best songs here is “Victim Of Fate” which, apart from some Clive Burr-ish drums, is reminiscent of the somewhat heavier Walls Of Jericho style and is strong speed metal from start to finish. Only weakspot on the song is the weird first middle section with spoken lyrics which lacks atmosphere and suffers from poor vocals. The Iron Maiden solo section however makes up for this.
“Cry for Freedom” has a lengthy intro before plunging into a nice speed metal song with especially some good riffs. The vocals are unfortunately somewhat motonone and the chorus is lacking. One of the lesser good songs here.
Well, 3 out of 5 songs are great and the other two aren’t really bad but adequate fillers. Quite a decent start.
This EP needs no introduction, so let's go straight to the music.
In retrospective, it is quite obvious that this EP along with Walls of Jericho represent a sound that will not be found on later albums. This is normally considered 'speed metal' but since that doesn't describe very well what the music is about, I think of this release as a sort of 'melodic thrash'. There are a bunch of thrash elements here, but with a more melodic approach.
The production is actually quite poor, but it is understandable since it is the band's first release and also this was recorded in 1985, so you can't expect much more. Anyway, it does not help at all.
Kai's voice is very immature and not very good, he sounds like a teenager trying to imitate Halford's screams. Luckily the whole band would realize that they needed a real singer and hire Michael Kiske a couple of years later. This songs with Kiske at the helm are even better, check out the Kiske rendition of 'Victim of Fate' found on the remaster of the Keeper I album. Also Kai's higher (falsetto) notes are not good and he doesn't hit every single note. This is easily noticeable at the end of 'Murderer'. However, he is not crappy and is bearable throughout most of the EP or mini-LP or whatever.
The guitar work is very very good and quite developed for a debut - it is quite hard to find a verse that features a single-note pattern, which is good. The riffs are highly complex and well achieved, as well as the twin guitar leads.
The album is full of catchy guitar lines, especially in the choruses. For a good example check 'Victim of Fate' chorus riff, the same one that is used on the intro.
That song also features the only slow-down moment at the 2 minutes mark. It is a very good idea because it adds something more and takes away the repetitiveness feeling of an album made of pure speed. This one is not repetitive anyway, but this slow-down adds something not usually found. Unluckily it also features some very annoying vocal lines by Kai, who tries to sound evil with an almost black-metalish voice but fails miserably.
Cry for Freedom also starts slowly and seems to be a sort of epic until you reach the 1:53 mark, where all the fury of the speed is unleashed and a ooooh-ooooh chorus takes over. This song is very complete, with a very nice verse and a ball-grabbing solo.
Overall, this is a great EP. Highly recommended to fans of melody and speed.
The connection between heavy metal music and horror films has been present since the beginning of the genre when Black Sabbath took their name from the famous 1963 Italian movie of the same name, and then penning one of the most horrifically metal songs of all time. In a similar fashion, after existing with a somewhat varied line-up and a host of other names, Helloween formed and began with a concept inspired by the 1982 Halloween sequel “The Season of the Witch”, one which enjoys a rather comfortable place in my library of old VHS tapes. To this day fans chant the famous Silver Shamrock jingle when the band takes the stage, as the melody can be found in full or fragmented form on most of their studio albums.
The contents of this debut EP are in many ways comparable to Black Sabbath’s debut, albeit a lot faster and showcasing a vocalist with a higher range. It opens with “Starlight”, which begins with an unsuspecting person waking up and turning on the television and encountering the commercial depicted in the Halloween movie that inspired the band’s name, followed by a gut wrenching scream out of Kai Hansen and a wild free time intro. What follows is heavily NWOBHM influenced, featuring a simple signature riff somewhat reminiscent of Judas Priest.
The comparisons do not end with the lone horror inspired moments of the first track, as Helloween goes to cover other subjects including murder, war, crime and struggle. “Victim of Fate” features a lengthy spoken part in the middle where Kai puts on his best evil sounding whisper voice, which does come off a bit corny. “Cry for Freedom” has a slower acoustic guitar intro that could be compared a little bit with Manowar’s “Battle Hymns”, although with a somber atmosphere rather than the triumphant one associated with the Kings of Metal. But aside from these occasional sections of contrast, this album is one rapid speed assault from start to finish, featuring an onslaught of back and forth solo duels and tons of nasal sounding high wails courtesy of founder Kai Hansen.
Although quite a revolutionary album from a band that coincided with a large number of other groundbreaking German acts, it is obviously not free of flaws. Kai’s voice is extremely thin sounding on here and lacks the mature texture that can be heard on Gamma Ray’s post-Scheepers. And like their American speed metal rivals Overkill and Metallica; this album has a less than stellar production. The rhythm guitar tracks are too loud, the leads are too quiet, the drum sound is large but dry, and the vocal tracks are a little to much on the high end.
Nowadays this EP can be found merged together with the debut LP that followed it “Walls of Jericho” and the former only available on 12”, which I personally am not fond of as it destroys the listening experience. If you acquire this version, it would be prudent to listen only to the first 5 tracks, take a break and then listen to the other stuff later. The overall flow of the newer version gets tedious as these once separate albums were not paced out to be a 70 minute plus speed fest. If you can find the original version by some twist of fate, it would be worth picking up. This EP is highly recommended to fans of older speed metal, it shows its age in certain areas, but the songs are solid nonetheless.
This release fueled the fire of the German speed metal invasion. It has enough balls to break buildings and is mind-blowingly fast. Helloween’s finest is found in this little mini-LP. This is before they become cheesed up and tamed down (when Weiki took over as the driving force). This is raw, fast, ugly, and heavy; what Metal’s all about. You should bow your head in shame if you don’t have this headbanging ecstacy of phenomenal proportions. Get ready to have your head blown straight out its socket, ‘cause here we go.
It kicks off with a long, lame intro (typical Helloween), and then comes Starlight. Kai’s blood-curdling scream and blistering guitars rip you apart and from here on you’re under their control. Thousands of deadly riffs will brutalize you till no end…well, the end of the EP. Be warned though, Kai has a unique singing style. He has a raw, raspy voice, but can definitely hit the high notes and godly screams.
Murderer is more or less the same as Starlight, pure speed with no signs of remores. The solos on these first two tracks just simply shred. Plus, the bass is very audible. Warrior slows things down a bit, and offers an opening galloping riff (ala Kill ‘Em All). Also, the solo on Warrior is the best one so far.
Now, the song you all know and love (or sure as fuck should), the epic Victim of Fate. This is nearly 7 minutes of pure, grade A speed metal. Riffs fly by you faster than you can fathom and all exponentially crush you. It has the catchiest chorus on the EP. The song gets better as you continue to listen. The spoken part in the middle is pure evil, and then comes the first unhumanly, Rob Halford-worthy scream: You will burn in HEEELL!!! Following this is a flashy Kai solo. After that extraordinary solo, you get that damn great chorus again folowed by probably the best riff on the mini-LP. And then the boys devour your soul with another long virtuoistic solo. This killer of a song ends with another spine-tingling scream: You will DIIIEEE!!!!
If you survived that trip to Hell and back, then you’re in for Cry For Freedom. Starting with acoustic guitars, you’re thinking that you can finally regain your breath and health and that Helloween’s firm deathlock will loosen. Think again. After an emotional solo by Kai, the riffs come back, smashing your skull in. The highlight of this track is the 3 minutes worth of smoking solos. And to end the second best metal release of all time is another soaring scream that finally snaps your neck in two.
A myriad of aggressively fast riffs, earth-shattering drums, a lethal double-bass attack, extraordinary bass, and solos that impress and nearly outdo the gods themselves, Tipton and Downing, is what this Hell ride is all about. The all-mighty Lucifer himself commands you to buy this album and to bow down and worship its (and his) ever-lasting supremacy. And you must obey.
The earlier speed/thrash bands seemed to come from the US, Metallica, Anthrax, Exodus... But what the Europe had in 1985? Nothing bigger except Kreator at least. This group hailing from it's native Hamburg was regarded as a pure speed metal (No one had heard the term power metal) band. After featured on Noise Records's Death Metal (No one had heard about that either!) split album alongside Running Wild, Hellhammer and Dark Avenger, this quartet finally recorded their debut ep (or mini-lp or what?).
Helloween's melodic speed metal was something new. It isn't too heavy, but it's heavier at this phase than on it's future albums after Walls of Jericho. The music is overall fast and heavy. Kai Hansen works as the guitarist/vocalist. He manages to do his job well, thought his voice is thin, weak and hoarse.
Intro is somewhat goofy. The guy awakes, opens a can of beer, opens his tv, and there are little squirrels singing "Happy happy Halloween halloween halloween", the guy gets excited. Kai Hansen suddenly starts screaming and hoarsely groaning the band exploding behind him. The brilliant guitar riff begins, but then the song really starts up. "Starlight" is a fast and memorable song. "Murderer" follows. It isn't slower than "Starlight" at all. The mighty backing vocals give some support to Hansen's thin vocals.
"Warrior" is a bit slower, but that doesn't mean that it's slow. It still fast. The guitar riff is much alike to those power metal bands that Helloween will influence on. "Victim of Fate" is the ep's highlight. It's fast guitar and double bass drum attacks boost it's power. The guitar riff is the best on this ep. The song even slows down, but that is short lived. Hoarse Hansen whispers hoarsely, and he sounds like a dying old man. In the middle of the guitar solo the song suddenly speeds up again to it's normal speed. The second is one the best solos I have ever heard. The future albums have solos which are much alike to this one. "Cry for Freedom" is an yearning half-ballad with acoustic start. Electric guitar cries in the background. But this isn't a full ballad. The song turns to fast and furious speed metal anthem. When listening to it, the word "ballad" doesn't spring to mind.
A great debut from the great band. I wish this was a full album.
These five songs are actually more speed than power metal, but they still got that distinct Helloween sound.
This lineup works perfectly together, but they've had one even better lineup- the one with Michael Kiske.
But on this one, it was Kai Hansen. And he is not bad, not at all. Actually, he is bloody amazing! But I have to warn those who haven't heard him - he has a very special voice, and it takes some time getting used to it. But when you do, it's definitely worth it. His raw, high-pitched voice fits the raw, melodic speed metal on here perfectly.
It starts out with Starlight, which is just furious speed metal. Fast as hell guitar and bass riffs, with insane vocals, mindblowing solos and great lead guitars. An insane opener for an insane album.
Next up, we have Murderer, which is slightly better than Starlight. A classic intro here- First comes guitar number one, then guitar two, then the bass, and finally the drums. This can never go wrong as an opening.
This song is just as fast as Starlight, and it has a much better chorus, with great backing vocals. The solo here is incredible. Very melodic and fast as hell, just the way I like it.
Warrior is the third song, and the second best of the bunch. Mindblowing shit!
It begins with sounds of machine guns, and soon a crazy guitar riff kicks in.
The song contains a bloody fast, galloping riff.
Another brilliant guitar solo accompanies this song as well. This album contains some of the best guitarwork ever, that can't be denied.
Now, we have reached the best song on the album by far, and Helloween's in my opinion best song, tied with Halloween.
The song opens with a crack of thunder and maybe the best fucking guitar riff EVER! It totally rips!
Kai's vocals here are amazing, and the lyrics are great too.
The chorus is filled with such, anger, emotion and intensity, it amazes me more with each listen.
And after a while, comes the evil, and most excellent bridge. Kai whispers the evil words, and sends shivers down my spine whenever I hear it, and is closed by a menacing scream, brought to you by the one and only Kai Hansen. After this bridge, we get two amazing guitar solos, with a chorus in the middle. And I almost forgot to mention this - the drumming on this song is insane! This song, my friends, is musical perfection.
Now that I'm done praising Victim Of Fate, we can move on to the final song of this little EP: Cry For Freedom.
It begins with a beautiful guitar melody, and Kai Hansen shows the more emotional side of his vocals. But, after a while, it speeds up. Of course.
Crazy guitar riffing, piercing vocals and great background choirs accompany this song.
The entire song is more melodic than the rest of the album, and just as great.
The song, and EP, is closed by a totally mindblowing scream in a way no one but Kai Hanses could deliver it.
The EP was later to be added to Walls Of Jericho on a cd edition, which also contains the single Judas from 1986 (I own that version). It's all crammed up in one amazing cd, which is a must-have for all fans of speed and/or power metal.