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During the mid-80s, Helloween were starting to get some recognition in their home country of Germany. They were known for their fast, heavy, aggressive, yet a bit melodic speed metal that gave listeners an energetic feeling. However, something would soon change about them. In 1986, Kai Hansen decided that it was too difficult for him to play guitar and sing simultaneously. He chose the guitar over the vocals and they found 18-year-old Michael Kiske. Michael brought some influences that included more melody and classic rock. When they put their influences together on this album in 1987, they created a sound that turned into a whole genre: the genre known as power metal!
The album's mysterious intro dives into "I'm Alive", which is a fast, aggressive, yet epic and melodic. This is what most of the music on the album really is, but this song is one of the faster ones, along with "Twilight Of The Gods". The ballad, "A Tale That Wasn't Right" would sound like this if it was fast, and it would be good, but it works just as well as a ballad. The mid-paced songs tend to be a bit less melodic and more raw, such as "A Little Time". The 13-minute epic, "Halloween" ties everything together, having fast and souring sections, raw, mid-paced sections, and slow, balladic sections as well. It is a very well structured song that shows that Helloween can write a long song, without letting it drag.
When it comes to the guitars, this album is dominated by Kai Hansen, due to injuries suffered by Michael Weikath that prevented him from playing on a lot of the album. He didn't spend a lot of time writing on the album either. The guitar work is quite similar to the song "Guardians" on the Walls Of Jericho album, but played more like the melodic parts, although there is quite a bit of that raw energy left (which is what power metal really is). The riffs sound good, but I enjoy the lead guitar work a lot more. The solos are virtuosic and are put together to form an epic and catchy sound.
The bass is quite similar to the last album. It is quite smooth, yet if fits the music and is played with technicality. However, Markus Grosskopf doesn't get as many hooks on this album, and it focuses a bit more on keeping the music together than keeping it together and showing off. This isn't too much of a downside and it doesn't stop this album from being an improvement over the last one.
The drumming has definitely improved. Like the last album, Ingo Schwichtenberg plays with a highly energetic, machine-gun style of drumming. However, he is beginning to show a bit more technicality. He gets a bit more hooks, and he sounds slightly more focused, which helps the atmosphere of the music on this album. This is exactly what we knew and loved about Ingo, and it's what we remember him for today.
The vocals given by Michael Kiske are definitely superior to those of Kai Hansen. He has a much better ability to shift pitches and his style of vocals are a lot cleaner. Rather than just trying to be raw and raspy, Michael has an ability to sing exceptionally well. His vocals are on perfect key, including his high-pitched screams, rather than just trying to sound "awesome" and he manages to do so anyway.
I called the Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums "The Power Metal Bible" because they set up the foundation of the genre like The Bible did for Judaism and Christianity (I shouldn't have to explain why this is the old testament, of course). But also like The Bible, the new testament is better, so Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II will get a higher rating, but this album's brilliance and importance cannot be denied.
After Helloween's rather thrashy effort with Walls of Jericho, then-vocalist Kai Hansen decided to step down from vocal duties as he wanted to focus solely on guitar playing. For a singer the band found Ill Prophecy frontman, Michael Kiske. This album was their first effort with their new singer and by god did it leave in an impact. This album would quickly become a quintessential power metal album for years to come.
This album only contains eight songs, six if you exclude the intro and outro, and as such is a rather short but sweet little taste of the new Helloween. The six real songs on here are all really energetic, catchy, memorable and (for the most part) fast. Songs like "Twilight of the Gods" really gets the blood pumping with a speedy drum beat, fast guitar riffs and Kiske's high vocals. That being said, there are a few deviations from the faster stuff. "A Tale That Wasn't Right" is the ballad of the album which is extremely refreshing after three heavy songs before it. Kiske's voice is perfectly suited to the song, his lower and higher registers are on full display here and complimenting that is the guitars. The melodic licks of the intro really sets up the somber atmosphere of the rest of the song. "A Little Time" is also a slower song but nevertheless effective. The little touches like the alarm clock ringing before the final chorus add to the song in cool ways. Last song to mention is the 13 minute epic "Halloween". With songs that run over 10 minutes, it's risky. If they aren't varied enough to keep things interesting then it's a colossal waste of space. Not the case here. "Halloween" sees the band going progressive with constant mood changes (happy, creepy, exciting, etc), tempo changes and many solos. Easily a highlight of the album.
The performances of the members are really well done too. Kai and Michael (Weikath that is) while keeping the speed of Walls of Jericho made the guitars sound more melodic and friendly rather than the razor edged and choppy thrash style of the prior album (not that that's a bad thing). Ingo is just as energetic as he was on WoJ, knowing when to go at full throttle and when to restrain himself on each song. But, of course, the highlight is the new kid in town: Michael Kiske. His full, high, opera-like voice never fails to captivate the listener. Whether he's singing a speedy number or a tear jerking ballad, his voice is damn near flawless because of his range and his power. The band has done their best on this album by far.
Keeper part 1 is easily an album worth your time, it's a genre defining album for a reason. Your time won't be wasted on this album, it's not very long and it contains a set of songs that the band themselves have yet to top. Yes, even the intro and outro tracks. If you don't have this album in your collection yet then what the hell are you doing here reading this?! Go out right now and buy the damn thing!!!
Although their first album “Walls of Jericho” has earned a well-deserved spot as a metal classic, it was Helloween's sophomoric release “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I” and its like-titled sequel that engraved their place as the kings and overseers of power metal. It would be blind to say that power metal as a style of music had not been around for a few years before this, but never before had the genre been defined so overtly. With that being said, it is an essential bit of metal history, and regardless of contemporary opinion positive or negative, anyone any bit interested in the speedier, melodic side of the heavy metal spectrum would do well to give it a good, intent listen. Even outside of its historical context, Helloween’s second album is a memorable, impressive record. However, in spite of its significance and defacto ‘masterpiece’ status, it is not an album without some faults to keep it from achieving that bliss I’ve experienced with some of metal’s other god-tier albums.
Since the album’s release, power metal has become one of the most popular (and yet infamous; funny how that works?) styles of metal out there. Love it or hate it, it’s likely you already have an idea of what the genre’s all about. Melodies, often neoclassically-influenced guitar work and cheese enough to feed France for a year tend to be the basics, and “Keeper of the Seven Keys” is in no short supply of any ingredient. To modern ears, there is more of a traditional, anthemic heavy metal pomp at work, but from the album’s post-intro opener “I’m Alive” onward, Helloween’s best elements tend to be the ones that influenced the power genre later on.
The most evident change in the band’s sound since the debut is the introduction of vocalist Michael Kiske, whose high-pitched wails and falsettos would be integral in crafting the power metal formula. Although Kai Hansen’s gruff vocals fit “Walls of Jericho”s quasi-thrash approach, Helloween’s updated sound on “Keeper of the Seven Keys” is far more refined. Giving the impression at times of a neoclassical heavy metal symphony, Michael Kiske’s fully-fleshed falsetto is a perfect companion. It’s made even more impressive by fact of his youth during the recording of this album; although there are arguably a few power metal vocalists that managed to perfect the singing style even further, I can’t think of any that did it when they were 19 years old! “Twilight of the Gods” is Kiske’s brightest-shining moment on the album, particularly during the soaring chorus, where his high register is complimented gorgeously by a subtle choral backup.
In terms of performance and production, “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I” is impeccable. Unfortunately, there’s a point where the album’s excellence runs out. It’s not necessarily the songwriting itself that is the problem, so much as its inconsistency. “Keeper...” never quite hits the level of true filler, but there’s a significant gap between the songs that melt faces, and the ones that don’t do so much. As mentioned earlier, “Twilight of the Gods” is one of the best things the album has to offer, beautifully integrating melody and neoclassical metal- two things that rarely work so well together. “I’m Alive” is effective in its straightforwardness, and the epic “Halloween” has enough brilliant ideas to make a track twice its length interesting. It’s granted and forgiven that the intro and outro are fairly forgettable, but that leaves two songs that don’t do nearly as much for me. “A Little Time”, and particularly the lame power ballad “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” are not terrible, but lack the sophistication and cleverness that the rest do. Perhaps not so coincidentally, these are also the only two tracks that guitarist Kai Hansen did not write. Perhaps it’s not fair to the Hansen-penned tunes to rob “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part One” of a ‘masterpiece’ declaration on the demerit of these two, but it’s difficult to give the album the commendation when half of the album’s first side consists of relative mediocrity.
Regardless, “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part One” deserves its classic recognition, and in spite of a couple of less brightly shining stars among the sky, Helloween’s second album remains an excellent staple for epic, cheese-infused listening. Kai Hansen’s guitar work is brilliant, and Kiske’s vocals are an inspiration to power metal wailers everywhere. If you haven’t already, don’t wait as long as I did to check it out, and do so as soon as you can!
Few and far between are the bands who can claim not only one, nor two, but THREE exemplary eras of output, but Helloween are one of the clear exceptions. Both the nasally fronted, filthy melodic speed of the Kai Hansen-fronted efforts and the silken, dynamic sounds of the Andi Deris records (now the lengthiest epoch for these Germans) have produced works of timeless wonder and entertainment, and yet it's the middle period with Michael Kiske that truly put Helloween on the map, inspiring hundreds if not thousands of other gestating musicians to follow in their anthem-driven, often corny footsteps. Granted, Kiske was present during what I'd argue were the band's two career flops, Pink Bubbles Go Ape and the slightly less retarded Chameleon, but I don't think anyone can really disregard the sheer influence of the Keeper of the Seven Keys records, the first of which is perhaps the best solitary record of their entire career...
Let's get something out of the way first: Helloween are basically the 'pranksters' of the whole power metal class, known for the tongue-in-cheek approach they take to a few of their lyrics and for never, ever taking themselves too seriously. That said, about 90% or more of their songs are no joking matter, and Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I definitely seems moodier than its once conjoined-twin Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II. Most of the quirkier material got shoved over to that album ("Dr. Stein", "Rise and Fall", etc) and what's left here would is a smattering of self affirming lyrics with a bit of sci-fi ("Future World", Twilight of the Gods") and the not-so horror of the epic "Halloween" itself. It's amusing that the band chose to bastardize the pagan holiday for their band moniker, because I've rarely found their musical and lyrical aesthetics to be the least bit creepy, borne more of fantasies and relationships and candid views of civilization. But aside from its somewhat poppy lyrics ("I'm Alive", "A Little Time"), this album is one of their more straight faced.
And it's beautiful. Each of the six central tracks is enormously memorable, even if the "Initiation" intro and "Follow the Sign" outro seem like unnecessary fluff. "I'm Alive" was our introduction to Kiske's vocals, which seem like a natural blend of Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson's higher pitch, but also our introduction to the newer, 'cleaner' Helloween. The production here seems like a summer blockbuster next to Walls of Jericho's indie film atmosphere, and while that might have been felt as a turnoff to those craving the band's blinding speed and raw appeal, this far better suits the level of depth in the composition. "I'm Alive" alone features constant layers of dual melodies in the verses and bridge, not to mention its instantly accessible lead; while "A Little Time" moves at a steady rocking canter, ascending melodies flaking through its own verses and Kiske offering a more somber, middle-range in addition to the climax of the chorus.
But what of the gleaming anthem "Twilight of the Gods" and "Future World"? Flawless and fun, despite the somewhat cheesy narration of the former and the uplifting anachronism and plucky melodic mutes threaded through the latter. Who could forget that chorus, or the breakdown with all of its random sound samples used as percussion before the dual lead erupts? And then, of course, there is the picture perfect power ballad "A Tale That Wasn't Right", and I must thank Helloween for making this bane of all albums at least tolerable due to its steadily climbing, almost spaghetti western atmosphere. I can't promise that the Germans will never go down the route of the dreaded, dull ballad, but here it was well enough written that the audience would flick their lighters on during the gig, and their undergarments off later that evening.
Really, though, the centerpiece of this album, and perhaps of Michael Kiske's entire stint with the band, is the 13+ minute opus "Halloween", which is focused on the actual holiday itself, following the rituals of its younger audience but hinted at something more...a conflict between the infernal and divine. It's an incredibly well plotted and dynamic song, from its doom and synthesizer initiation to the epic speed/power metal licks that charge into the verses. The backing vocals are well organized, the arching vocal lines the most standout of this album, and the chorus amazing, not to mention the extended bridge and the flighty, neo-classical frenzy that hovers about the 9-10 minute range. I've enjoyed every moment of this track for the past 24 years, and it feels no worse for wear despite my having passed through puberty, university, relationships, hair loss, maturity and every other factor of existence.
And that's Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 in a nutshell. Yes, it's occasionally corny and 'cute'. Yes, it's a FUN album, and it never claimed otherwise! Michael Weiktah and Kai Hansen were at the peak of their compositional creativity here, and in fact Kai Hansen would keep remaking this album for the next few decades in his later vehicle Gamma Ray. Kiske's wailing might not be for everyone, but his pitch and ability were impeccable, and the late Ingo Schwichtenberg was a more than able hammer to match the stringers' prowess. The airy production is well tuned for the times, with a lot of reverb and atmosphere. In the end, Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I is just another timeless wonder of the mid through late 80s, when metal was pretty well peaking in every available category. It's no surprise this got picked up by RCA for wide distribution and enchanted new generations of fans, which led to a touring opportunity in the States alongside thrashers Anthrax and Exodus. It's just that unflinchingly cuddly and unforgettable.
This album has become a legend of the entire metal scene and notoriously influenced the later European power metal scene. Even though this record is not Helloween's best and most surprising record, it is a really enjoyable straight forward album with many catchy choruses. It's sure that some melodies are really pop sing along hooklines, some lyrics very ridiculous and the high pitched vocals somewhat cheesy, but this record is saved by its pitiless power and conviction. Another weak point is that this album is really short and is only about half an hour long if we forget about the instrumentals that are wrapped around the six main songs, but those six remaining songs are at least all very good and that's why one might pardon for the very short running time.
Now, let's talk briefly about those remaining six tracks. "I'm alive" is powerful straight forward power metal song that simply blows you away without being extraordinary innovating. It's a great track to open an album and kick your ass. "A little time" is a little bit slower and more diversified and has some Pink Floyd reminiscences in the progressive middle part that sounds enjoyable though the idea is not quite new. "Twilight of the gods" is my favourite track of the record and convinces with an amazing bass play, straight and melodic guitar riffs and an amazing vocal performance. That's how good European power metal should sound and this track is the prototype of a whole genre in my opinion. "A tale that wasn't right" is an emotional ballad and surprisingly honest and one of the less cheesy songs on the record. It's a welcome change on a very fast album. "Future world" is the typical heavy metal single and a perfect song to have party and get happy but not quite profound from a musical point of view and in fact embarrassingly silly from a lyrical point of view so that I feel rather mixed about this track. "Halloween" is a diversified and epic track where the musicians show all of their talent but it is far from being the most entertaining and atmospheric epic tracks by the band. Nevertheless, it was one of the first songs of its kind and is enjoyable to listen to and has an interesting and slightly mystical atmosphere.
All in all, this classic record has some very great tracks that are the reason for its popularity. The band delivers fast and yet sometimes diversified power metal and one can feel the pure energy and conviction of the band on this album. There is a lot of talent and power to discover and that's why one can easily pardon them for some bad lyrics and the short running time. This classic should be heard by anyone that likes power metal or melodic metal in general.
The bonus tracks, especially the new recordings from two songs of the band’s first album sound fresh and good and the two single b-side tracks are enjoyable even though they are not that great. They would not quite have fit on the album and are rather solid fillers. The two alternative versions of two songs from this album are unnecessary (with the exception of the enjoyable introduction to the alternative version of "Halloween" which is quite short and should have been included on the original album version in my opinion) and offer nothing interesting or truly alternative.
Helloween is not an unknown band, but they might have been, if not for this album setting off a sort of chain reaction and getting all the blame for the European Power Metal scene. Helloween have moved onto bigger and better things since, but there's no denying that Keeper of the Seven Keys holds some classic tunes. Kicking off with a worthless intro piece that slowly edges into the careening "I'm Alive," Keeper... wastes no time in getting right to the meat and potatoes of the whole thing. The rest of the songs here are all good, and on the menu we have tunes like the epic and stomping "Halloween," the catchy "Future World," the pummeling "Twilight of the Gods" and the grooving "A Little Time," with its unbeatable pep and bounce. The only real stinker here is the ballad "A Tale That Wasn't Right," which just sucks all around, no avoiding it.
This is not a long album, being just over 35 minutes long, and while sometimes it might just pass by in a hypersonic blur, this succinct shortness is perhaps Keeper's biggest strength. There is no room for filler or nonsense here, just the basics of what would become the standard Power Metal formula, and I think the main reason this album is so revered is because it divided the elements of Power Metal into neat categories and rows: here are your speedy cookers, there are some slower, Prog-ish numbers, that's the lone, poignant ballad and the Power Metal epic is the one with his chin jutting out like a beacon over the water. Helloween got famous here for streamlining things and making them all black and white, allowing for little variation at all in Power Metal's little garden of delights, but that is usually how things work in the media, and Helloween still sound good here, so we can't fault them too much.
The performances here are all pretty spot on, though, with Weikath and Hansen churning out some enjoyable melodies and riffs and some fine work from both Ingo Schwichtenberg and Markus Grosskopf, although the focus is more on Michael Kiske's vocals than anything else, which is a bit of a disappointment; this is enjoyable stuff, but Metal is guitar-oriented music, and as such, this just doesn't stand up to other bands of the 80s who were doing similar things, like Queensryche or Iron Maiden. Kiske himself is enjoyable, hitting some great high notes and having a very Frank Sinatra-esque lower range, but he lacks the conviction and aggression of a Geoff Tate or a Bruce Dickinson, and so I don't like him as much as a lot of people seem to.
Helloween really shouldn't get so much credit for fathering European Power Metal, but hey, they did, and nobody ever said the music business was a fair one. Oh, and the lyrics are stupid, but I won't dock them any points for that.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
No Power Metal album has ever been received with more admiration by the soundest lovers of the genre and raised to a higher pedestal of lofty importance than the indispensable “Keeper of the Seven Keys, Part I & II” of Helloween. They were the first capture of genuine power metal atmosphere whose source of vast richness have had an unparalleled influence on the domain of metal music, becoming symbols of musical transition and marking the advent of a new distinctive direction in heavy metal music. You may read tons of various views as to the first power metal album ever, but it’s hard to deny that Helloween are the actual founder of a genre we all came to know as modern power metal. Lyrically, these two albums don’t have much to do with folk legends, dragons and elves of fairytales common in the genre but are still responsible for certain amount of fantasy of the weird. What those lyrics did was rendering a happy side to the metal music in an already troubled world. It is now very trendy to minimize or disdain that positive approach in music often inequitably referred as “cheesy”. But it would be hard for any mature and reflective critic to deny the tremendous value of these early power metal classics that opened new vistas in heavy metal. Even after a quarter of a century so many power bands’ merits are gauged by these two inimitable pieces of music and many more are after a kinship to them in one way or another.
Helloween has gone through a certain number of line-up changes and had to endure the tragic death of their first drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg along the way but kept releasing great albums through the years. Still, they never duplicated the success of their first efforts, though some were almost as good for me. These two artistically moulded masterpieces done by lads at a very tender age climb to such altitudes of sheer musical maturity that takes the listener to the ultimate heights of musical satisfaction. No matter how simple the framework of the compositions may seem, they are enshrouded in a pulse of power undiscoverable in any previous work of metal before. Here simplicity finds its sure way to musical perfection.
I mean musical perfection in every sense of the word. From the absolutely superb performance of every member to the razor sharp production it is virtually perfect. No wonder that the singer Michael Kiske, who can justifiably claim to be one of the most influential singers in power metal, deserves a special treatment in this review. Although much of the power of Helloween has always been undoubtedly to the great dexterity of guitar works, the prominent feature of this record is the unique voice of M. Kiske that shines throughout the album. His voice has always imparted me an air of innocence only found in ones childhood memories. You know there are some delicate scents in our lives that whenever encountered take us back to that particular moment in time when we first enjoyed them. It’s the same case here with me and his voice. Nothing on earth brings me back my sweetest childhood memories but the songs sung by this exceptionally beautiful voice. Shame how, after his departure from Helloween, M. Kiske had a totally uninspired musical career, with the exception of his first solo album “Instant Clarity”, which could have been huge with a few touches by Mr. M. Weikath, but his distinctive vocals have rarely been less then excellent. I remember reading some statements of his for not willing to sing metal songs anymore, except for making guest appearances on some bands like Edguy, Avantasia etc. How sad this symbol of sublime beauty has become an object of pop ridicule as the smiley pumpkin in this gentleman has gone away with Micky Mouse. At least this taught me an important lesson that voice alone means nothing in music.
Most of the songs here are written by the uncomplicated but incredibly gifted song writer Kai Hansen, whereas in the highly acclaimed “part II” he wrote relatively the weakest songs that are “March of Time”, “I Want Out”, and “Save”, of which the second deserves an ultimate complement. It is a well known fact that Kai Hansen’s going off right after the“Live in the U.K.” live album back in 1989 had its imminent effect on the subsequent two albums which saw the band lose ground, where the bands attention turned towards a more commercial line in song writing, but have lost few fans. I am of those who are happy with the direction the prolific M. Weikath took afterwards. And what’s more, I had the pleasure to enjoy the things Kai Hansen does with Gamma Ray (two birds in the hand). How I wish I could say the same the for the things M. Kiske has done over the years (one in the bush), except for some amazing guest appearances in certain bands that made me get the feeling as if rolling out to greet a long lost friend, a friend sadly missed after.
Well, without further ado, let me get into the tracks. This relatively short album starts with an intro called “Initiation” which serves as an invitation summoning us all to another realm of musical exploration. No matter how short it may be for me this whole album would have been a bit lacking in its course without this little opening instrumental track.
Then comes the second track (but believe me second to none). “I'm Alive”, this song is full of soaring melodies and is so alive in manner that few others can hope ever to be. If this one doesn’t get your spirits high, nothing will. One of my favorites.
The third track “A Little Time” is a song M. Kiske brought along after parting ways with his former band Ill Prophecy. Ironically, here all they asked for was just a little time to build up their lives, but to be “kings for a lifetime, and not a day” is what they got; probably they themselves didn’t know what they were doing. Compared to the remaining songs, this one is definitely weaker, still remarkably good one.
The next one is “Twilight of the Gods”, a charming one indeed, with relentless rendering of solos accompanied by excellent galloping rhythms, and has a memorable chorus as well. I see this song is the favorite of many, but not mine.
“A Tale That Wasn't Right” is an emotional ballad with such an utmost poignancy that you may catch yourself gazing at the shimmering moonlight with watery eyes. Get the feeling you want to take a trip down Memory Lane, no doubt one of the best ballads ever penned, regardless of the genre.
And here comes the unforgettable riffs of “Future World” with a true touch of power metal traversing through time and space. If the sorrow of the previous still lingers on be sure the joy of this one will take it away. Has one of the finest riffs of all time with a sing along chorus every single fan knows by heart.
The moment the mighty “Halloween” enters the scene there is magic in the air. The first truly epic piece of music with an absolute perfection that reins as hell holding the elixir of life for power metal, with guitars battling for supremacy, displaying all the elements that this band is all about. This song is delivered with such consummate skill and artistry that falls little short of actual majesty. With its unbelievably majestic climax leaves the listener begging for more like an imploring maiden. You have to listen for yourself to see what I mean. For me this album should have ended there and then without stumbling for a happy ending to the tale.
Thus ends the album with the not so necessary closing track called “Follow the Sign”. A kind of an outro which fails to match the grandeur of the intro, a mellow piece of music with whisper-like talking on the background as if calling to embark on another journey through the seven seas that is to be unfold in the second part of the story.
Pinpointing the success of this album to particular songs is difficult. Almost each and every song here stands out as the requisites of a masterpiece. A masterpiece that ages like the finest wine. It is not that hard to come to the conclusion that HELLOWEEN, having accomplished such a magnum opus that few if any can hope to equal, made a distinct epoch in the history of heavy metal securing them a sure place among the greatest bands in the history of metal, if not the greatest. Needless to say, if you haven’t listened to this album yet, get your greedy hands on it. I highly recommend this one along with “…Part II” of course. Don’t even hesitate and just like me, be happy ever after…
Most will know the story. Helloween were a raw power metal band with a young and melodically shrieking Kai Hansen on vocals and lots of fast songs with double bass. The something happened. Something called Michael Kiske. Mr. Kiske joined Helloween but wasn’t too fond about just playing fast and heavy songs, so the band also strated writing more mid paced and melodic material as well though fortunately not leaving their fast phase behind them. Most of the times musicians giving in to eachothers wishes is the worst thing that can happen to creativity but in the case of Keeper Of The Seven Keys 1 and 2 it resulted in the ultimate power metal albums that have never been equalled since….
Part one is rather short and 75% of it is written by Kai Hansen. Best song is “Halloween”. A Marvellous epic song which goes through all styles Helloween were about. From melodic metal with Queen tendencies to speeding power metal and neoclassical solos and harmonies. The composition is just perfect. It is not without reason I’ve been calling this song the best metal track ever written. Take the power of early speed metal and the melody en epic capabilities of Iron Maiden and these two key elements together are a 13 minute song called “Halloween”
“Future World” is a very popular song and a simple sing-a-long but with good riffs and a strong chorus. Also opener “I’m Alive” is very enjoyable albeit rather short. However it’s a song called “Twilight of the Gods” which steals the show (apart from the mighty Halloween epic). It is a song that has a fast and heavy Walls Of Jericho feeling surrounding it but becoming almost divine with Michael Kiske on vocals.
The power ballad “A Tale That Wasn't Right” is quite strong. It’s the only weikath song here but clearly one of his strongest. Kiske vocals prevent this song from becoming too cheesy and instead he gives it a operatic touch. The song is beautiful.
Kiske’s song “A Little Time” also very good. Mostly build around the vocals for obvious reasons but still a complete song as a whole. The “Oh, I hear you say that is the way of the world” bridge still gives me goosebumps. Such beauty!
The production? I’m so used to it I cannot complain. Of course some sections could have been slightly heavier guitarwise but that’s about all I can think of. The performance is also tip top. A bunch of great musicians here and Schwichtenbergs drums sound honest, natural and a lot better than those clean and quantized drums you hear nowerdays. No digital mumbo jumbo hear. The album sounds good simply because the band is good.
No use writing an epistle. Just go get this album right away. (together with part 2 that is)
Yes, that’s right, this is pure bubblegum. It’s sugary and sweet and fun while it lasts, but ultimately unsatisfying. It’s a nice album to put on in the background while you’re doing something else; your attention can drift in for this catchy lead or that sing-along chorus (and there are lots of both), but there’s no real substance to interrupt your train of thought and force you to actually pay attention. Basically, this is metal with a pop mentality; it’s totally child-safe, with the corners rounded off and sharp points sanded down. Unfortunately, this is also the direction many, many later power metal bands decided to follow (I could go on for pages about how this album is responsible for countless horrible imitators and what a tragedy it was for power metal that this is the sound that caught on, but that’s a stupid thing to do so I won’t). And no, Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I is pretty fucking far from the first power metal album, as some have claimed; it was an early European-style power metal album, true, but a number of the genre’s classics had already come out over in the US. Take for example Ample Destruction, The Spectre Within, or Graceful Inheritance, all of which not only predate Keeper Part I by more than a year, but are also far, far better. Hell, without even leaving Germany we can find Stormwitch, which put out some very solid power metallish stuff back before Helloween even got their first speed metal album out.
Keeper Part I suffers from three major flaws. The first is that Helloween clearly made an effort to stretch the material they had, and as such there’s a lot of bloat and unnecessary bullshit floating around in here. The story goes that they originally wanted to release Part I and Part II together as a double album, but the idea was nixed by their label, and as such they were forced to release them separately. Anyway, rather than try to trim it down and release one regular album, they instead decided to split it into two relatively small amounts of material and pump them up. As it is, Keeper Part I clocks in at just over 37 minutes; that’s a barely acceptable album length even with the bloat, and I’ve seen many EPs with more (not to mention better) actual content.
The second flaw is much more serious. This album suffers from a chronic lack of good riffs; almost all of the time, they’re either second-rate speed metal (probably left over from their earlier, better stuff) or worse, blatant NWOBHM rejects that sound like they were bought at a Neat clearinghouse sale. Don’t believe me? Listen to that first riff after the guitar lead in “Twilight of the Gods”. That’s pure NWOBHM rip-off, and it’s not even like they bothered to rip off one of the better riffs; by 1987 its expiration date had clearly long come and gone. As for the other kind I mentioned, listen to the main one in “I’m Alive”; that’s about as basic and generic as a speed metal riff can possibly get without just being a single fast repeated chord…oh wait, that’s exactly what the second riff in “A Little Time” is. However, all this bullshit generally goes unnoticed, as they tend to bury the riffs beneath all manner of flashy guitar leads and solos, vocal melodies, backing choirs, even the occasional bass lick. Seriously, listen to the album once through paying attention only to the substance of the album, rather than the fluff, and it becomes rather unsettling how little there actually is. Sometimes Helloween even pull out a decent riff, just to throw you off; listen to the first one in “A Little Time”: it’s pretty good. Of course, it would be much better if they weren’t blatantly using it to hide the total lack of other good ones in the rest of the song. Now, that’s not to say that the only important part of metal is the riffs, but it is an undeniable fact that good riffs are the essential foundation of every good metal album, bar none.
In addition to the two musical problems I went over, there are a few others that plague the album as well, but these could be seen as byproducts of one or both of the major musical problems I outlined; the really bad backing choirs could be seen as an effort to cover up the lack of riffs while the excess of solos and leads are an attempt to stretch album length (or a combination of the two), but I’ll deal with those individually as I come to them.
The third and final major flaw is the lyrics; they’re really amazingly awful. I know, this is metal, and I’ll be the first to say that lyrics are far from the most important part of a metal album, but these are just unpardonably bad. The function of a metal lyric is to provide the emotional backdrop and subject matter for a song; whether it’s an angry barbarian charging into battle, a serial killer violently murdering his innocent victims, or a devil-worshipper singing the praises of Satan, the lyrics set the tone of the song and reflect its content, even if they aren’t the meat of it. Well, just take a look at the lyrics to Keeper Part I…on second thought, they actually reflect the content of the album quite well: vapid, saccharine, and stupid. “Twilight of the Gods” is the only song that doesn’t sport horribly bad lyrics. There’s a vein of really cheesy sentimentality that runs through the whole album; “A Tale that Wasn’t Right” and “Future World” are obvious examples. This feeling actually bleeds over into the songs as well, with the latter being one of the most upbeat happy sugary loads of shit I’ve ever heard and the former being a totally agonizingly corny ballad; speaking of corny, that’s what “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” reminds me of most: that painful kind of crap you take after eating corn, with those undigested bits of yellow cellulose sticking in it. Now I’m not sure if this sentimentality and the other retarded lyrics are completely serious, as there’s also this really bothersome undercurrent of German silliness and/or irony present that was probably inherited from earlier crappy German heavy metal acts; for a good example you don’t even have to waste time reading or listening to, check out the cover to Digger’s only album. “Digger” was what Grave Digger temporarily changed their name to in an ill-conceived attempt to score some commercial success, and yes, you’re not hallucinating; that is indeed a robot humanoid duck wearing a beret and sunglasses. So, that leaves us with four potential attitudes behind the lyrics: we have 1) they are totally honest and serious and just really suck, 2) they’re meant to be silly and make us laugh, 3) they’re meant to be ironic, perhaps through a parody of metal seriousness, or 4) some combination of the above. Well, that was somewhat of a trick question, as it doesn’t really matter which of the four is right; there is no possible justification for these horrible lyrics that could make them less horrible. Anyway, if you think this is bad on Keeper Part I, it gets even worse over the course of the next two albums.
A last problem that’s not really a major one, but sits on the others like a cherry on top of a shit sundae, is Michael Kiske; I will certainly admit that he’s talented, but every note he sings is so syrupy and sweet that it ruins any appreciation I might have had for him. There is no bite to his voice at all, no edge; I have no problem with high-pitched singing, but it really sounds like he’s singing without the benefit of testicles. Kai Hansen may not have been able to hold a candle to Kiske when it comes to vocal ability, but even his thin, wimpy voice had more masculinity and aggression to it than Kiske’s does. Even when compared to singers with generally similar styles we are quickly struck by how weak he sounds; listen to Geoff Tate or Jon Arch or Russ North and then to Michael Kiske, and you’ll see what I mean. Now, some of you may be shaking your heads and thinking “this meathead is missing the point! Kiske isn’t supposed to be aggressive!” But look, this is power metal, and a clearly established genre precedent decrees that yes, he is indeed supposed to be at least a little aggressive; this isn’t goddamn pop music…well, at least it shouldn’t be.
Now, I could just leave this review as-is and call it a day, but as I am espousing a fairly unpopular opinion here I will go on to back up my claims on a song-by-song basis.
So, first up we have the bullshit instrumental intro, which really isn’t anything but an attempt to pad out the album length. They also do that annoying thing that a lot of German albums do at the beginning where they play a fragment of a totally unrelated song (see Blind Guardian’s first for another example). If I’m not mistaken, this trend in metal was started by Accept with “Fast as a Shark” in 1982, but where that was good, this is not. See, the point of the little unrelated intro thing is to trick the listener into thinking maybe he’s got the wrong album on, or to lull unwitting victims into thinking it’s something else, and then to have an abrupt and surprising transition to the real music; after its intro, “Fast as a Shark” tears out of the gate on the back of Udo’s bloodcurdling shriek before the machinegun riff swoops in to pick off any survivors. “Initiation”, after a bit of “London Bridges Falling Down”, limps out of the gate with plodding riffs while lame pseudo-choirs and horns do nonsense in the background. It reminds me of Megadeth’s “Into the Lungs of Hell” but without any of the good riffs or solos (and yes, I know it came later). Unsurprisingly, So Far, So Good…So What? was also a really short album that needed the instrumental to pad out its length.
Anyway, listen next to “I’m Alive”: after that deceptively cool intro riff, the song “explodes” into mediocre speed metal hidden beneath leads and a boring vocal melody. Yes, that chorus is really catchy, but it’s catchy in the worst possible way; at times I’ll be minding my own business (probably in the midst of masturbating, weeping, or some combination thereof), and all of a sudden “I’M ALIVE!” will pop into my head and I won’t be able to get rid of it, like I have some horrible chronic disease and just relapsed. It’s very much like a pop song in that regard, and about as worthwhile. Also, listen to the guitars underneath the chorus; they’re not doing jack shit! Now, I will admit that some of the solos and leads are cool, but really it’s like putting a turd in a tuxedo. Except that second solo after the last double-guitar lead section is just even more horribly sappy than the rest of the song; it’s like a feel-good family Christmas movie in musical form. “A Little Time” follows this typical Helloween formula of having one decent riff at the beginning to hide the fact that all the others are really sub-par; this song is basically a carbon-copy of the last one, but they spliced in this really annoying and pointless interlude to stretch it out another thirty seconds, after which they tacked on another repetition of the chorus. That last minute after the solo is utterly worthless. Here’s a hint, Helloween: if you’re going to stick an interlude in a song, the song ought to have done something worthwhile beforehand, and ought to do something worthwhile afterward (see Manowar’s “Battle Hymn” for an example of an interlude that’s properly used).
“Twilight of the Gods” is probably the second-best song on the album, and it’s the only one without blatantly silly lyrics. The riffs are those really mediocre NWOBHM and speed metal ones I mentioned earlier, and those random spoken bits are just stupid; the rest of the song is very bland. Also, that backing choir is just awful. Helloween tends to use the choir just to pad out their sound with uninteresting harmony and make it sound “bigger” without actually using it to do anything worthwhile; Manowar’s “Battle Hymn” again gives us a good example of a metal choir done right, as does Dark Wizard’s “Judgement Day”. That “fireflash in the sky” part is actually genuinely quite good, though, and the solo/lead bit is pretty cool too. Still, do they have to have so many solos and lead bits on every song? It’s ridiculous, whether or not they’re skilled guitarists. It’s as if Helloween decided to combine NWOBHM’s cliché dual-guitar leads and speed metal’s penchant for lots of melodic solos and see how far they could take it.
And then, oh god, we have the absolute worst song on the album, “A Tale That Wasn’t Right”. Just out of some horrible sadistic urge it’s also the second-longest behind “Halloween”. I can understand at least somewhat how other reviewers could give the rest of the songs on the album high marks, as they’re at least superficially appealing; but this one is just unremittingly bad. The song is basically a really sappy rock ballad, and a riff wasteland to boot, with the guitars just accompanying the vocal melody with drawn-out chords or clean nonsense. Yet again the really cheesy “choir” makes an appearance. It’s not even like the “metal ballad” was a new thing in 1987; there was a great formula already long established and carried on by bands too many to mention: you have the soft opening bit with good vocal melody and clean guitar, which then explodes into a heavy main riff, a triumphant chorus, and at some point there’s another soft segment thrown in after which the song builds up to a final crushing finale. Well, “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” gets the “soft” and “clean” parts right, but somehow manages to mess up the “good”, forgets totally the bit about a great main riff, and confuses the triumphant chorus with some pussy moaning about a broken heart. Following that utter shit we have shit that’s only slightly less utter; “Future World” is the second-worst song. The intro is again deceptive, even managing to sound a bit ominous. But surprise! The song isn’t evil at all, reminding me rather of some awful new wave abortion. “We all live in happiness, our life is full of joy, we say the word ‘tomorrow’ without fear! The feeling of togetherness is always at our side, we love our life and we know we will stay!” OH GOD IT’S HORRIBLE! I MUST DIG THE SONG OUT OF MY SKULL WITH A SPOON! It’s like something a suicide cult would use to brainwash its acolytes. “Drink the Kool-Aid, you’ll say the word ‘tomorrow’ without fear!” And yes, I’m aware this may be a joke or some sort of irony, but it’s neither funny nor clever. And what the hell is up with that stupid sound-effect section? It’s an evil omen of things to come on Keeper Part II, that’s what it is.
And oh god, after those last two songs, “Halloween”, the best song on the album, is just a breath of fresh air. Sure, it’s still rather stale, but after inhaling raw sewage fumes for the last two tracks it might as well be the smell of sizzling bacon. “Halloween” starts off with a cool intro that for once actually segues into a good riff, with a nice halfway-to-USPM thing going on. That machinegun choir (“Masquerade, masquerade!”) is enough to make you blink, but it’s gone again before having a chance to really ruin things. Well, there’s a return of the NWOBHM knockoff, but that “watch out, beware!” riff is decent and makes up for it somewhat. The chorus, with the “AHHHHH! It’s Halloween!” part is also the closest Kiske comes to being powerful. That cool speed metal after the chorus is nice though, and is a third good riff. An actual fourth good riff pops up around “magic in the air”, and takes us under the solos. Unfortunately, the song should’ve ended soon after that. Instead, they drag it out for another seven and a half minutes, with wanky solo followed by stupid interlude leading into more wanky solo trading; by this point it’s rather tiring. Oh, did I mention there’s a double-lead part that goes on for a minute and a half? “Phantom of the Opera” this isn’t. And they actually put in a crowd cheering for them when it’s over! Unbelievable. Yes, there are some more verses, but they never recapture that coherence and quality from the first half. Now the lyrics, oh, the lyrics; yes, they talk about trick or treating, they talk about Charlie Brown and Linus and the Great Goddamn Pumpkin, and somehow try to turn into something vaguely serious-sounding later on but still aren’t very good. I’ve had the album for years and listened to it countless times (in the background, anyway) and somehow my subconscious managed to protect me from understanding the lyrics until much more recently. Yes, Peanuts characters play a prominent role in this song. Anyway, trapped in there somewhere is a quite decent 5 minute song trying to get out; if you just took the first half by itself, got a singer with balls, and wrote some serious lyrics, you’d have a good song. Alas, Helloween had none of those things.
Ending the album is an appropriately vapid instrumental outro, in which a guitar does some slow noodly things and accomplishes nothing.
So, to sum up: we have a 37 minute album. Subtract the worthless songs (the intro, the outro, “A Tale That Wasn’t Right”, and “Future World”), and that leaves us with about 25 minutes. Subtract the worthless minute from “A Little Time” and the crappy last seven minutes of “Halloween”, and that brings us down to 17 minutes. Considering a lot of that 17 minutes is still pretty bad, a score of 35% is actually quite generous.
Helloween are often credited as being the band that defined power metal as it currently is. Their influences can clearly be heard in former member Kai Hansen's current band Gamma Ray, though less so since the exodus of Ralf Scheepers. Other current power metal bands that have borrowed ideas from them include Steel Prophet, Heavenly, Power Quest, Dragonforce, Dreamtale, Edguy and Angra (to name a few).
One of the first things to note about this album is that it is not very long in total duration. Clocking in at just over 37 minutes, this album bears a good deal of similarity in album structure to such NWOBHM acts as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Grim Reaper, and Motorhead. In fact, I would argue that the NWOBHM exists today mostly in the Power Metal genre, though they took the speed of Motorhead (rather than Lemmy's raw vocals) and the quasi-operatic vocals of Dickinson and Halford.
When scrutinizing the music of this album, it is obvious where each influence takes effect. Ingo Schwitenberger's drumming is very fast, and he loves to ride that double bass pedal (something that had not yet fully become a metal cliché). His kit work is particularly extravagant on "Twilight of the Gods" and "Halloween". Marcus Grosskopf's finger style bass work is quite impressive, but seems a bit more Geezer Butler influenced rather than Steve Harris or Joey Demaio inspired. Both Michael Weikath and Kai Hansen have very distinct soloing styles which give their leads a dueling nature similar to Maiden. (Weikath's pentatonic leads sound very Dave Murray-like, while Kai's work is more chromatic and showy).
Now the one issue that arises is the matter of Michael Kiske's vocals, which are often compared to Geoff Tate's. Both of these guys have very large singing ranges and both have naturally deep voices, giving their falsetto range a rather husky texture. This similarity in the voice style seems a bit coincidental however, as both of these singers shared the same influences, and both had a bit of vocal training.
In the department of lyrics, Helloween are bit different from most of their metal contemporaries in that at this point (Keeper's of Jericho, in my opinion, was not a power metal album and should be treated separately from the rest of Helloween's work) they have a good amount of humor in their material and a pleasant sense of satire. This is mostly present in the lyrics of "Halloween", but become a bit more commonplace in later releases.
Musically this album jams about as much in to 37 minutes as you can get. "Halloween" is an amazing epic with tons of riffs, solos, intricate bass work, fast drumming, and vocal gymnastics. "Future World" is an up beat rocker with a very catchy chorus. "I'm Alive" and "Twilight of the Gods" are both high speed cookers with plenty of memorable moments. "Initiation" and "Follow the Sign" are both highly atmospheric instrumentals (the latter having a whispered narration) that provide the album with the intro/outro feeling that every concept album should have. "A tale that wasn't right" is a musically well written and showcases Kiske's lower range, although the lyrics are a bit cheesy.
The highlight of this album, however, is the 3rd track "A little time". This was a favorite live song during Helloween concerts for a very good reason; it rocks hard and due to its simplicity, is easy to pull off live. The solos are short, yet loaded with energy, as is the strong yet not overly showy vocal delivery. Though the two sound nothing alike, I would say that this is Helloween's "Breaking the Law".
Obviously this album has its appeal to traditional metal fans, but I would recommend it mostly to younger power metal fans as they may not have been exposed to it yet and should be. If this album and its sequel were not recorded, there would never have been such a thing as Dragonfoce or Edguy, neither of which are a true substitute for the original. So Enjoy!
When talking about some of metal's most influential albums of all time, you'll hear names such as Black Sabbath, Paranoid, The Number of the Beast, Reign in Blood, Black Metal, Painkiller, and so many more. Each of these albums has helped shape metal into what it has become over the years. Each genre has its own "Bible album", and power metal is no different. The beginnings of power metal are not at all difficult to trace. One of the very first artists of the fledgling genre was Helloween.
Formed around the beginning of the 80's, the band recorded its debut album, Walls of Jericho, an album rooted in speed metal. On vocals, the band featured a young Kai Hansen, only 22 at the time. Kai had a difficulty playing guitar and singing at the same time, a difficulty which soon affected his performances on both duties. So Helloween began looking for a new vocalist and stumbled upon a 19 year old Michael Kiske, who quickly jumped aboard. Soon enough, the band had their second full length album written. Originally, Keeper of the Seven Keys was meant to be a double album (Much like Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy), but the record label insisted that they be divided into two parts. In 1987, the band released the first half, Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1.
Today, Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1 is regarded as not only one of power metal's first albums, but also one of its finest. Unsurprisingly, superb melodic leads can be found all throughout the album. The leads and harmonies are very effective in creating an upbeat atmosphere that is both catchy and memorable. Speed is another characteristic that factors into the album's impressive sound. Though there are plenty of faster bands out now a days, the sped up riffs are very infectious and memorable. Songs like I'm Alive, Twilight of the Gods, and the mega epic, Halloween, show off Helloween's impressive arsenal of riffs and leads. The aforementioned Halloween, a 13 minute long track, is quite possibly the best song the band has ever written, with only Keeper of the Seven Keys even remotely close. There is virtually nothing you can complain about with the song, save for the sketchy lyrics which don't look like they have much to do with each other. Hansen really struck gold with that song, as it perfectly exemplifies the attitudes of power metal, whether it be the numerous shredded solos, the fantasy lyrics, or the fast paced riffing. Great stuff. Helloween attempt a couple slower paced songs, the upbeat, happy sounding Future World, and the ballad, A Tale That Wasn't Right. Both these songs are excellent outings, though I have to admit, I much prefer the more power metal-ish outings.
Vocalist Michael Kiske was an excellent discovery for the band. Kiske can hit all the high notes very well. Though he has very few weak moments, songs like Halloween, I'm Alive, and A Tale That Wasn't Right showcases his insane talent level behind the mic at its best. Kiske compliments the album's sound very well with his impressive vocal range. With the likes of Future World and A Tale That Wasn't Right, Kiske proves that he can be relied on to carry a song vocally. Even though neither song is remarkably good instrumentally, neither of them lull thanks to Michael's efforts. Despite being the new kid on the block, Michael Kiske delivers a world class effort on Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1, an molded himself a reputation as one of metal's greatest singers. Despite apparently wanting to distance himself from the metal scene, not even Kiske himself could deny that the job he did on the album is nothing other than topnotch.
I have one complain with the Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1. Yes, only one. Though the back of the album reveals 8 tracks, only six of them are actual songs. The opener, Initiation, and the closing track, Follow the Sign, are only short filler tracks that do not really serve any purpose. Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 1 is only 37 minutes long to begin with, and even though neither of the previously mentioned tracks are longer than 2 minutes, the album begins to seem very short. Perhaps this disadvantage would not exist if this was released as a double album to begin with, but the short length is really disappointing. Good thing we have the remastered album which came/comes out this year.
Overall, Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1 was a very important album in the world of metal. The album helped build Helloween's legacy as one of the grandfathers of power metal, a legacy by which the band will soon not be forgotten by. Though some may shrug off the album by today's standards (something I don't quite agree with, but hey), when Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1 was released back in 1987, it was very fresh. Some may ask, which is better, Pt 1 or Pt 2? To tell the truth, I like Pt 1 more, but this is mostly due to my preference of Kai Hansen's songs over Michael Weikath's writing. We definitely have an essential album here.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)
Helloween are just inches away from achieving that musical perfection they achieved on the second Keeper. Although not as good as ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys – Part II,’ the first Keeper definitely comes VERY close. And I mean VERY CLOSE. Definitely close enough to earn the score of a perfect 100. Considered by many the first power metal album ever, it is also one of the best.
Of course, as most of you should know, this album is the first of the Helloweens with Michael Kiske as the vocalist. His vocals here are incomparable, and this is obvious on basically every single song on the album. He has so many different singing styles; yet each time his voice is deep and full of power. He has one of those voices that just draws you in and makes you pay attention, never getting bored.
Songwriting on here is as close to perfect as it can get. This is mainly thanks to Kai Hansen, who is an amazing songwriter, both on Helloween and his later work with Gamma Ray. He is able to create highly memorable solos, catchy chorus, and original riffs on just about every song on this album, which makes each track original and fresh. Of course, originality IS the domineering factor here, since as I mentioned before, this IS the first power metal album ever.
Even more credit must go to Kai Hansen, again. This time it’s for guitarplaying. Because Kai is really one of the greatest guitarists, and this can EASILY be seen from songs like ‘Halloween’ which has like… what? 20 different solos in it? Amazing.
Ah, and since we’re already on the subject of ‘Halloween,’ I think this song alone deserves a paragraph about itself. With thirteen minutes and eighteen seconds, this was Helloween’s first epic, and it is in my eyes the best. (Or shall I say ears? I know… I know… bad pun.) It starts out slow with a couple riff rhythms, and slowly builds up for the first fifty seconds. Then at fifty-two, it comes to a slow halt… and EXPLODES. Guitar solos, pounding drums, Michael Kiske’s powerful vocals… this song has it all. Short chorus, then a solo, another solo, another solo, and another solo… it’s perfect. This is what power metal should sound like, and this one song will forever remain in my top favorite five songs of all time.
Of course, every other track on here is amazing as well. I feel that it is necessary to mention one other song, however. That song is ‘A Tale That Wasn’t Right.’ There is a lot of bashing going on about this song, and many people consider it a failure and forgettable. But…. It’s not. This song is a ballad, and significantly slower than the rest of the tracks on here. But does that mean it’s bad? No. In fact, I love the song quite a big deal. Speed has nothing to do with a quality of a song, and indeed, I consider this to be one of the best ballads ever written. Vocals are amazing; guitars are slower and more emotional… I have to admit, I like it quite a lot.
The lack of fillers on this album is something else worth of mentioning, and although I believe I did say this album is good from beginning to end, I mean every single song. There’s no problem here listening to the whole thing, beginning to end, and enjoying every single second. As to the production, although it is nothing outstanding, it IS good, so I don’t believe you should have any problem with this.
This album is indeed a major step in metal history. This is the album that gave birth to power metal, and together with the second Keeper, they are to date the best power metal releases. In fact, I don’t think they shall ever be matched. For a great listening experience, you can’t go wrong with 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys.'
You know, it's enough to make a guy angry. One moment Helloween are firing on all cylinders, creating power metal as we know it, and setting the bar spectacularly high for those that follow. The next, they are degenerating into complete worthlessness faster than you can say 'Michael Weikath is a rancid vagina'. What would have happened had Helloween been able to build on this electrifying lighting bolt of an album? The mind boggles. Sadly, however, the lightning-strike analogy is accurate in every sense, as Helloween will never again be so exciting or meaningul. But hey; let's not let the weakness of the modern day 'ween tar the memory of this untouchable classic; an album where 'irony' (or, as I prefer, 'acting like a prat') takes a back seat to fluid songwriting and visionary passion.
Where can we start? Straight from the soaring and cathartic 'I'm Alive' Helloween ride on into the stratosphere with a perfectly executed masterpiece of power metal. Riffs collide and mesh, sliding from chord to chord, progression to progression, mode to mode with delightful creativity. Momentum is sustained and built upon, the songs cycling and building with a neoclassical intricacy. Track after track hits home with pulverising choruses, uplifting motifs and dramatic construction: the swift, momentous power metal explosions of 'I'm Alive' and 'Twilight of the Gods'; the mid-paced anthem "A Little Time", Kiske's evocative crooning both earthing the song and lifting the listener into the magical planes of another world; the immense power ballad "A Tale That Wasn't Right", which has one of the most incredibly powerful solos ever put to tape; and the utter, rampaging, splendour of "Future World". When Kiske belts out the stirring line 'Our future life will be glorious', you can feel the passion and power driving the band onwards, and the optimism that would ultimately - sadly - prove unfounded.
Of course, we then get to the centrepiece, the masterful composition entitled 'Halloween'; the first power-metal epic, and to be quite honest it could have been the last. It's mysterious, dramatic, complex, atmospheric and never boring despite a hefty 13 minute running time. It's worth the price of the album alone, and over a third of its length; and yet there are five other essential tracks on here. Helloween have spoiled us. All of the faults which would later mar the bands sound are simply absent; the thinness in Kiske's voice is overruled by the shear beauty of the lines he sings, buffoonery is kept well in the background (and is resolutely disallowed from interfering with the songs) and the production is simply irrelevant when the songs maintain such power to grip and move over twenty years later. People have been trying to rip this stuff off for years, but the songs found within are still more than good enough to stand alone, upright and proud.
Power metal as a genre still cleaves to this album with a quiet kind of desperation, and countless other bands have taken the Helloween formula on to new heights of intricacy, speed, heaviness and virtuosity. But when it comes down to it, few collections of songs can match the feast which Helloween produced for our listening pleasure (though they would never come close to replicating the power and vitality displayed here). A powerful, intricate album of heavy metal splendour, and essential.
This album is, for all intents and purposes, the fruity warp-speed Germanic rendition of Queensryche's The Warning. Most will tell you that Helloween is just double-timed Maiden, but their sound is really much more similar to Queensryche's self-titled EP and first LP. Granted, those 'Ryche albums are very much Maiden-influenced but even so the similarities here are at times overwhelming.
Queensryche: "N M 156", a song about a future in which men and machines have become integrated and deviating from mechanized perfection threatens the protagonist with becoming obsolete.
"Wide eyes watch my number 156 is shown
Created from past life to perform illicit function
I fail this conscious madness
I - man/machine imperfection
Have we come too far to turn back round?
Does emotion hold the key?"
The song is very dark and sparse, and lines are delivered primarily in an emotionless monotone.
Helloween: "Twilight of the Gods", a song about a future in which men and machines have become integrated and deviating from the plans of the computers threatens to make humanity obsolete.
"Error in store 103
We watch the sun at night
The pretty gods we've built ourselves
Now terminate our lives
Silicon-brain powered voices
Are crying 'Attack!' tonight"
This song is fey power metal, but parts are delivered by a big emotionless monotone computerized voice over dark sparse riffs.
Queensryche: Geoff Tate.
Helloween: Guy who sounds a lot like Geoff Tate, but with a German accent.
Queensryche: The Warning, a semi-concept album that's too pretentious to actually explain to normal people what the concept is.
Helloween: The Keepers, two semi-concept albums that never bothered to really come up with a concept because normal people won't care what the concept is.
Queensryche: "Roads to Madness", a really long really vague narrative about paranoia and unknowable evil.
Helloween: "Halloween", a really long really vague narrative about Charlie Brown, trick or treating, smiting monsters, paranoia, and unknowable evil.
And I'm spent on that.
Now, the music. Basically, this is power metal ground zero. If you've heard power metal, you know what this sounds like. However, it still has an attractive rawness to it, with riffs that actually still have some bite to them and melodies that are catchy without being multitracked to hell. A good example of this is "Halloween"; the other 'weenies provide backing vocals ("masquerade! masquerade!") but they sound more like AC/DC than a high-upon-high choir of angels with spark-plugs clipped to their testicles. The playing too doesn't sound quite so saccharine and synthetic, this stuff tight and technically sound but it still sounds like its being played my actual living breathing human beings. There are even some cool basslines audible in places.
I think the thing that really separates this record from prior speed metal efforts (including their own Walls of Jericho release) is the perkiness to it. This thing fairly sparkles, even the dour parts seeming to be delivered with a wry grin. The riffs are tight and headbangable, but they all have these HUGE melodies that are obviously there for the sole purpose of getting the crowd singing along and really getting into this band's flair. The guitars are omnipresent, trilling and noodling about, soloing in a charming yet totally masturbatory fashion, or simply zipping along the usual 16th notes in major key style that the band would do over and over and over again over the subsequent albums through 'til today. The drums... lots and lots of double-bass action going on.
Highlights of this thing include the rousing opener "I'm Alive", which is just drop-dead fun. It goes without saying that a chorus that goes "I'm alive whooa-oh-oh I'm alive!" would be catchy, but man the thing just surges with so much damned power that your arm seems to involuntarily reach toward the sky and start pumping. "A Little Time" follows in the proud tradition of opening with a song that rocks one way and then following with a similar track that rocks in the opposite direction. Okay, that didn't make sense but its true nonetheless. And yeah, big ol' epic "Halloween" is a storehouse for a TON of riffs and there are solos under just about every nook and cranny, and for a wonder none of them are really all that similar. The song is way, way too loose but its still pretty great.
The lyrics suck. Ass. If you disagree, you're very likely insane, but in any case read the lyrics to "Halloween" again. Yeeeah...
"A Tale That Wasn't Right" approaches being the worst ballad ever written by a pioneering 80's power metal band. First the title... holy obvious Germanic translation. There's just something so bizarre about that phrase... it's just something no native English speaker would come up with. And the song itself is a plodding overly sentimental and thespian piece of spoo. Kiske is particularly lame on this track (although his overall performance is damned good). This thing certainly ain't no "The Lady Wore Black".
Other than "I'm Alive", nothing really screams out to be listened to repeatedly.
Anyway, I'm not a huge power metal guy but this album is consistent and fun. I got it for $8.00 CAD, and that was a good deal for it. I'm sure Keeper pt. II is better, but I'll see when I get it. You know, when I find it for $8-10.
Highlights: "I'm Alive", "A Little Time", "Halloween"
Ya know, sometimes this album just rules mightily, and at others, you just have to wonder what they were thinking. Luckily, the good stuff on here utterly blows you away. The bad just blows.
Now, I might sound a little too harsh here. Walls of Jericho is a speed metal classic, and hell, so was the EP. Following it would naturally be insanely difficult. On here, the harder elements from before are softened. The guitars sound just way too quiet. Kiske sure is a great vocalist--he commonly draws comparisons to Bruce Dickinson, but I hear more of a John Arch similarity--but sometimes he drowns everything else out, to annoying effect. Of course, the previous stuff had crappy production, but then at least the raw energy made up for it.
Of course, "Halloween" is the fucking uber-song on here. It really is amazing. "Twilight of the Gods" and "I'm Alive" are really impressive as well. They both feature amazing choruses and guitar-work, and hmmmm...is it just me or does Kai Hansen seem responsible for all the ruleage so far? Just a thought. And then there's "Future World". Effects solo be damned--I'd rather have them all at once than scattered all over the song like on "Rise and Fall" on the next album. Get it over with! Speaking of which, we're left with two decent but unnecessary instrumental fillers, and "A Little Time", which doesn't do much for me. The backing vocals suck, too.
Still, the good outweighs the bad. Just expect it to be an up-and-down experience if you heard Walls of Jericho first, like I did. Come to think of it, maybe that's my main gripe with this one. Hey, you can get spoiled if you listen to the best right off the bat!
Oh yeah. Avoid, AVOID, "A Tale That Wasn't Right". It really isn't.
There isn't one person I can think of who listened to this album for the first time and wasn't at least slightly amazed...
The musical influences in this albums range from Iron Maiden (Number Of The Beast - Powerslave era) to Rainbow and Queen, which are fused together in an magnificent way.
This band and especially Kai Hansen had an extraordinary talent and imagination to write most of the songs in the album. By combining the influences mentioned above together with very fast drumming, high pitched vocals, melodic and technical riffs with fabulous twin-guitar solos, Helloween achieved to lay the foundations for Power/Speed metal, as it is known today.
The album begins with an operatic marching type intro which sets successfully the mood of the album. The intro leads nicely into the fast paced "I'm Alive", which carries an optimistic message and is comprised of a memorable chorus, fast drumming, raving guitar solos and twin-guitar reefs. The heavy "A Little Time" comes next with another catchy chorus and sound effects, while the vocals range from emotional low tone ones to high pitched screams. Onwards comes the metal ballad "A Tale that wasn't Right" to slow things down a bit, whose strongest points are the truly emotional vocals and the wonderfully played guitar solo. "Twilight Of The Gods" continues in the same vain as 'I'm Alive' but contains more thought-out lyrics, better vocals and a chorus that you'll never forget. "Future World" follows, which is the most famous of the tracks, a heavy metal anthem, played in mid-tempo, comprising of one of the best twin-guitar solos of the album and vocals varying from low tempo to really high-pitched. Next comes the true masterpiece of the album "Halloween", an operatic-fast-progressive-emotional power metal hymn raving over 13 minutes (which never gets long nor tiresome). All of those songs are still considered classics and for sure are some of the best and most epic power metal songs ever written (together with Eagle Fly Free, pt II).
But except the captivating music, a new charismatic vocalist that no one had hared of before, "Michael Kiske", joins the band to take this album to the skies! Influenced by Bruce Dickinson, Klaus Meine and Jeoff Tate but equipped with much more emotion and range, especially in the high pitched vocal lines, 18 year old Kiske makes this album a MUST HAVE for any metal and hard rock fan. (M.Kiske is still considered one of the best vocalists in the heavy metal genre)
Even if you are not a metal fan, this album will please you or even blow you away with the mythical and uplifting atmosphere it creates and the technically perfect orchestration it achieves. (Definitely check out Keeper Of The Seven Keys pt II!!)
Will be loved by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Stratovarius, Blind Guardian, Queensryche, Rainbow...fans.