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Of Legends and Satire. - 100%

hells_unicorn, March 2nd, 2008

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.