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Best of albums are always a bit of a touchy subject, especially in the world of heavy metal. Most of these are met with disdain and seen as nothing but a sell out. Sometimes though, a band releases one like this. One that is a very good representation of the band as a whole and would make a great first impression for a new listener, and also includes some nice treats for the hardcore fans. Nearly all the classics are here, there are only 2 songs that I really felt should have been included that weren't. One is "Phantoms of Death" from Walls of Jericho, which is a personal favorite of mine, but it's omission doesn't surprise me. The second however is the classic "Eagle Fly Free" from the second Keepers album. Wow, how can you not include that song? That's like Helloween's trademark song. But you can't please everyone, and in reality it's still one of the best "Best of" albums you'll ever hear.
I won't bother going over each of the classic tracks, as all of them are fucking awesome, and that should go without saying. Songs like "Ride the Sky," I Want Out," "Halloween," etc. are some of the best heavy metal songs ever created. But I will go over the rare B-sides thrown in here. "Livin' Ain't No Crime" is a decent rocker, it has a similar vibe as songs like "Future World" and "Dr. Stein" it's just not quite as good as those two. "Savage" is much faster, and it's damn good. It was actually written by Kiske, which is kind of surprising because it was probably one of the heaviest songs they had at the time. "Don't Run For Cover" is another Kiske song, and this one sounds more like what you might expect from Kiske or Weikath. It's a little quirky, but still pretty heavy. The real gem here though is a rare version of the classic "Victim of Fate" re-done with Kiske on vocals. It's not just a vocal track over the original either, it's completely new with beefed up production. And god damn does it kick ass, I mean it doesn't get much better than this. I love the original to death but this version is better in every way. The same dark feeling of the original is kept here, and as good as Hansen sang the original, Kiske takes it to the next level. The really big change is the soft interlude in the middle of the song, in the original Hansen sounded a little unsure of himself with his whispering, but Kiske adds some dramatic flair to it. And the scream that ends the interlude, holy shit! "You will burn in hellllllllll!!!!" He sends that scream up into the stratosphere, very well done.
For what it is, you couldn't really ask for much more. The 2 early eras of the bands are well represented, and all though a couple of amazing songs were left off, and a couple generic songs were thrown in, it's still about as good as a best of CD can get really. And if anything, it's worth having for "Victim of Fate" and "Savage" alone.
Helloween pretty much falls into 3 separate eras, the Classic era, the experimental period, and the revival period. This release, which came at the very end of the classic era of Helloween (consisting of all 4 original instrumentalists, and Michael Kiske at the helm), is essentially the prime rib of that particular era of Helloween.
The first 3 tracks here are essentially the most radio friendly, the most catchy, and the most polished tracks ever released during this era. They are all mid tempo rockers with memorable riffs, solos and choruses. Of these, "I Want Out" is probably the most powerful, which is probably why it is the most covered song by power metal bands of late and cited as a big influence in those circles. Future World is a bit similar, though the solo section is a bit more complex. Dr. Stein is lyrically a bit comical (a characteristic of much of Michael Weikath's works), and is probably the most musically complex of the 3.
The next 3 tracks go back to the pre-Kiske portion of the classic era when Kai Hansen was handling lead vox. Stylistically these songs are more speed metal than Power Metal, at times reminding me a bit of early Metallica. The stand out track in this bunch is clearly "Ride the Sky" where Kai soars up into the stratosphere with his incredible range, and he and Weikath rip out some amazing solos. Walls of Jericho is pretty much an instrumental prelude that contains the melody used for that creepy comercial viewed in the third Halloween movie (a fairly big influence on the band as this theme is encountered multiple times on several Helloween albums). Judas is another high speed thrill ride, though it's chorus lack the strength that "Ride the Sky" has.
The next 7 tracks are a series of good but less well known songs from the Michael Kiske era, surrounded by two of their longest and most musically complex songs to date. Of these two, "Halloween" is clearly the more musically complex, probably due to Kai Hansen's more technical playing style and inclinations towards classical music. "Keeper of the Seven Keys" is more melodic and has a much more powerful chorus, and although I mostly prefer Kai's work to Weikath's, this one is the exception.
The other 5 tracks on here are mosly rarities, except for "Save Us" which appears as a regular track on "Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 2". Of these, the version of Victim of Fate with Michael Kiske doing the lead vox is my personal favorite, mostly because of the sheer intensity in the vocal performance. Savage is a high speed fury of speedy metal that almost sounds quasi-punk rockish. Living ain't no Crime is sort of a hard rock/metal hybrid, and Don't Run for Cover is a fairly Iron Maiden-like rocker.
In short, if you are a bit hesitant to invest in 3 full studio albums, but you are curious about this band, the band that pretty much pioneered the Power Metal sound of today, this is the place to start.
Helloween seems like a rather intelligent band the majority of the time, but they have their bad days every now and then. While compiling tracks for The Best, the Rest, The Rare, they apparently woke up on the right side of the bed. I thought it seemed kind of pointless at first to make a compilation album with songs off of practically only 3 albums, but I was obviously proven wrong. Taking the best of the Keeper albums and Walls of Jericho is brilliant!
I Want Out is obviously the logical place to start this album. What can I say, this track practically invented the power metal genre. Michael Kiske's voice here is absolutely perfect. Not only very competent, but very catchy as well. My personal favorite track from the band.
Dr. Stein is where the cheese begins to come out of Helloween. The story of building "rock musicians" doesn't seem very appealing, but nonetheless a pretty enjoyable song with another catchy chorus.
Future World is also lacks lyrically at times, but Kiske easily makes it up with his magnificent voice. Another one of my personal favorites from Helloween. Very catchy drumming.
Judas is magnificently written, probably the bands best song from the Kai Hansen vocal era. The chorus to this track is a bit doomier than usual and doesn't really reflect anything that the band has done since Walls of Jericho, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Ride the Sky must be Kai Hansen's pride and joy, because he even uses this with Gamma Ray. This track IMO showcases Kai's best high note. Very compentent, but not personally one of my favorites. Kind of repetitive.
Halloween is probably the most musically proficient song that Helloween has ever done. There are so many guitar solos and high notes here that its not even funny. This definately doesn't seem like a 13-minute song! Perfect in every way.
Now we have our first sleeper. Livin Ain't No Crime IMO is nothing special. Sounds like the typical Helloween song after the Keeper of the Seven Keys era. I usually just skip this one.
Save Us is sort of like Michael Kiske's mixture of Judas and Ride the Sky. IMO sounds like both songs were lumped together to make this one. Sounds really nice though, another catchy chorus, and another great job by the throat of Kiske.
Victim of Fate is the king of all Helloween songs! Originally done with Kai on vocals was a great song, but this rare verson has Michael Kiske and it is just that much more amazing. There is not a bad aspect of this track. It simply owns!
Savage kind of surprised me, because I thought I was hearing Judas again. Not a bad song, but the format has been used before. Its your typical Walls of Jericho track.
Don't Run for Cover, Ok, I'm just gonna save some time here. If you want information on this, just look at Livin Ain't No Crime's synopsis.
Another epic track here that should never be skipped is Keeper of the Seven Keys. Its nearly as good as Helloween, but actually has a much better story and many more time changes. It doesn't sound like you are listening to the same song at times, and certainly doesn't feel like a 13-minute song either.
Just wanting to consolidate your best of Helloween onto one cd, this is a pretty good place to start. Helloween has some great songs that aren't on here, but this album has what I feel and many others feel to be their best. Its definately worth the cash. You'll probably never find Michael Kiske singing some of Kai Hansen's songs on any other albums.