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A band's classic period is a difficult thing to view fairly. On the one hand, you need to consider what makes such an album classic, including the skill of the players, the timing of the release, and the influence that it has had since its creation; on the other hand, you also need to judge the music on its actual merits and not just give in to popular opinion. After all, albums like Pantera's 'Vulgar Display of Power' and Machine Head's 'Burn My Eyes' are either essential or excrement depending on who you ask. More acute readers may perhaps have picked up the signs that I have my doubts about Helloween's classic era, and indeed I do, for a couple of reasons.
My personal preference for Helloween falls slightly in favour of their modern material (since 'The Time of the Oath'), because I enjoy the heavier guitars and broader writing palette, plus 'Better Than Raw' and 'Gambling With the Devil' are awesome albums in their own right, without having to rely on classic status. Another reason for this preference is quite simply Andi Deris's voice, or rather Michael Kiske's voice, which jars with me, horribly at times. There is much applause for Kiske's singing style on the Metal Archives, so perhaps I will be required to justify myself. On a song like 'March of Time', I agree that he has a great range and a soaring power metal style that Deris could never quite achieve, yet he isn't good to listen to for a sustained length of time: his voice sounds strained and he struggles to reach notes that he has no need to aim for, so that I can never purely enjoy his skill. However, on many of the other songs Kiske's voice is too weird and attention-grabbing, with awful phrasing and a tone that fights against the instrumentalists. This is worse in the verses, when he sings in a lower voice, though - to me - his vocals are all over the place and often sound not just out of time, but also out of tune. 'Rise and Fall' is especially awful, while the introduction of 'We Got the Right' sounds exactly like Bruce Dickinson. Additionally, the gang vocals on this album are not really my cup of tea either and seem overused.
Let me put in a good word for this album now, because I have another complaint to make in a minute. The other four musicians all perform superbly for the length of the album. Everyone provides memorable moments, especially the string players, although perhaps Ingo Schwichtenberg's contribution is upset a little by the production, which gives him less power and scope than his bandmates, not that he is poor. There are numerous highlights for Markus Grosskopf (I swear his surname translates as Bighead), including a little solo action on the first two songs and the last. His tone is always clear and strong, which helps the thin sound of the guitars. Both Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath are on fire for 90% of the album, with gorgeous melodies and stunning solos on every song, and plenty of riffs to boot. The range of styles that they manage to include in the power/speed/heavy metal template is impressive, particularly in their changes of pace and intensity, meaning that 'I Want Out' can stay slower and catchier without losing anything to the fury of the preceding 'March of Time'. The acoustic additions on the epic title track and the Spanish-sounding guitar in the background of 'March of Time' are well-judged and very interesting.
There are only a couple of songs that I could definitely call classic here. One is the fantastic 'Keeper of the Seven Keys', which the band throw everything at and don't make it seem overblown, overwrought, or over long. That song contains every element that made early Helloween great and remains a thrilling listen for its entire duration. I also enjoy 'You Always Walk Alone', 'March of Time', and 'Dr Stein', this last song being the strongest of the less serious numbers. 'I Want Out' and 'Rise and Fall' also have jokey themes, the former Hansen's resignation from the band (really, only Helloween would release that as a single) and the latter about all fucking sorts, including erectile dysfunction. I don't mind the humour that the band liked to throw into their music around this time, but when the song is turned into a joke by sound effects and so on (this is 'Rise and Fall', by the way), it is at the cost of the music and doesn't do the band's skills any favours. 'Dr Stein' works because it's a great song already and would probably work even as an instrumental. There is a good mixture of styles and paces on offer, though some of the songs fall a little flat despite their good individual parts.
What Helloween were trying to do with the 'Keeper of the Seven Keys' albums was admirable, but in the end the size of the concept defeated the band, because I don't end up feeling that these two albums are nearly as connected or focused on story as their nomenclature suggests. The band might have done better to think smaller, concentrate on their great individual talents, encourage Kiske to tone it down a little, and come up with a more cohesive set of songs that all took themselves as seriously as each other. I like some of the music on offer here, and I don't deny that this album is very important, though I also think that its quality has been exaggerated and its faults ignored in order to turn it into a pinnacle of early power metal. It's amazing in places, but it won't sweep you off your feet.
And considering 1988 was a breakthrough year for thrash (each of the big 4 would put out a classic this year), black and death metal, that's a massive accomplishment when you're sticking to basics.
I’m a sucker for when a band’s discography is a slow rising journey in quality until it culminates with a masterpiece for the ages. This is that very concept.
Now I’m sure to most Helloween fans their top two Helloween songs are Halloween and Viction of Fate or Ride The Sky fighting out at #2, but 3-10 could very well be the tracklisting for this entire album. My expectations were very high for this album due to hype, etc. and this album passed every single one of those expectations, every one. Everyone is on their A-game here, from both a musician and songwriting standpoint. While Keeper 1 managed to carry the weight of quality through seven tracks (I ignore the intros, so should you), this manages to carry a higher level of quality through nine songs. Yes, nine, I include Save Us. I usually scoff at and ignore bonus tracks, but Save Us is a fantastic song that I wouldn’t even be opposed to appearing the top 10 of Helloween songs!
The lyrics are also worth mentioning to, as they display a sense of social conscious (From our lives' beginning on, We are pushed in little forms, No one asks us how we like to be), cynicism with humanity (in the sky a mighty eagle doesn’t care about what’s illegal), and surprisingly, humor, both intentional (his assistant’s hips were nice, so he cloned her once or twice, now his hips are aching) and unintentional (an earthquake, squirting fire).
It’s of course worth mentioning that not only is this a blast to listen to, but it’s highly innovative as well. If Seventh Son of A Seventh Son didn’t do a complete job of laying down the ground rules of power metal, than this album certainly did.
If you’ve ignored this album, because of the power metal tag or the sounds too much like Maiden tag, I urge you to reconsider and pick it up. You are missing out on too much joy (and metal) for you to afford otherwise.
Eagle Fly Free
March of Time
Keeper of the Seven Keys
Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2 is a classic. There’s no denying that. It would be perfectly safe to argue that this is the most influential and important power metal album of all time. Before Helloween put out the brilliant Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1, the power metal genre was far from solidified. It existed in different forms in the shapes of bands like Manilla Road and Manowar, but there was no definite standard that would guide the formation and development of the genre. Helloween set that standard with Part 1, but the sound had yet to be perfected and fully developed. What is now known as European power metal had been born, but it took Part 2 to perfect the art and show the metal world how power metal, at the heart of the genre, is played. And today, not much has changed. New symphonic, progressive and thrash-influenced schools of power metal have emerged since the release of Keeper Part 1 and 2, but Helloween's "Keeper" duology remains the gold standard for power metal excellence.
From the first “real” track, “Eagle Fly Free”, the album is more than promising. This was before my time, but I can just picture putting this CD or cassette in the player back in 1988 and dropping my jaw when that chorus came up. While the instrumentation and songwriting is great, it’s the phenomenal voice of Michael Kiske that really defines the song and makes it such a classic. Every power metal junkie has had that embarrassing voice crack while trying to hit the high notes at "just make it your own way" during the chorus. "Eagle Fly Free" has everything a good power metal song should have: speed, a perfect balance of heaviness and melody, inspirational lyrics, and emotional, high-pitched vocals.
And then mediocrity kicks in. Tracks 3-6 are generally boring, suffering from lackluster composition, bad lyrics, or both. "Rise and Fall” falls flat on its face because of the tasteless lyrics and general goofiness that really clashes with the rest of the album. I understand that certain versions of the album include a song called "Save Us"--a pretty awesome speed metal number--in various track positions on the album while other versions don't have it at all. I fail to understand how "Rise and Fall" was deemed fit for any version of the album, especially when a scorching track like "Save Us" is just screaming to be played, but I digress. Tracks 3 and 6, “You Always Walk Alone” and “We've Got the Right”, respectively, are mid-paced songs that plod along for a while without going anywhere, but are redeemed by the usual excellent performances from Kiske. They really spoil the flow of the album, in my opinion, and would have served best as bonus tracks at the end, even if the body of the album might end up on the short side. Dr. Stein” is supposed to be a classic, but despite some nice riffing and great vocals, I just don't dig it that much.
Then, the songwriting makes a complete 180° turn for the better. “March of Time” is sheer brilliance, and you can hear the inspirational and introspective foundations of what power metal giants like Stratovarius would later become. “I Want Out” is another highlight. It's catchy, has some of the album's best lyrics, and is brimming with energy. Finally, we have the epic title track, “Keeper of the Seven Keys”. The composition is nothing short of awesome. It’s very progressive, transitioning between hard-hitting moments (Kiske is arguably at his best when he screams the furious “sea of anger!” line), and softer interludes. The solos are stellar, and complement the song beautifully. The song tells the epic story of Christ's triumph over Satan (with a few symbolic liberties here and there), and it's pure glory all the way through. Epic songwriting doesn't get much better than this.
For all it's strong moments, Keeper of the Seven Keys does not live up to its potential. This is an album that could have been, and should have been great. Unfortunately, Helloween settled for mediocrity in too many places, and includes songs that would have been better left omitted (or included as bonus tracks). Quantity isn't always quality, and the inconsistency of this album certainly teaches that lesson. As influential and at times simply brilliant as it was, it still falls short of greatness as a whole. But, it remains essential listening for any metal fan and holds a vital piece in the history of the power metal genre.
Both of the original Keeper of the Seven Keys albums are usually considered by Helloween fans and power metal fans in general to be among the best releases the genre has to offer. After all, these 2 albums pretty much created the staple for melodic power metal and they are still the most well-known Helloween albums. They’re also the only 2 albums made by the “classic” Helloween line-up with both Kai Hansen’s guitar and Micahel Kiske’s vocals.
The question that comes to mind: which one of the Keeper albums is the best? That depends on personal opinion, and I like part 2 a little more than part 1. Why? Mostly because part 1 is a little too short in my opinion (it’s only 6 songs not counting the intro and outro, which I think are pretty useless), and also because some of my all-time favorite Helloween songs happen to be on part 2.
Also, part 1 was written mostly by Kai Hansen while part 2 is mainly the brainchild of Michael Weikath, and after looking at the songwriting credits on the whole Helloween discography, I realized Weiki wrote most (if not all) of my favorite Helloween songs. I’m a sucker for good melodies and I believe Weiki to be the better songwriter in the history of the band. He has a unique gift for melody and it shows because this album (the only one written mainly by Weiki) has some of the best melodies in the Helloween discography.
The opener, “Invitation”, is actually a lot better than the intro for part 1, and it really sets the mood for the whole album. It feels epic, grandiose, and uplifting. Then the first real song begins, Weiki’s “Eagle Fly Free,” and I consider this one to be the archetypical Helloween song. It’s fast-paced with a very good and catchy melody, some incredible solos, and really gives you an uplifting sensation of power as power metal should. It’s one of my all-time favorite Helloween songs. Next comes Kiske’s “You Always Walk Alone”, which is a little slower than the previous song but still really good, the chorus is very catchy, and it’s hard not to sing along.
Weiki’s “Rise and Fall” comes next and we’re introduced to the funnier and more comical side of Helloween in both lyrics and music. This song has a very playful feel to it with all the sound effects and funny lyrics, and this feeling continues with the next track, “Dr. Stein” (also by Weiki). Both songs have the typical Helloween melodies in the chorus and the main riff from Dr. Stein is incredibly catchy. The little Beatles tribute at the end of Dr. Stein adds a nice touch.
The following 2 songs are the weakest on the album. Kiske’s “We Got The Right” is the slowest track and it can get a little boring, although it’s saved by some pretty good melodic guitar parts near the end of the song. The next one is Kai Hansen’s “March of Time”, featuring some great guitar playing and the whole song feels very fast-paced and powerful, but it lacks a little bit of melody.
“I Want Out” was the main single from the album and probably one of the most successful power metal songs in the mainstream in history (getting airplay on MTV and the such). It’s a simple, good, and catchy song, but I really don’t think it’s one of Helloween’s best (I get the same feeling with Dream Theater’s “Pull Me Under”). I can see its commercial appeal, but I think "Eagle Fly Free" should have been the main single.
And then we get the big finale. “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” is a 13 minute long epic climax (courtesy of Weiki). The concept is pretty similar to “Halloween” on the previous album, but I actually like this one a little more. It starts with a nice acoustic guitar intro that gets you into the mood for the song, then Kiske starts singing the lyrics in a slow and dramatic way. It’s the story about a warrior who’s on a quest to defeat evil. During the verse and bridge of the song, the singer warns the warrior about the perils of his journey (lords of darkness, etc…), but encourages him to carry on. The bridge has an especially uplifting melody that I enjoy a lot (“Our only hope's your victory!, Killing that Satan who won't let us be!”). The chorus is slow yet very melodic and epic. Here the singer refers to the warrior as the “Keeper of the Seven Keys”, who is destined to destroy evil forever as predicted by the “Seer of Visions”. The same formula is then repeated once again.
After that, the singer tells the warrior to destroy each of the seven keys (to the gates of hell?) one by one, by throwing them into the seven seas (of hate, fear, ignorance, etc…), and this is the climax of the album: Kiske gives his best vocal performance yet, and after he mentions each of the keys we get some awesome guitar solos. Finally, the last key is destroyed and the dark lord is banished forever, then all the tension is released by one last repetition of the chorus with some triumphant lyrics (“there ain’t no more demons and no more disease!”, “you have given our souls back to light!"), followed by the same acoustic guitar that we heard in the beginning, which gives a good closure to the album.
Now, that’s got to be one of the most awesome and epic ways to close an album ever (only rivaled by Genesis’ “Supper’s Ready”, if you’re into prog rock you’ll know what I mean)! The last song is a masterpiece. The concept and lyrics are great, the vocals are incredible, the melodies are beautiful, the solos are awesome, and the whole structure of the song gives this album the fantastic climax it deserves. That’s why this is my absolute favorite song by Helloween: a work of genius by the great Michael Weikath.
Some versions of the album add an extra track, Hansen’s “Save Us”, which is a very good speed metal song from the earlier days of the band, but I consider it blasphemy to add anything after the magnificent ending this album already has, so adding another song after “Keeper” just takes away from the “epicness”. It’s ok if they put the extra song earlier in the track list, though.
All in all, this is my favorite album by Helloween and one of my all-time favorite power metal albums. It’s a definitive classic, was hugely influential, and I just think it’s a really awesome album. I think it’s a shame that most people credit only Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske for the greatness of the Keepers-era Helloween while Mr. Weikath played an enormous role in it as well. This album and its predecessor are so good because they mix the powerful compositions of Hansen with the incredible melodies from Weiki, and Kiske’s unique voice suits the songs perfectly. Many people criticize this album for being “cheesy”, and it certainly is… but I really don’t care because it doesn’t take away from the musical quality and it’s still a very entertaining listen. The first Keeper album is also great and it’d have been awesome if the 2 albums were released together as originally intended. That would have been the definitive power metal album.
After a very strong first part of the legendary "Keeper of the seven keys" trilogy, this second part even improves in the first one. There are about fifteen minutes more content than on the first disc, the album is more diversified and the quality of the lyrics and the musical skills has also improved in only one year. There are still two or three average songs on the record and a couple of lengths, but the album is more surprising and enjoyable to listen to than the already very good previous one.
After a nice introduction, "Eagle fly free" kicks the album off in a similar style to "I'm alive" with the difference that the chorus is even catchier here while the music is as fast and heavy. Melody, passion and speed are united in this melodic monster. "You always walk alone" shows already that the band tried something new on this album and didn't entirely copy the concept of the first part. This song surprises with an interesting slow opening before it goes over to a standard power metal song with some nice bits of good hooks and melodies from time to time. Nevertheless, though this song sounds different and fresh, it is in my opinion the weakest track on the records and that tells a lot about the quality of the songs. "Rise and fall" is even more diversified, surprising and a truly well hidden gem to discover and somewhat one of my favourite songs in here even if it takes some time to grow. "Doctor Stein" heads in the same direction as "Future world" minus the embarrassingly cheesy lyrics. This is a funny party song to listen to with a few friends in the house and some beers in the hand, but the song is not entirely ridiculous and finally a quite good match between musical aspirations a lyrical humour with a commercial approach. "We got the right" is one of the weaker songs, but Michael Kiske's brilliant vocal performance saves this song as well as some slight progressive influences here and there similar to "Rise and fall". "March of time" is another rather ordinary power metal tune a part of the strong chorus and the divine voice of Michael Kiske that saves this mediocre track as well. "I want out" is then the prototype of a perfect commercial power metal song. The riff is catchy and memorable, the lyrics authentic, the vocal performance powerful, the rhythm section very tight and the chorus an absolute amazing text to sing along with. Then comes the overlong epic title track "Keeper of the seven keys" that is more diversified and elaborated as "Halloween" was. The band shows its musical talent, proves once again its catchiness and combines strong hook lines with rather atmospheric passages. The only little negative point I discover is that the track is a little bit too long and ambitious and three minutes less would have contributed to a more dynamical and intense performance. The final "Save us" from the remastered edition is not just an instrumental song, but a highly interesting and well elaborated track with an unusual introduction, a strong and atmospheric vibe with progressive sound effects and the typical genre trademarks combined to a truly epic chorus. This final masterpiece is a strong grande finale and an essential addition to the original album while the other bonus tracks of the remastered editions are rather ordinary and don't quite rate up the album.
This album is a musical and lyrical improvement on the previous one and a milestone in the history of power metal. The band has matured but kept the fresh formula of the straighter first part alive. For many years, the band would never be that creative and no more that inspiring again. The energy and passion of the young musicians created a feeling of inspiring freedom that is entirely listenable on the album before arguments and line-up changes led this band down until the departure of the gifted singer Michael Kiske and the suicide of the drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. On this album, the band still sounds motivated and liberated and that's what makes this album so sympathetic. I highly recommend this record to anyone that enjoys melodic or power metal.
Many times, some albums of certain bands are genre defining and for the same reasons are claimed to as legendary. True that genre defining albums are great, but does that also imply that they are legendary? Not necessary. Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II is one of the most fundamental examples of the kind. Helloween jumped to the forefront of the metal scene with their speed metal debut Walls Of Jericho and the equally gripping follow up in the form of Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I. Hence it was quite a natural thing that this album would be successful.
Among the individual performances, the guitar duo of Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath shine. AS on the last two Helloween albums, the guitar work on this album is just superb. This includes both the riff work and lead work as well. The riff work is a bit more melodic from the last two albums, where it was mostly thrash inspired. Markus Grosskopf also sounds great and his basslines are creative rivalling the likes of Steve Harris and Geezer Butler. The drumming is so-so. It sounds great, but there were even better drummers during that period, and so it doesn't quite sound unique. The vocals are the main problem of the album. No, don't get me wrong, Michael Kiske is a superb singer with a great range, but on this album he sounds very weak and powerless. Also he lacks imagination in his vocal delivery. Many times he goes into high pitch, without any necessity and it sounds annoying. He has a great range and a great voice, but an inability to use it perfectly.
Among the individual performances, the opener Eagle Fly Free is the essential highlight. It has great pace, chorus and a superb vocal performance by Kiske. Dr.Stein is another highlight. it features superb guitar work. It would have sounded much better if Kiske was replaced by a rough singer. Kiske sounds powerless in this song. but it doesn't make too much of a diffrence to it. Save Us and March Of Time are also great tracks, both highlights. The title track has it's moments and it works well when it gets going. But it is overlong and many of it's sections seem out of place. It would have sounded much better if it was reduced to it's half. I Want Out is pure crap ( comparing to the highlights ). It sounds like a random Bon Jovi song with a more guitar oriented approach. We Got the Right, Rise And Fall and You Always Walk Alone are the worst songs from the album. I don't even remember listening to them as I always have used the skip button.
Finally this album breaks down due to consistency. Had it been more consistent it would have been great. But from an influential point of view, this album established the whole new genre of power metal, especially the european power metal. The standard guitar work, siongstructures, vocal melodies were established by this album. If you want some lesson in power metal songwriting listen to this album. The rest looking for enjoyment, please look somewhere else.
Although this isn't my favorite power metal album, it has about four of my favorite power metal songs of all time. Without question, this album has Helloween's best lineup - things were pretty good before Kiske, and the band hasn't been great since Kai Hansen left, but the first two Keeper albums are Helloween's two best albums. We all know about the influence of Keeper Pt. 1, but end to end, this album is better, and really solidified Helloween's status as a classic power metal band. There aren't many flaws with this album, but the middle of the album - that "You Always Walk Alone" to "We Got the Right" chunk - isn't spectacular, although "Rise and Fall" and "Dr. Stein" do have catchy choruses.
With that out of the way, I am now free to trumpet this album's virtues. Production is awesome. Kiske is spectacular on this album. He's been compared to Bruce Dickinson, and although they are both operatic, powerful singers, Kiske destroys Bruce in the range category. He's got nearly four octaves, and he makes sure to use them - this guy has some serious talent. He really shines on tracks like "Dr. Stein" and the title track.
This album is fun to listen to, and it definitely seems like they had fun making it. Tracks like "Rise and Fall" are fun to listen to, especially with the slides / effects at the end. Same goes for "Eagle Fly Free" - people have called this the greatest power metal song of all time, and if it's not, it's certainly not far off. It has a nice introduction track, but my favorite thing about this song is the way they make sure no one gets left out. Guitar solo for both guitarists? Check. Bass solo? Check. Drum solo? Check.
Speaking of drums, I love Ingo's drum lines. But Markus Grosskopf, the bassist... man, that guy can play. He's easily my favorite bassist of all time, for three main reasons. The first is that he's pretty prominent in the recording; I do like the bass mixed pretty loudly. Second, his basslines are creative; they really add to the music. Third and finally, he's damn good. How many times do you think, "Wow, that bassist is good!" when listening to an album? I only get that feeling for a few bassists (although maybe if I played bass it'd be different). Grosskopf is the most talented member of Helloween, and he's the main reason I sometimes listen to Helloween's later stuff. As for the guitarists, you get the expected twin guitar attack and a whole lot more. They're both extremely skilled, and they can both shred. No need to say more about their talent. But they also come up with awesome tones, too.
Standout tracks are the aforementioned "Eagle Fly Free," "I Want Out," and "March of Time." "I Want Out" is a classic track. "March of Time" is just an overall amazing song, with awesome guitar work. But the best track on the album is the title track, "Keeper of the Seven Keys." Although it's nearly fourteen minutes, it's dynamic and interesting, end to end. This is easily one of my favorite songs of all time. I've listened to this song so many time, I can practically hear the whole thing in my head. Okay, it has cheesy lyrics, but this song was written masterfully and played to perfection.
So overall, I give this album an 88, docking points mainly because of "You Always Wake Alone" and "We Got the Right." Still, this album has a fantastic opener and just about the best ending 4 songs that any album can possibly have.
I almost didn't get into power metal. Because people were screaming that bands like Blind Guardian were the absolute best the power metal scene had to offer, I listened to "Somewhere Far Beyond". I stayed away from power metal for a long time after that, thinking that all of it must sound like Blind Guardian (whom I still dislike). However, I received "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II" for my birthday from a friend whom I told I liked thrash metal which he interpreted as any metal from the 80s. So I took, at the time, the damnable thing and played it, and played it, and played it. It took awhile, but I got back into power metal because of this album.
The album is no masterpiece, however; this album is peppered with excellence and shit like I have found most Helloween albums to be like. It starts out with the intro Invitation which sets the power metal mood for this album. Then comes the gem, Eagle Fly Free, the best song on the album without a doubt. Kiske puts out a great vocal performance, Ingo's drumming is fast and spot-on as usual, and Kai's guitarwork is superb. You Always Walk Alone is a good song, but not nearly as fast or powerful as the song before it. Rise and Fall is where the humor begins; it lets the listener take a humorous look at a multitude of things like Romeo and Juliet and politicians.
Most of the songs continue in the vein of cool with speed/power metal fusion I Want Out or just songs with humorous tones to them like Dr. Stein. The songs We Got the Right and March of Time, however are mediocre at best but the title track is the worst song on the album. Keeper plods on for 13 minutes which is maybe 10 minutes too long. The song has its moments where some killer riffs are riffed or Kiske pulls off an amazing vocal section. However, it's almost like sitting through minutes of the same Pantera riff just to hear Dimebag bust out one of his famous solos and then listening to more minutes of mindless groove metal riffs. It's just not worth listening to after the first time.
Keeper Part II is probably the best Kiske-era Helloween album, but it's not the masterpiece that fans claim it to be. Sure, there's gems scattered throughout the album, but there's the lame tracks and the really shitty title track. If you like power metal and don't have this album yet, get it and you'll be a happy camper. If you're just getting into power metal from the harder stuff like thrash metal (as I did), try Walls of Jericho first before you move onto the albums that helped define power metal.
After Keeper part 1 the world had gotten accustomed to a different Helloween. Just as powerful at times but more varied, melodic and certainly more original. Part two is longer than its predecessor and the writing balance has levelled. Weikath and Kiske wrote more songs this time. This results in part 2 being slightly more varied than part 1 already was.
The Hansen songs are briliant as usual (although he would make some mistakes later on during the first few Gamma Ray albums of course). Following the success of Future World we have “I Want Out ” this time which is just as good, features some good riffs and melodies and a very catchy chorus. And just like Twilight of the Gods on part 1 there’s a raging song here as well called “March of Time”. Again a beautiful blend between early fast Helloween and the divinity called Michael Kiske.
Weikath has woken up and delivers 4 tracks instead of 1 this time. With “Dr Stein” he presents a funny and catchy little sing-a-long that does well in a live setting. His highlight however is the mightly “Eagle Fly Free” which easily is the best song on the album. Once again we’;re dealing with a very fast old school Helloween song on which Kiske can excel. “Rise and Fall” is simply good. It has a great neoclassical verse and the bridge has a certain Queen feeling. The chorus is catchy and uptempo. A great composition. Lastly we have the title track. Though not even close to the earlier epic “Halloween” this song also holds some great ideas. The bridge however is slightly too slow and the chorus not that strong. The rest of the song fortunately makes up for it.
Also this time Kiske has written some more. We’re talking 2 instead of 1 song by the way. “We Got The Right” is majestic. Starts of sounding like a ballad but quickly progresses into an epic pounding waltz with strong riffing and obviously briliant vocals. The builp-up of this song a marvellous and here were can really hear Kiske at his peak. Unfortunately his other song, “You Always Walk Alone”, is the weakest one on the album. Not saying it also is a bad song because it would easily crush everything on Chameleon for instance, but on this album it lacks the geniality of the rest of the songs. Kiske vocals however turn this average song into a worthy one. Just to give you an indication of how important his vocals actually are!
Before I forget. When I finally also bought the CD version next to my LP I got my hands on the bonustrack “Save Us” which I believe is a Hansen composition? It sure as hell sounds like one. Fast, furious and a more than beautiful middle section (check out Kiske singing “Far from down below one comes prepared to take us all waiting for his future and the final call” and you’ll know what I mean) before plunging into great harmonies and classic leads.
Like I said in my review of part 1: No use writing an epistle. Just go get this album right away. (together with part 1 obviously)
Originally meant to be a double CD concept album, the Keepers of the Seven Keys albums were released back to back in 1987 and 1988. The first was a shorter 8 track introduction to the concept, mostly contained within the closing track "Follow the Sign". Where this one differs is the more advanced sense of musicianship, combined with a greater emphasis on the satirical side of Helloween's lyrics.
Like it's predecessor, this album contains a good portion of up tempo tracks, technical flair, and a 13 minute plus epic. But song writing duties have evolved a bit, and this is where the music is a bit different. Michael Weikath has written the long epic to this album, and the results are a song that is equal in scope, but with a greater emphasis on melody, both in the vocals and the guitars. The lyrics on this track are also not quite as comical, which is a bit uncharacteristic as much of Weikath's work with Helloween is full of satire.
Faster tunes include the melodic and quite catchy "Eagle Fly Free", a song that would become a symbolic tool for the Judas Priest influenced band Primal Fear (whose vocalist was originally tapped to sing for Helloween), as well as the subject matter of several Kai Hansen compositions with Gamma Ray. "March of Time" is a lesser appreciated track from this album, though I consider it one of Kai Hansen's finest song writing moments, particularly for the piano work at the beginning. "Save Us", which on my version of this album was track 8, is a bit heavier and features both the bottom and top of Michael Kiske's amazing range. (for Gamma Ray fans, this song is a bit similar to "Solid" off of No World Order)
"We got the right" is an anthem like rocker offered up by Kiske that features a rather gloomy bass intro. "You always walk alone" is another Kiske offering that is quite insightful lyrically, although musically it reminds me more of earlier NWOBHM material. "Rise and Fall" introduces us to the more ridiculously satirical and quasi-punk rock side of Helloween, obviously influenced a bit by the Thrash bands of the time lyrically.
The most successful and well-known songs off this album, however, are highly noteworthy as they lack the over-simplistic feel of most radio friendly singles. "Dr. Stein" is another satirical song, telling the story of a mad scientist who fools with nature a bit too much and meets an unfortunate end. This one is loaded with fast solos, and a rather cliche yet fun pipe organ solo to accent the cheesy horror movie feel of the song. "I want out" is a more simple, yet quite exciting anthem of angst that reminds me a tiny bit of Twisted Sister, although with a more intellectual lyric approach.
As far as I'm concerned, this is Helloween's finest hour, although sadly it would be the last time that Kai Hansen would be in the band. As observed with how his music has evolved with Gamma Ray, it is clear that he was going in a different direction than the others in the band. This is a piece of power metal history that no current fan of the genre should be without.
This album is (dare I say…?) perfect. And I mean it. I’m very picky about my music, and I always find at least one tiny thing I don’t like. There’s always one filler. Perhaps bad production. Or maybe bad vocals? Guitars? There’s not enough song diversity? Something always bothers me. But no, not on here. Helloween’s second ‘Keeper’ is musical perfection.
Of course, this album is considered a landmark in metal history. And rightly song. How can you go wrong with Kai Hansen on guitars and Michael Kiske on vocals? You can’t. And that’s not even mentioning Kai Hansen’s amazing songwriting. I mean, every single song on this album is a power metal masterpiece, and I cannot find any song on here that could be considered filler in the smallest bit.
Obviously, Helloween were highly experimental here (as well as on the first Keeper) since they were treading previously unexplored territory and creating new genres of metal with each new album, it seemed. It is clear that this album contains even more power metal elements than the first of the Keepers, but it still has that hint of traditional metal and NWOBHM, as well as speed metal elements. Taking the best parts from each genre created a legendary sound that will NEVER be copied, no matter how many times it may be attempted. (Basically every single power metal band is DIRECTLY, and in a lot of cases SOLELY influenced by Helloween… and none of them manage to sound as great as the originals.)
So enough of the history lesson and let me start of with the vocals. Fuck, I can’t think of a single word good enough to describe them. Michael Kiske’s voice is godly. I don’t know of any vocalist that can sing better than him. There’s Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Dio… all amazing vocalists, and they do come close, but I do believe, at least in ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Part 2,’ Michael Kiske outsings them all.
Kiske has an incredible amount of singing ranges. He can be heard singing high, singing low… speeds vary as well. We hear him singly slow and operatically, and singing fast. It adds a lot of variety and song diversity to the album, which is yet another plus. Kiske’s voice is also incredibly catchy. When you hear vocalists like, say, Timo Tolkki from Stratovarius, Tolkki’s voice is incredibly forgetful. Kiske’s is quite the opposite.
The guitars on this release are perfect as well. Ranging from slower songs like ‘We Got The Right,’ to faster songs like ‘Eagle Fly Free,’ we always get riffs and solos that match perfectly the mood of the song. Kai Hansen seems to be able to influence the listener’s mood at will, which is something that not enough musicians can do.
The song structures here are flawless as well. The opening of each song is a masterpiece. ‘I Want Out’ for example starts out with a short and repetitive guitar solo that is catchy as hell. Right after we hear Kiske singing, slowly but steadily building up to the chorus, and at 55 seconds into the song we hear a second of drumming, and the chorus erupts with one of the catchiest choruses in metal history… “I want OUT! OUT! OUT!” At four minutes and ten seconds the song begins to close, and we hear one more “I WANT OUT!” as two more riffs and rums sound out, and the song closes. It’s perfect.
The song diversity on here is amazing. But it is not so diverse as to be annoying. There is a perfect amount of speed and style changes throughout the album to keep the listener entertained all album long. Each song is something completely new and original, with no repetitions of any kind, and no fillers whatsoever. The themes of the songs range greatly as well. For example, we have the anthemic ‘I Want Out,’ and then we have the legendary epic, ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys,’ going at over thirteen and a half minutes. Then we have ‘Eagle Fly Free,’ which is a speed metal masterpiece with power metal vocals from Kiske, and then we have songs along the likes of ‘Dr. Stein’ and ‘Rise And Fall.’ Both are less serious, and are simply… goofy. Take a look at this excerpt from ‘Rise And Fall’ for example:
“A spaceman flies the rocket
that takes him to the stars
thinks his wife is in his pocket
but she's strolling 'round in bars”
Absolutely ridiculous lyrics. Sang in a ridiculous way. But you know what? It WORKS. Helloween are not afraid to have fun while they play, and don’t worry about taking everything so damn seriously. They didn’t earn the nickname “Happy Happy Helloween” for nothing :-)
I love Helloween. I love Helloween. I love Helloween. And ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Part 2’ is the biggest reason for that. Throughout their whole history they released legendary albums like, of course, both ‘Keepers,’ ‘Time Of The Oath,’ ‘Master Of The Rings….’ And countless others. But this album right here is what etched their name in heavy metal history forever. If you don’t have it yet… GET IT. It’s as simple as that. You cannot be regarded with the least amount of respect if you don’t own this masterpiece.
Here, I'll admit freely: I certainly was not into metal when this album came out; in fact, I was barely even talking. Alas, I am therefore not even remotely qualified to talk about the impact this had on metal, or the fact that Helloween created a genre which has basically remained unchanged since 'Keepers... Part 1'. All I can do is to talk about the basic musical fabric of this legendary album, and to be perfectly honest it does not impress me.
The major problem with this release can be whittled down to one element: Michael Weikath. This collection of songs gives us all the evidence we need to conclude that this man is indeed a relentless buffoon, from his utterly unfunny attempts at humour (calling it 'satire' would be giving him unneccesary intimations of grandeur) to his cringe-worthy 'let's all be happy happy happy!' songwriting. Perhaps this is a little unfair; after all, 'Eagle Fly Free' is an unoffensive stab at a glorious power metal tune (even if it is utterly unremarkable) and 'Dr Stein' is quite fun, with a rather tasty organ countermelody at the end being the highlight.
But then... but then... we have a song like the execrable 'Rise and Fall'. Everything about this is just piss-poor. It's trying to be funny, but the lyrics are utterly fucking abysmal, and it's so happy-clappy ridiculous - living almost entirely as it does in the major modes - that it sounds just embarrassing. Weikath isn't entirely content with this affront to metal either; for then we get the interminable 'Keeper of the Seven Keys'. Frankly, it is just fundamentally pointless, a weak attempt at remaking the undoubtedly superb 'Halloween' from 'Part 1'. It just goes on and on and on, apparently convinced that having lots of different (boring) parts stuck together is a sign of musical genius. WRONG!
But let's ignore Weikath for a moment. What about the rest of the album? Well... I must conclude that it is simply unimpressive. 'March of Time', for example, could be the archetype for power metal, and thus has been relegated to 'utterly predictable'; every cack-handed power-metal wannabe has been ripping this tune off for nigh-on twenty years, and that whole sound is now stale as could be. Unfortunate, but true. The other songs are also unnoffensive, but they just seem bland; the vocal melodies don't grab me, the riffs aren't very exciting, and it all just smacks of pointlessness - not on the side of the band, who after all were genuine innovators in the eighties, but on the side of the modern observer for not listening to Angra instead. Add to this a dated production, with underpowered bass, overloud synthetic-sounding drums, a raspily thin, trebly guitar tone and an annoying singer (is it just me who thinks that Kiske sounds incredibly weak and weedy here?) and we end up with a big pile of... nothing much.
To wrap up, this album may have at one time been innovative and popular (despite dear Michael trying his best to mess everything up) but nowadays is basically pointless. So many bands in the meantime have just aped Hansen's composition style - as well as taking it to new levels, Kai included - that this is really now showing its age. So what exactly is the problem?
To me, it is that power metal has by definition a very fixed style, and in general it has not evolved. Other genres of metal have slowly changed, leaving the innovators sounding unique and isolated - thrash did, black did, death did, and traditional heavy metal really encompasses a lot of varying styles and techniques - but whilst power metalhas progressed in finesse and intricacy, it has not fundamentally altered (aside from notable exceptions such as Blind Guardian - and even this is arguable).
This makes 'Keeper... Part 2' an ancient flint tool; it worked back in the day, was a great new thing that helped move mankind into new areas, and indeed was amazing when it first appeared - but nowadays has no property which has not been superseded and improved upon. The only way this work could still have relevance is with truly stellar songwriting, and I have already laid down my reasons why this is not the case. Save your money.
I love this album, I really do. It's one of the ones responsible for my metal rennaisance back in high school that saved me from a lifetime listening to mediocre radio crap. It started with Time of the Oath that I found on the used racks, I figure a band with a name like "Helloween" deserved some investigation. Probably one of the best decisions I ever made. I followed that one up with this immortal album, a reference point for the entire genre.
With the Keeper albums, Helloween took their turbo-Maidenish sound and refined it into something new and original, starting a shockwave in the metal scene that's still being felt nearly 20 years later. My esteem for this album has not wavered, but I find myself hitting the "next" button on the CD player a few more times than I'd like.
The Great: Catchy, melodic tunes, some of the classics of the power metal genre like Eagle Fly Free and I Want Out, and some excellent but overlooked classic songs like We've Got the Right, still to this day one of my favorite Kiske performances. The guitarwork is inventive and excellent, and Markus and Ingo are no slouches either. The songs are expertly crafted, and hold their own to this day.
The Not So Great: The production isn't really that great. It's good, but it does make the album sound a little dated at times. Not in a bad way, but if an album was released that sounded like this in 2006 fans would be clamoring for a remixed, remastered version. There are some thin songs on here, as the band has remarked in recent years they didn't have the time they'd have wished to fine tune some of the songs. Yes, there is some cheese here, but no "black arrows to false metal" type of junk here. It's evident they don't take themselves too seriously, so you can't really fault them for this. There are some middling tracks as well, like You Always Walk Alone and Save Us, good but not great.
The Lousy: Rise and Fall. If I were the god of metal, I would erase this song from the album. It's really stupid. I've tried since my teen years to look at the song in context and I really tried to like it, but from the vocals to the guitars to the sound effects, this song would have been best left as a B-Side (though it's nowhere the steaming pile of turd that is Heavy Metal Hamsters). Dr. Stein doesn't really do it for me either, I liked the song years ago but the more time has passed, the less I can tolerate this song. I know it's regarded as one of their classics, but I would have to say it hasn't aged as well as some of the other songs on the album. Also to echo an earlier review, they could have done without the dumb sound effects.
To summarize this album, It really is a great album. I still consider it one of the albums that changed the way I looked at metal and music in general, and I still give it a spin very often all these years later. Though there are some songs that would make me want to give it less than a 90, the impact of the great songs on here and the shockwave it sent through European Metal warrants it having a great rating. I still regard it as an essential release, even if there are some songs on here that make you say "ehh".
The second part of the groundbreaking Keeper Of The Seven Keys part I! To be fair (without being influenced by the love and respect I have for this album) PartII wasn't as good as the first one, but nevertheless a record containing some of the best known power/speed metal songs ever written!
The album continues with the same energy and structure of songs but with more ideas from guitarist Weikath and less of Kai Hansen and a slightly more progressive and commercial feel. All in all a wonderful conclusion to the first part.
"Eagle Fly Free" is considered the best power metal song ever written, comprising of dual guitar solos,perfect vocals,a bass and drum solo. "Dr. Stein" is a wonderful, melodic, funny(lyrics) and classic song. "March Of Time" is a technical, also melodic and strong power tune. "I Want Out" is a pop (catchy), heavy metal song that fulfills its purpose. "We Got The Right" is a strong power-ballad were Michael Kiske shines, delivering a breathtaking performance filled with melodic and high-pitched vocals. Finally the title track has some magnificent ideas but it sadly can't surpass the masterpiece "Halloween" of part I (the chorus is a little cheesy).
Musically the album is still characterized by fast double-bass drumming, twin-guitar melodic reefs and solos, outstanding vocals and fantasy lyrics-themes.
The production is slightly better than the first part, as the album sounds tighter and kind of clearer. The band sounds a bit tighter compared to their previous relish, but that maybe due to the better production.
Michael Kiske has surely glued in the band and his charismatic voice gives you the chills throughout the whole album (he sings higher than ever, hitting all possible notes with great precision)!
The only minor drawback in this album are the tracks "You Always Walk Alone" and "Rise and Fall" witch cannot by any means be considered bad songs, but just don't seem to fit here...And the other being that most of the song writing was done by Weikath, who is a exceptional songwriter and guitarist but not as good as Hansen.
This is a classic and groundbreaking record in the history shelves of metal, together with part I. A source of inspiration and influence to countless bands to follow.
This is also the last chapter in the Hansen - Helloween (80's) glorious era, from where onwards the band went downhill (in my opinion).
A MUST HAVE for any power/speed,heavy metal and open-minded hard rock fan.
I've had this album for some time, but haven't listened to it for awhile, and decided to just for the hell of it. Though it's widely viewed as one of the greatest and most influential power metal albums of all time, and my views are on the positive side of things, I'm still a bit mixed.
The good? The writing is creative and the musicianship is superb, and I'll acknowledge Kiske really has a powerful set of lungs. The riffs and choruses are among some of the catchiest and memorable I've heard, and almost make me want to type them as I write, and then start air-drumming along. This album is full of good if not great riffs, melodies, and solos. Though it's far less aggressive than some of their other works, there's certainly some worthy headbanging moments, particularly in "Eagle Fly Free" and "March of Time." The production is crystal clear and brings out the best in it.
The bad? This album is cheesy, big time. Not in the way that all the faggot wigger youth of today mistakenly think that anything with long hair and lead guitars as "cheesy," of course, but this album is a bit over the top. I often "embrace the cheese," but fully embracing this album would be a bit of a stretch. Nearly everything from this album exudes a bit too much happiness, from Kiske's vocals to the subtle sypmhonic elements and the grandiose, jovial rhythms and chorsues. I can also unfortunately sense a hint of Christian elements in the title track, especially "Save Us". Then again, it's not quite as over the top in the uplifting sense as, say, Angra. Though the songs themselves are often catchy, the lyrics to "Rise and Fall" and "Dr. Stein" are just bad, but sort of funny at times and are catchy in their silliness. The title track has its moments but drags on forever, and is nowhere near as good as "Halloween" from the previous album. "We Got the Right" is just a dud. The best known track, "I Want Out" is good, but it grows repetitive.
Is it perfect or ideal? Not quite. It's a bit too cheesy and cartoonish, and I can really only listen to it when I feel like I need a good chuckle to make me a little less grim. I also prefer Walls of Jericho over this album by a good margin. However, I also acknowledge the good in Keeper, so I'll give it a 81%. Essential? Maybe.