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Helloween is a band that loves the idea of concept albums. But that’s about it. Because when it comes to the actual execution of the thing, well – they sort of just do their own thing. Not that I care. And here’s why.
So the "concept" is taken from Nostradamus. So you know it’s going be all downhill. Doomsday dropkicks don’t make money out of good news stories. Which might explain why the album opener is called “We Burn”. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s based on Nostradamus, but I am pretty sure it’s rooted in something called heavy metal. Deris wrote the thing complete with back breaking riffing and a catchy onslaught for a chorus. This is album opener central people.
But back to Nostradamus. I think i’m pretty safe in guessing that “Steel Tormenter” doesn’t have much to do with the guy. But i’m pretty happy to be corrected by anyone that can dig up a prophetic quatrain where he talks about Deris and Weikath teaming up to let rip with a road rage anthem that makes Judas Priest sound like elevator music. But even that’s just a curtain raiser compared to what happens next.
“Power” is the song that changes everything. From the machine gun power chord intro to spine tingling verses to deafening chorus – this one leaves no exit wounds because the bullets stay lodged. And yet the truth is that on an album this good – and even on a song this powerful – Weikath is merely cocking his weapon for more to come.
But let’s not forget Deris though. Two albums in as Helloween’s new frontman and his songwriting smarts just keep getting better. “Forever And One (Neverland)” is heartbreak reduced to hurt reduced to a ballad you won’t forget. And “Before The War” is crushing speed metal delivered with death metal brutality and a thrash intensity. Missing Kiske? He was good, but have a listen to this song to get an idea of why Weikath chased this guy for years to get him onboard.
So back to Weikath. Not since Keepers 2 has he made so sizable a contribution to a Helloween album. And it shows. “Kings Will Be Kings” roars and shreds its way to yet another chorus that sounds like it invented the word. And the guitar solo is so epic it’s practically a separate track. Hold on to the word epic actually, you’re going to need it for a song called “Mission Motherland”.
The first thing you notice about this song is lyrics about aliens crash landing to earth. They try to fit in, have a tough time of it – and decide to go into some sort of hibernation instead. What Weikath is really writing about is the plight of refugees the world over. So you get social care factor by way of science fiction analogy by way of a metal masterpiece.
The music of the song is credited to Weikath and Helloween. It’s a strange credit but is easily explained by a couple of lengthy jam sessions in the song. They’re okay, but nothing can take away from the overwhelming melodic firepower of verses, a chorus and a haunting coda that cry foul at the way humans beings sometimes treat each other. In fact it almost seems sacrilegious to bother trying to follow a song like this, but Helloween do with two more songs anyway.
The only one that matters is the ballad by Weikath. It’s called “If I Knew” and years later he would go on the record as saying it sounded too much like a Beatles tune for its own good. I know The Beatles and they don’t sound like this. Unless I’ve missed their greatest heavy metal band on the planet period. Which sort of sums up this album. Period.