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The first effort. - 90%

hells_unicorn, March 23rd, 2007

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.