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It’s between this and The Dark Ride, but this one basically is the best Helloween got. I know people won’t agree with that; the folks who treasure Walls of Jericho or the earlier Keeper albums. But those people are, ahem, misguided. Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy, despite sounding more like some kind of best-of compilation, is without a doubt the fulfillment of the sound Helloween have been building since they penned the opening notes of Keeper I back in ’87.
For all their quirks, Helloween’s appeal has always been difficult to nail down, just because they don’t really have any one gimmick or biggest factor in their quality. They just pen catchy, uplifting power metal like the best of them. And they do it in a style that is distinctly their own. It’s funny because lots of people mimic the specific sound they had on a couple of individual songs like “March of Time” and “Eagle Fly Free.” You get bands from all over the goddamn world with light-weight speed metal riffs, double bass drums and vocals that could be misconstrued as a dog whistle ala Kiske – it’s become a power metal staple. But like stoner bands who think just writing minor variations on the “Sweet Leaf” riff and singing about children of doom makes a Sabbath imitation, Helloween was never just about that specific style. They never just had high-flying speedy metal tunes. Even back on the early works, they had a gamut of silly comedy tunes, ballads and pop numbers, just like they do now. So anyone who docks this album or any of their other Deris-era albums for that is just missing the point.
What the point is, is this: when Helloween’s imitators were setting their sights low, engaging in such slavish imitations, Helloween themselves were not content to coast on that influential fame. They crafted a style even more idiosyncratically their own. With inimitable Andi Deris – he of the bold, bellowing whine that no one else quite sounds like – behind the mic, and the bass-heavy, groovy riffing, Helloween spent the next twenty-odd years forging a style wholly their own. I think that’s the mark of a great fucking band – an act that spawns countless imitators and then goes and changes their style to something even more iconoclastic. So iconoclastic that no one can really imitate it. That’s what Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy is.
This is just the most enjoyable, well-rounded album they ever did. It’s got everything the band was ever good at. The sound is so wide-spanning and wholesome that it’s difficult to explain why it’s so good, but it is. The songs exude a huge charisma and confidence that makes them instant classics. The whole thing is a clinic in catchy, powerful, soaring metal music, and every song is simply great to listen to. There really isn’t much more to it than that: it’s the basic fundamental in music; simple enjoyment and mastery of songwriting. These songs are too good to be true.
We see the band taking on the style they pioneered with a new finesse and mastery from their 25-year history with “Born on Judgment Day” and “Silent Rain” – just pounding, speedy power metal at its best. It isn’t the heaviest or the fastest you’ll find, but the hooks are ironclad firm, the band sounds excited and infused with a youthful energy and the songs coast along like rocks skipped along a lake on a clear day. The band attacks the hard rocking midpaced tunes with an equal verve and pomposity, making the rude and crude “Pleasure Drone,” the staunch “Do You Know What You’re Fighting For?” and the raunchy “Get It Up” sound larger than life.
And still at other times they simply have no other fitting descriptor but “Helloween, pure and raw.” On the killer “The Invisible Man” and the impeccable closer “My Life For One More Day” they are writing their names in stone. “Invisible Man” shows off their creativity with a typically hooky riff and a catchy chorus line, but then mellows out into a really great guitar solo that most bands would fall flat on their face even attempting. They even manage to make a stupid song like “Mrs. God” sound positively radiant.
Perhaps the meat of the album is the two epic tracks, “King for 1000 Years” and “Occasion Avenue.” “King” in particular is probably the best song the band ever did, bar none – with its build-ups and releases of tension, with its winding vocals and surprising depth in the guitar department, the song becomes a tremendous experience that will make you stop whatever you’re doing and pay attention. It really pulls together the band’s huge career and wealth of experience into a glorious maelstrom of everything great about the band – and power metal as a whole. Simply a masterwork. “Occasion Avenue” doesn’t try to outdo it, instead going for a dark, feral wrath unfolding like a demonic clock about to hit zero – it sounds like nothing else the band ever did, bar maybe a few of their experiments on The Dark Ride. But even those were not quite so sadistic as this song gets.
Hell, even the ballad “Light the Universe” is awesome – something the band never could have claimed on many of their previous albums. This whole thing is an example of how to do power metal right in the modern day. Like it was the easiest thing in the world, this veteran band pumped out their best material ever more than 20 years after debuting. Every song on this is enjoyable, and the twists and turns the album takes from song to song make it a positively electrifying experience. This is a statement of purpose for Helloween: they are here, bold and not going away in today’s metal landscape. Absolutely essential.
Many people condemned this album already before it eventually came out, before one single note had been published. They thought that almost two decades after the legendary first two parts of the series, the band wouldn't be able to create the same kind of inspiring, diversified and fresh tracks any more. Many of the last studio album, maybe with the exception of "Better than raw" and "The dark ride" were truly disappointing and without one of the old main song writers Kai Hansen, the old singer Michael Kiske and the drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, the face of the band had completely changed. Nobody had been able to replace the original song writing talent and especially the unique and innocent voice for many years. The band knew that the critics wouldn't take the band's attempts to finally create a third part of the legacy too serious and they took high risks by choosing to put the "Keepers" stamp on this album. The ratings of this record would probably have been far better if there wouldn't have been the historical context. Many people are bashing this album and still living in the past but as a rather recent and objective fan of the band, I concluded that this third part has not only many strong parts but is in my opinion even the best part of the series. And I would like to say that I didn't like at all the other recent stuff of the band like the boring speed metal album "Rabbits don't come easy", the artificially flavoured "Gambling with the devil" or the pseudo evil last disappointment called "Seven sinners". Of course, Deris doesn't have the same vocal range as a Michael Kiske. It's a sure thing that the song writing of Kai Hansen can't simply be imitated. But the good message is that the band didn't try in vain to imitate the style of the first two records and created something different and new in here.
Let's start with the negative points of the record as there aren't that many. With the unusual straight rock'n'roll track "Do you know what you're fighting for" and the not quite catchy filler "Pleasure drone", there are only two fillers on the entire album with an entire length of about eighty minutes. That average is by far better than the quality on the first two parts. And with the funny pop metal track "Mrs. God", there is only one single song that really tries to imitate the spirit of the old singles in the key of "Future world" or "Doctor Stein" and this one is almost as catchy and entertaining as the original tracks and has less dumb lyrics.
The rest of this double album is simply brilliant. The progressive and very unusual "The invisible man" is a weird and disturbing experience at first try but evolves more and more. The ballad "Light the universe" with guest vocals by the grounded and charming Candice Night seems cheesy at first impression but turns out to be an atmospheric, charming and very powerful gem that has nothing to do with the high pitched symphonic female voice that many power metal bands nowadays have on their albums by desperately trying to be trendy and innovating at the same time. This little ballad is just magic and beautiful. Let's also mention the rather traditional power metal track "My life for one more day" that reunites the band's new forces with their old trademarks in a convincing way that should please to both sides of the fans. It's somewhat the same thing for "Born on judgement day" that has a chorus that reminds me of an almost religious incantation while the rest of the song is perfectly executed high speed power metal including an awesome drum and than a great bass solo. But this is not a bad thing at all if one knows that the famous keeper of the seven keys turns out to be Jesus Christ. Now, don't be afraid that this album has a white metal touch; it is instead maybe the darkest album of the band a part of "The dark ride".
But the best things about this record are the two brilliant epic tracks. "The king for a thousand years" is simply the best song the band has ever written. In almost fourteen minutes, there is not a single second of boredom and from the narration introduction on, the track develops a dark atmosphere that really evolves throughout many progressive and diversified parts. The traditional trademarks of the band are always present but a more dramatically and epic touch than ever before has been added to this masterpiece. "Occasion Avenue" is something completely new. It's easily the darkest and heaviest song the band has ever written. The nostalgic beginning is a true homage to the old classics, the rest sounds heavy, fresh and very modern and the weird and surprising middle part is especially innovating and surprising. The song is progressive, mature and elaborated and grows with every new approach. These two songs alone are worth the high rating, the purchase of the album and the reason why this album blows the two legendary predecessors simply away as if the critical voices and doubtful fans had just encouraged the band to write its strongest tracks ever.
I could also talk about the remaining tracks that are nice little power metal tunes, sometimes very catchy like the positive and energizing "Come alive" or "Get it up", sometimes rather atmospheric like the somewhat melancholic "Silent rain" or "Shade in the shadow". Those songs are not outstanding, but still highly enjoyable and worth a try.
Finally, this highly criticized and yet anticipated album turns out to be the most diversified, dark and mature part of the legacy. I don't miss the old style for one single second as the band opens this best part of the series with the best song they have ever written and continue to surprise and innovate throughout the whole record without losing the traditional trademarks we all like so much about the band. This is more than just a legacy; it's a “grande finale” and a big step forward for the band.
To get to the point: If a band releases an album on which the title refers to earlier works on thing happens, fans and reviewers go look for one thing: recognition. And this is exactly where “Keeper of the Seven Keys - The Legacy” fails horribly. If they would have called it “Part III” it would have been even more painful.
So we can discuss the meaning of the word “Legacy”. Obviously since the departure of Hansen and Kiske the band has lost loads of fans (and won others) and old fans tend to compare everything they do these days with the best works from the eighties. From this point of view “legacy” is an adequate title since it is something Helloween has been battling against for all these years. So maybe the title of this album is a big middle finger by the band, especially Weikath’s, toward these everlasting expectations the band has been suffering from all these years?
Back to the essence of recognition. The eighties Keeper albums were a result of three individuals writing songs and the typical sound of five individuals playing together. On this album only one of those three songwriters is present and in total only two members from that line-up are in playing in the band right now. One can imagine the album obviously sounds very different and twothirds of that typical Keeper-songwriting is missing. How could we have expected otherwise really! So we can look at this album in two ways: forget the title and listen to another Deris-era album or treat it as a new Keeper album. Let’s go.
1- Compared to the previous two Keeper albums.
To make it simple: a vocalist is very important to the sound. So the fact that Kiske does not sing here is unforgivable if the new vocalist doesn’t sound anything like him. It would be like Iron Maiden releasing “Number Of The Beast part II” with Blaze Baley or Anthrax releasing “Among The Living Part II” with John Bush. Stupidity! This has nothing to do with the quality of the ‘new’ vocalist but the importance of lead vocals to the overall sound.
Secondly we are missing a certain kind of songwriting here for the balance on the album. There is no “We Got The Right” here. An epic powerballad written by Kiske. Also dearly missing are straight to the point speed/power metal songs like “Twilight Of The Gods” or “March Of Time” filled with strong falsetto vocals, mind blowing leads and briliant harmonies. But “Born On Judgement Day” comes close fortunately. Yes, Kiske and Hansen are really missing. Secondly Weikath failed to write a song this time that even comes close to “Eagle Fly Free”. However there is some stuff here that slightly reminds us of “Dr Stein” and “Rise & Fall”.
This album sounds as much as the earlier Keeper album as what an Iron Maiden album would sound like when only Smith and Dickinson wrote the songs. Even though they are able to write excellent material, we would obviously be missing something. So you see certain kinds of songs are simply missing, giving this album as a whole a totally different feeling. And the lead vocals are so entirely different, it really sounds like a different band.
Kiske without Helloween has never been really successful but I strongly agree with him when he said in an interview “Of course I find it curious that they would release such a thing. The original 'Keepers' were made not by a bandname but by five individuals”. And this is exactly what I’ve been pointing out here. Too many key-elements are missing. Ohw, the artwork is hideous by the way. Just as bad as “The X-factor” and “Dance Of Death” were compared to “Powerslave”. Digital garbage!
Did someone say “If you want Keeper of the Seven Keys part III, try Scanner's Terminal Earth”. No fucking way! Forget that useless tip. Even back in those days Scanner were a third rate rip off. The fact that that band sounds a lot better than most power metal bands in the 21st century is saying more about new power metal bands than Scanner. There is no Keeper-III. Even Gamma Ray’s “Land Of The Free” had so many differences it could not be compared. There simply is no Keeper-III.
Verdict for a new Keeper album: 7 songs that have some similarities with the ‘Keeper feeling’: 53 points
2- Compared to Deris-era albums.
For Deris-era this album is pretty epic. By which I mean the average song is lenghtier and there are indeed more epic songs here than usual. Still there are too many ideas leaning towards hardrockish tunes. The more epic approach is of course is a good thing since that makes Helloween sound more like a power metal band than hardrock group. However there are many songs here that drag on. Whereas the band could write some efficient songs on earlier albums like “Time Of The Oath” and “Rabbit Don’t Come Easy” they now seem to have lost that quality on a lot of songs here.
There are but a few real speed metal songs here but most of them are lengthy. Where are short efficient monsters like “Just A Little Sign” or “We Burn”? Well, we do have “Born On Judgement Day” which is over all fast and catchy but the verses have some weaknesses in terms of catchiness or logic. As a whole a strong song though with probably the best chorus on the album.
Second excellent tune on the first disc is closer “Silent Rain” which is power metal at its best as well as an ingenious composition. The highlight however is “The King for a 1000 Years” which truly can be considered a marvellous piece of work. ‘Everything Helloween’ is to be found within this long 13 minute epic. The single “Mrs God” is the only song which is short and catchy. It’s where Deris-era meets “Dr Stein” and the embodiment of Helloween throughout the years.
The other two songs however on the first disc are failing. If you compare “The Invisible Man” to the earlier mentioned Judgement Day and King For A 1000 Years, it is almost equally varied but truly lacks direction and character nor does it have a strong chorus. “Pleasure Drone” is even worse.
Verdict on disc 1:
3 great tracks, 1 very good track, 2 bad ones: 70 points
The second disc is even more inconsistent. It starts off with one of the worst songs, “Occasion Avenue”. Now this song has a very strong epic part (the “Domini, domini - Occasion Avenue, Domini Sancti”section) but unlike “King for a 1000 Years” on disc 1 it has a lot of generic groovy poprock riffs throughout the song which sound more like Alice in Chains than Helloween, weakening it more and more with each listen. The intro is just goddamn annoying and the idea blatantly stolen from Kiss on Detroit Rock City. Also the title is a more than tolerable hint to Iron Maiden. The title also sounds like a Harry Potter name. So what a waste of a few very good ideas really!
How about the ballad “Light the Universe”? This is a matter of taste actually. Those female vocals are pretty obsolete but I find this to be one of the best Helloween ballads in the Deris-era. The song is strong, especially the chorus.
To be honest there are only two truly magnificent Helloween songs on CD two. “Shade in the Shadow” is simply marvellous. A short but very dynamic powermetal tune with some soft verses and a raging chorus. This is the real stuff! Amost the same quality statement can be made about “My Life For One More Day” which is somewhat longer and slightly more epic. Both these songs are what any Helloween fan craves.
“Get It Up” is a happy song with some nice vocal lines but at times one would like to hear some real riffs instead of chords all over. Decent song though. When the intro of “Do You Know What You're Fighting For” starts, it sounds just like Mercyful Fate / King Diamond and is promising. When the vocals and verses come in, the song however turns into hair metal with a very horrible chorus. “Come Alive” is slightly better and plain metal (the main intro riff is pure 1992 Megadeth!) with a nice chorus. But the song as a whole is really second rate.
Verdict on disc 2:
2 magnificent songs, 1 very good, 1 decent, 3 bad : 60 points
Verdict on a Deris era-album, disc 1 and 2: 65 points
In conclusion. An earlier reviewer said “if you can’t get into this album you probably don’t care for Deris-era Helloween anyway.” And this of course is far from the truth and too easy to state. As you can tell from my review I’ve tried to listen to this from more than one perspective and in the end The Legacy just doesn’t deliver as a whole. We’ve got a few excellent Deris-era tracks here but also plenty of bad ones. Another reviewer came up with a far better description: “Master Of The Rings Part 2”. Now this is more like it. The album in the end leaves us with exactly that feeling! It is a very inconsisent album. They just shouldn’t have picked this specific title for this. That was simply stupid.
53 + 65 / 2 = 59 points
Standout tracks are: “King For a Thousand Years”, “Born On Judgement Day”, “Mrs. God”, “Silent Rain”, “Shade In The Shadow”, “Light The Universe” and “My Life For One More Day”.
These seven (!!) excellent songs together are 42:39 minutes. If Helloween would have released these seven songs as an individual album (called “King for a 1000 Years” or something like that) it would have probably been the best Deris-era album so far! So there you see the biggest problem.
When you decide to name an album ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’ you have to be absolutely sure that it will equal or better than the two legendary metal records with the same name. Helloween won this bet and gave us a real heavy metal classic with some of the most impressive Helloween songs ever.
‘Keeper of the Seven Keys-The Legacy’ is a diamond. Musically there are lots of things going on there. The guitars have a very sharp sound in some songs like ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘Come Alive’ and ‘Occasion Avenue’ and in other songs like ‘The King for a Thousand Years’, ‘My Life for One More Day, ‘Silent Rain’ they remind us of the Helloween classic guitars we can listen in the first two Keepers but with more modern sound. Also there are some exceptional solos, products of really good inspiration. The new drummer ‘Dani Loeble’ does a very solid drumming which sounds very good in the album and Markus Grosskopf is as usual perfect at his parts but in this album finally he does some interesting solos (The King for a Thousand Years, Born on Judjement Day, Light the Universe).
The big question for all the fans was if Deris should be singing in a Keeper album because his voice isn’t as good as Kiske’s. The question is answered in the album. Deris does some really good vocals and he is absolutely worthy of singing in a Keeper album. He sings pretty good in high scales as he does in low ones. Also Deris does a very nice duet, for the first time in the band’s history with Candice Night on ‘Light the Universe’
Generally, I can say that ‘Keeper…..-The Legacy’ is one of the best power metal albums in the last decade and by far the best in the Deris-Era of the band. Songs like the 14 minute ‘The King for a Thousand Years’ the aggressive ‘Occasion Avenue’ and ‘Silent Rain’ and the ultimate power metal song ‘My Life for One More Day’ can bring the band, once again, in everyone’s mouth.
The subject of legacies is often misunderstood by the modern intellectual, bringing about such odd yet common assertions that the definition pertains to some sort of amazing or great accomplishment that has endured since ancient times. Quite the contrary, though the second half of this definition proves to be correct, whether or not it is amazing is not a constant case, to speak nothing of the goodness of the subject. You could point to the constant lauding of Ivan the Terrible as the man who unified the vast territories of Northern and Eastern Europe into one colossal kingdom, but if you were to speak to an opponent of his dynasty, you might be treated to some horrific tales of his brutality.
However, like all things, what a legacy implies is dependent on the object it refers to. In the case of Helloween’s “Keeper of the Seven Keys” albums in the late 80s, one would remember some astounding feats of technical and melodic guitar playing, soaring vocal lines, accessible songs with tons of hooks, and a rather curious blend of humor, triumph and drama. While some dismiss this incarnation of the Keeper of the Seven Keys saga as a poor attempt at comedy, I observe the exact same balance as was present before, although with a different singer and without Kai Hansen writing half of the songs.
Naturally Andi Deris’ characteristic approach to lyrical wittiness and self-analysis is still heavy present. Be it his near slap-stick humor approach in “Mrs. God”, the resurrected video game intro from Master of the Rings in “Come Alive”, the disturbing tale of incest on “Silent Rain”, or his various lyrical contributions to the songs dealing with the Keeper storyline he is in top form. His vocal delivery is consistent, though obviously quite different from the clean husky tone exhibited by Michael Kiske. His most technically impressive performance can be found on the opening epic “King for a Thousand Years”, although other tracks such as “Shade in the Shadow” and “Born on Judgment Day” are shinning examples of his strong command over the emotional dimension of the album.
Many have noted the rather sizable increase of Markus Grosskopf’s role in the arrangement on this album. Whereas on previous albums such as “The Time of the Oath” and “Better than Raw” he only had a few brief moments of prominence on one or two tracks, and on the previous album he was pretty much always playing support, here his presence is on par with that of the guitars on every single song. Be it the humorous slap bass riff in “Mrs. God”, the raunchy bass intro to “The Invisible Man”, or the charming melodic fills found on “Light the Universe” he contradicts the mostly false cliché that heavy metal neglects his instrument.
The rest of the music is equally as impressive and unrelenting. Sascha Gerstner displays the same combination of technical and symmetrical soloing and riffing that gave Freedom Call its edge over a wide field of competitors in the early years of the new millennium. The guitar solo during the keyboard break on “Invisible Man” will likely take fans of that band back to the magic that was “Tears of Taragon”. Michael Weikath consistently maintains his simpler rock influenced approach to soloing, his lead highlight being found on audience fanfare “Get it up”. Dani Loble is a rather pleasant surprise, matching Uli Kusch in terms of technical ability on the kit and surpassing him in sound quality. Just listen to the unrelenting assault of rapid double bass work and lightning fills, yet also note the consistency and drive that he brings to each song.
Picking a favorite out of this rather sizable collection of classics is a daunting task. If you like the longwinded majesty of the 13 minute plus songs found on the original Keeper albums, “King for a Thousand Years” and “Occasion Avenue” offer some musical paraphrases in them, not to mention the same general atmosphere. If you liked the fast riff monsters of the pre-Kiske era, “Born on Judgment Day” and “Silent Rain” will definitely not let you down. In fact, there is a little bit of every previous work done by this band on here, excluding the ballad duet with Candice Night “Light the Universe”, which does carry some similarities to “A Tale that wasn’t right” but is otherwise a completely new step for the band.
So the question remains, is this album their legacy? The answer is that it is part of it, a rather significant part to be precise as it restates most of the original goals of the band. The first two Keeper incarnations were meant to be released as one double CD, but due to a lack of control over their destiny this was not able to occur, something that has obviously been remedied here. This is not Kai’s Helloween, nor is it Michael Kiske’s, but to dwell only upon them is to forget half of the original band, and also about half of the music found on their early works. This is a new classic, one that all power metal fans should invest in. This band has weathered many storms, but has never wavered in its effort to bring great metal to all open ears, and have now found themselves back at the top of their game.
Helloween has had a rough stretch. Since the departure of Kai Hansen, many fans have abandoned hope for the band and even with Andi Deris many fans refuse to come back to hold them in high regard. So is it a surprise really, that they would try to recapture those “glory days” by trying to pull back some of those older fans that had left so long ago? Well, I think it’s an honest try on their part if anything – but in the end a failed thought.
I don’t mean failed because the album is bad. It’s not all that bad. It just isn’t a Keeper of the Seven Keys album. Helloween has long lost that speed power metal sound and embraced a groovier and more eclectic side. Kai Hansen is gone – and some people just need to get the hell over it. Helloween may be different now but that doesn’t mean that they don’t write interesting well-thought power metal.
It’s this difference that is going to throw a lot of fans off when first listening to Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy. This doesn’t sound like the first two Keeper albums. I would say it sounds more like Master of the Rings Part 2. It still has the groove orientation but this time with an epic feel. First things first – I think it was very awesome of Helloween to release this as a double disc feature rather than two separate releases that most record labels push for. This saves the listener a few bucks and earns them a little more credibility for me.
The album (both discs) has handfuls of great songs on it. Catchy power metal tunes by the mass. The guitars are once again full on power chords and super melodies with many unusual guitar structures and lines to give each song a personality and its own feeling. Plenty of groove to go around and with the use of guitar melodies and some well placed chords – the guitar work really fills the space.
One of the best things about modern Helloween is their bass work and sound that is on the album. Many songs have little bass “breaks” in the music where either it’s just the bass or bass/drum combo. This gives a good variety to the music. Not to mention that the bass writing is particularly clever and catchy. Most bands use bass as a structure function or as an assistant to the guitars. Helloween makes the bass its own entity and it really thrives on this album.
This album does have a lot of strange songs on it, partially because Helloween have a very strange sense of humor in their music and partially because their songs are so unique and individual. “Mrs. God” (ironically the first single from the album) has a very short and strange build to the music and with the inclusion of a strange sheep like ‘baa’ at one point becomes very memorable and catchy. The two opening tracks on both discs are massive epic songs (both quite over 10 minutes each) with many time and sound changes on each. Both of these songs are very good – but a little long for my tastes and I end up skipping them. Good for a listen at least once.
I love Andi Deris’ vocals. He may not have an impressive range but he definitely has a unique style when it comes to power metal vocals. He has a very smooth sounding voice that goes well with the melodic guitars. His ability to transition from a deeper sounding rougher voice to high soaring notes is notable on this release. Not to mention his lyrical writing is stupendous and full of a nice wit that metal misses sometimes. It’s a nice change to have intentional wit and cheesiness rather than the unintentional kind that sometimes comes with power metal.
This album is great and amazing if you love the newer sound of Helloween. If you go into it believing that it’s going to sound like the first Keeper albums, then this album is going to just piss you off. As for a modern Helloween fan – this album is amazing.
Songs to check out: The Invisible Man, Silent Rain, Shade in the Shadow.
Ok, I'm not going to do a long review, because I don't have much to say other than 'thank fuck, Helloween finally did it'.
Everything about this album is great. All the players are focussed and Andi sounds better than ever. The songs show great variety, from huge overblown epics to your short poppy tunes, to just all out great power metal. The production is also great, I especially like the bass sound, which is exactly the right volume. So many bands have lost points on otherwise great albums because of inaudible (Lost Horizon) or ridiculously loud (Manowar) bass, but the Helloween team have got it just right.
All I have left are some small niggles : The narrator. Where the fuck did they find this guy? His accent is actually a bit like Sam Totmans, that is Southern England, but with a hint of Australian, except just fucking annoying. Still we can't have it all I spose.
A real minor thing, but Light The Universe is crying out for a bridge of midsection. It feels like the song starts going somewhere and then just goes back to the verse structure.
In all fairness, on an album that spans about 80 minutes, where the narrator appears for about maybe a minute and a half in total, these are pretty small complaints, and do little to blemish what is undoubtedly a superb and classic album. It now remains to be seen if this as big a fluke as some say.
Well...I guess I can say I’m not disappointed...I never expected a thing from this project after all.
Trust me, I had all kinds of restriction towards this album, like most of old Helloween fans did. That’s why I tried my best setting it aside while judging the CD. And guess what? It sucks! Not because I don’t want it to be good, but simply because it damn sucks!
Even if Michael Kiske decided to put his swear behind him (again) to play metal, still it would suck big time. Michael Weikath is unrecognizable in this project. I figure he forgot all he learnt throughout all these years. His songwriting is ridiculous and his performance is mediocre to the bone. Andi Deris, for general surprise, stole the spotlight and avoided The Legacy from being a total disaster.
Let me give you a dimension to what I’m talking here. Remember all albums released after Kiske’s departure? They are far better than this one. The Dark Ride and Rabbit Don’t Come Easy? They would be the crap out of The Legacy. For real. That is mistake number one.
Using the Keeper story as a cover to another non-inspirational release was mistake number two. Comparing to other albums, this is the most ordinary one. Try imagining comparing with the other Keepers!
Songs worth mentioning:
It starts with The King For a Thousand Years, a 13 minutes mere clone (defected one) of Keeper of the Seven Keys;
Born on Judgment Day uses the same formula of Eagle Fly Free (remember the bass and drum solo?) No need to say Ms. God is meant to be Dr. Steen’s wife (or bitch?). No creativity at all!
Silent Rain saves (what can’t be saved) from this first CD, with simple and energetic riffs.
By that time you’re wondering what the heck you had in your head to waste your money like that, and wonder if CD number two is worth giving a shot. Occasion Avenue is pretty nice, it starts up with some takes from the early years, and it’s kind of a surprise: a fine song (although it reminds me of Budgie’s Breadfan...guess Deris is ripping off other band’ songs as well, ain’t it so, Weiki?) gives us hope to what’s coming. Real good kick off.
But hey, let’s stop here. Thanks to Candice Night and Michael Weikath, the album is (once again) ruined. It still have some flashes of power metal as seen in Shade in the Shadow, but in the end, nothing but an ordinary poor album. Guitars at some point sound “Pearly Jam” or “Groovy Metal” (more Goofy, I would say) in Come Alive or The Invisible Man.
At least My Life For One More Day saves the day (Again thanks to Deris) ending up with a good feeling about Helloween’s future, as long as they forget this Keeper bullshit and focus on doing original songs for a change.
Anyway, regardless to other releases, if it didn’t have the pumpkin’ seal on, it wouldn’t have sold more than 1000 copies, I guarantee. Kai Hansen wasn’t missed that much since the early days...
Helloween has been a band of major ups and downs over the past 20+ years. The original Keeper albums, along with Walls of Jericho, make up the foundation that much metal today is based off of. However, they went on to release sever lackluster albums afterward. Sure, Time of the Oath had a few good songs, and The Dark Ride was pretty damn good, but nothing could quite match up to Helloween's legacy.
Of course, we all laughed at Helloween for thinking that they could match the Keeper legacy with their new one. Even Kai Hanson and Michael Kiske, the two who made the Keepers what they were, doubted that "The Legacy" could match up to it's twenty year old predecessors.
Does it match up? Well, almost.
The Legacy is definitely Helloween's best work sense the first Keeper albums. While it does have a fair share of problems, it's still pretty damn good.
The Legacy is a double CD, each one at just under forty minutes. Both begin with epic tracks, King For 1000 Years and Occasion Avenue.
King For 1000 Years starts with a narration, the narrator has a rather aggravating accent, but I suppose it can be forgiven. After this narration, the song spends about a minute in ballad form, before kicking into Helloween epicness. The song sounds like just what you'd expect from Helloween, or any other modern power metal band.
That there is the biggest problem with this release, it's just what you would expect. Helloween never goes too far out of their way to do something new. A case of unfortunate irony, as the first Keepers are renowned as being the first power metal albums. Fortunately, what is here is some of the best power metal out right now (especially refreshing, as many bands seem to be reaching a slump).
There are many good tracks here. Occasion Avenue has a rather nice riff toward the beginning, and Get It Up is very reminiscent of the first Keepers (always a good thing). Sadly, the songs all sound rather similar, so picking out a standout track is difficult. Mrs. God stands out as being somewhat different, though it's strange poppy choruses and odd guitar tones may turn many away.
All in all, there's some good stuff here if you'll take the time to listen. It's not the most memorable power metal out there, and it doesn't quite live out the legacy to it's fullest, but it's still a damn find power metal album. And after all, it's nice to see Helloween doing something worthy of listen.
Helloween has long been a band wrapped in controversy, be it feuds between members new and old, detours off into uncharted musical waters, or fans still bitter that Andi Deris exists because they obsess over twiddling their didlers to the first two Keepers albums. The fact is, no one ever seems to be happy about the direction of the band album to album. The most recent pissing contest was two years ago when the band released Rabbit Don’t Come Easy to cries of career suicide from critics. Following up the bands heaviest and darkest release in their history with Rabbit was a mistake but, the album itself? No way! It was actually an excellent release that was most often ripped for being filled with off-kilter humor. Unfortunately, some people forgot that for the past 20 years that goofy humor was a staple of their sound. Maybe metal does rot a few people’s brains because those complaints have no relevance today, especially because, much to the chagrin of the naysayers, the band doesn’t give a crap what they think.
With that attitude arrives Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy. The fans beatin’ it to the oldies are gasping at the thought of a Deris tarnished Keeper legacy, the whiners who insist the band have nothing left after the genius of Kai Hansen departed or, more recently, the hard rock/70’s worshipping Uli Kusch and Roland Grapow, are spitting their usual crap about Gamma Ray this and Masterplan that. Meanwhile, Helloween is back kicking ass again in a bigger and bolder way than ever before. Starting off the album with an epic masterpiece in “King for a 1000 Years” is the first nail in the big toe of critics. Can the band still pull it off? The answer is yes, and with the greatest of ease. Filled with blazing riffs, some epic choirs and ripping solos the guys do power metal right with more class than Hammerfall has dreamed of in their craptastic career. Starting off at the top there is nowhere to go but down, right? Nope. The band proceeds to lay down killer track after killer track. The next big highlight being Pleasure Drone and it’s standout chorus and perfectly crafted solos. Mrs. God, the single and most pop-oriented track on the album follows with hooks galore and verses that stick in your head for days. It’s got an excellent riff that breaks in just before the solo to give it one more kick in the pants. Other highlights include the blazing Born On Judgement Day, the other stunning epic, Occasion Avenue, Shade in the Shadow, Let’s Get it Up, and My Life For One More Day.
With that I can say, save for the decent ballad, Light The Universe, where Ritchie Blackmore’s wife does her worst to ruin the song, there is not a weak spot on this album. With 13 songs on this, that’s pretty sweet! The lyrics aren’t ridiculous this time either. The band heads back in a little more serious direction which is appreciated here and should be far more tolerable to those adverse to humor in their metal.
The bottom line is, if you can’t get into this album you probably don’t care for Deris-era Helloween and couldn’t have given a crap anyway. If you’ve enjoyed their material in any way over the past 11 years then this album is sure to kick your ass. If not, you can head off to listen to some other great releases by other bands but, whatever you do, don’t come here whining about how the band will never top their early material. Take those complaints back a few decades, the rest of us have moved on.
I'm taking about 10 points off for the title. I mean had they called this one "Dancing With Fairies" or something equally Pink Bubbles-like, I would have said "oh what the fuck, this is mediocre, but it isn't actually directly shitting on the Kai Hansen years, so I suppose it'll pass". But, alas, aforementioned defecation is non-hypothetical, and therefore, this album gets a fucking forty.
It's not really *bad* in that "latest Phil Anselmo project that claims to be black metal" sense - and it's even a tad better than that terrible Pussy Don't Come Easy shit - but it's not actually good, and to speak of it in the same sentence as Keeper I and II without somehow throwing in an "is defecated on by" construction would be blasphemy.
It's pretty much what you'd imagine from Helloween nowadays - sorta generic and uninspired songwriting, Deris's Deutsche-AOR vocals, and the occasional cute chorus. But, alas, this is a tired band at work - a band whose last super-gonzo-brilyuntzorz idea was the middle break in Midnight Sun and a Mahogany Rush cover (it's a FUCKING Juggernaut, fellas, I thought I should warn you)... and since then has come up for air once (The Dark Ride), and then decided to descend into self-parody through riff recycling and overproduction (Never Be a Star/Perfect Gentleman), shuffling through guitarists and drummers, and then coming up with this thing, which can basically be called "Pussy Still Don't Come Easy - now with longer songs".
Oh really, some of it is okay, but I mean some of that pussy shit was okay too - it's just that the last few years of Helloween's career have been so goddamn forgettable and generic and "mix up chorus here, solo there, little melodic lick here, and you'd never know the difference"... most of the songs on here are just like that. Seriously, can someone tell me, in an objective manner, what the difference is between, say, Do You Feel Good, and Do You Know What You're Fighting For?
The truth of the matter is, you could probably pick up the Mrs. God single and have all you need: Mrs. God, and My Life for One More Day - both of which are singalong blasts of fun. Especially the second one, which for a few seconds here and there puts the Power back in power metal. Also, the ballad, Light the Universe, is surprisingly good... Deris-era ballads have been hit (Forever and One, Where The Eagle Learns to Fly) or miss (the rest, basically), but give one point to the good guys here, because this ballad ain't anywhere near bad.
But, the thing is, there's only so many points to give... when I was trying to pull reference material, I put in A Million to One (because I had mistakenly remembered that as being ballad-like), and kept it in, because that song fucking rules, and the problem with this album is that there is nothing on here that fucking rules of that caliber. No overtly fist-fuck-and-loving-it-amazing solos... (ahem, March of Time) no soul crusher riffs (ahem, that thrash section in Halloween) - Keeper of the Seven Keys, this is not.
If you want Keeper of the Seven Keys part III, try Scanner's "Terminal Earth", or maybe Gamma Ray's Powerplant if you want something that shares at least one member with the first two. The latest Helloween turd-platter, however, has an extremely tenuous claim on the title. This technically may feature Weiki and Grosskopf, but the divergence away from That Sound is pretty damn overt, and has been so since approximately 1996. Not that Helloween have not put out great albums since then (the next two), but still, Before the War is the last thing that could wear Ride the Sky on its sleeve with dignity and grace. This cannot, and therefore it has no place being called the Keeper of anything.
Seriously, what sort of brilliant marketing douchebag came up with the idea to call the new Helloween LP "Keeper of the Seven Keys - the Legacy". I suppose "More of the Rabbit Don't Come Easy Sound, Though a Bit Better Produced, With that one Riff from Megadeth's This Was My Life to Start Track Ten" didn't have a good ring.
Seriously, it's the Pussy Legacy, if it's any legacy at all. The long songs are long, and not particularly epic - their only similarity to Halloween and Keeper being that the length in minutes is expressed with multiple digits... oh and there's a few samples at the beginning of Occasion Avenue where the dude channel-surfs through Helloween classics and scoffs them all. Well, the feeling is reciprocal.
As for the short songs - just really worth mentioning. I can't say I'm planning on cranking this one any time soon. Oh, maybe I'll go to that folder on my hard drive, but then I'll immediately realise - oh hey I've got Time of the FUCKING Oath right here. Mrs. God got a smirk out of me, and just when I was about to turn the damn thing off, My Life for One More Day came up promising, and kinda delivered... but there are no Steel Tormentors here. No We Burn or I Can or All Over the Nations or any of that, really.
And, certainly, no Save Us or Twilight of the Gods. Those songs caught you by the throat and whipped your head into a fuck-frenzy of unmitigated Raw Fucking Power - that is what I think of when I think of the Keeper era. Even the goofy stuff of that era, like Rise and Fall and Future World, completely smokes the "serious" stuff of this album.
Legacy my ass.