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Helloween (and Weiki) at their best - 96%

Ferturi, June 2nd, 2011

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.