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Metal kareoke? - 75%

Vim_Fuego, August 6th, 2004

After producing the definitive speed/thrash/pop metal blend in the late 80s, Helloween disappeared into Self–Indulgence Land Land in the early 90s, taking the best part of 10 years to recall the sound their original fans appreciated so much.

And to celebrate, they unleashed their unique sound on some of their favourite pop and rock songs of the past few decades. "Metal Jukebox" is an eclectic little collection, to say the least. The Scorpions' "He's A Woman–She's a Man" and Faith No More's "From Out Of Nowhere" are the two closest tracks to what Helloween are normally about. They stomp along as solid rocking, good fun tracks. From there, the album steps into, well, space.

David Bowie's "Space Oddity" is given a faithful, respectful treatment here. No one does Bowie better than Bowie, but this is about as good as you'll ever hear this song done by anyone else. Andi Deris' voice is not a match for Bowie's but he gives it his best shot without sounding strained. Also having a few decades advantage over the original, in which time production techniques have improved markedly, Markus Grosskopf's wandering basslines bubble their way higher into the mix than on the old classic.

ABBA's "Lay All Your Love On Me" and The Beatles' "All My Loving" are perhaps the furthest removed from the originals, and both are pulled off with great effect– the feel of the originals is kept, while simultaneously being given a kick in the arse. Yep, Helloween still have that ear for great pop tunes, even if they didn't write 'em. And it also shows Paul and John, and Benny and Bjorn, could well have been closet headbangers — these songs translate to a metalled–up sound extremely well.

There are a few more straight rockers, like a fairly decent cover of Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath", and "White Room" by Cream, but it is the lesser–known songs which really make this album. The instrumental "Hocus Pocus" by, er… Focus allows Helloween's impressive guitar duo to really let strip, with solid riffing and good old fashioned guitar solos, so often neglected these days. There are a few other little known gems hidden away here which really set this album up. It could easily have been an exercise in metallic karaoke self–parody, or an utter arse–kissing tribute album. It's not. It's a well–established metal band showcasing what they can do and where they came from, and having a lot of fun while they do it.