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Why do people hate Andi Deris again? - 83%

TrooperEd, April 22nd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2006, 2CD, Icarus Music (Expanded edition, Slipcase)

I mean for fuck's sake, the man gave us Before The War AND We Burn, all by himself (not to mention We Damn The Night). What were the best things Kiske gave us? We Got The Right and A Little Time? Great tunes, classics even, but not exactly speed metal Satan. Maybe Deris' vocals are a smidge AOR, and he doesn't quite have the vocal rasp to riches story as Kai Hansen, but so what? Michael Kiske sounds like Bruce Dickinson to beginners anyway, and Deris' range is pretty solid here (though apparently he has to downtune stuff from the first three albums to accommodate him live. Lame).

The Time Of The Oath is the album everyone should have gone running to after the bloody semen slap in the face to the metal collective that was Load. Not only are the requisite fast songs here, but we also have some killer slow tunes Lars can only dream of waving in the faces of thrashers. Forever and One just might be the best ballad Helloween ever recorded, with some amazing running the gamut leads from Michael and Roland (the final phrase around 2:57 is particularly dank).

Other choice oaths include Steel Tormentor, a Judas Priest fueled Killing Machine that at first I was rather annoyed to find as the last track of their first official live album, but now I not only find its spot very worthy, I'm mad it isn't in the reunion set. Come on guys, I know people are amped to hear the Kiske tunes, as they should be, but the first two tracks here are very worthy of first encore status. As is the title track, which takes a simple driving rock riff and groove, charges it up and burns down the countryside with it. A Million To One is also worth noting, again, for being a lethal mid-paced banger, but the guitar work is exquisite. Check out 2:52, quite possibly the best guitar harmony the band came up with after Halloween.

It's a damn shame America seemed to cast Helloween out completely after Chameleon and Heavy Metal Hamsters. I'm not quite sure whether this or The Dark Ride is the better album. Hell, I haven't even heard Better Than Raw yet, so Lemmy knows what variable that will bring to this trigonometry equation of true metal. Research can be fun sometimes, kids. Purchase this one from your local college bookstore today.

Joyous - 89%

gasmask_colostomy, June 2nd, 2016

I believe that I am destined to be a terminally confused Helloween fan, since I came to the band at an odd phase, totally loved what I heard, explored the back catalogue, and found that the "classic" era didn't really hold much for me. I am 100% in favour of the albums that have included Andy Deris on vocals, while the heavier, less traditionally power metal-ly songs have always appealed to me the most. I love Gamma Ray, so go figure. However, I've found it tough to get an objective viewpoint on this mid-period output, as I was led to believe that 'The Time of the Oath' and its predecessor 'Master of the Rings' were rather mediocre efforts, not as influential as Helloween's groundbreaking 80s work nor as focused as the heavier material that emerged after the turn of the century.

And yet, I'm really enjoying 'The Time of the Oath' at the moment. I think "enjoying" is a key word to understanding the appeal of this sort of album, because what the Germans were doing here doesn't sound especially polished or flawless, but it will make you smile and appreciate the melodic nous that they had mastered by this juncture. Arguably the musicianship isn't quite as finely tuned as on 'The Keeper of the Seven Keys' or 'Better than Raw' (which comes closest to the general sound of this album out of all Helloween releases), but there is an ease and sense of freedom to the tangling guitars and energetic rhythm section that is infectious and can quickly turn a bad day into a good one. If you're already having a good day, be prepared to start singing the choruses of the likes of 'Wake Up the Mountain', 'Kings Will Be Kings', and even the impressively good ballads at inopportune moments throughout the day, to the great irritation of those around you. Most of the songs here have a quality to them that will make you want to participate, not just listen, and that counteracts some of the cheesier moments found scattered about.

Now, I've already said that this isn't a flawless album and that the musicianship is a little below what these guys are really capable of, but let me reassure you by saying that it's only slightly off the pace. Always known for being a highly skilled band, Helloween can still blow most of their power and speed metal contemporaries out of the water, particularly when compared to the slightly formulaic attempts of bands like Rhapsody of Fire or Hammerfall (different formulas, I admit, but nonetheless rather predictable) or even the deliberately complex likes of Dragonforce or Blind Guardian, over whom these guys are just so much more listenable. The swirling, uplifting twin guitars that run right through 'A Million to One' sound intoxicating in terms of both speed and melody - something that Running Wild are still striving for after 40 years - and even the simplistic, almost rock-and-roll-ish 'Anything My Mama Don't Like' wins through for sheer energy and freedom. As such, both guitarists are on great form, only needing a few more memorable riffs to make a full house, while the rhythm section are both creative and frantic at times, reminding us of their potency on the faster numbers. Deris doesn't quite get the perfect position in the mix, occasionally sounding like he's competing pretty hard with the other musicians, though he's also far above passable, especially when crafting big choruses. The production is also good, probably the best of the band's career to this point, giving heaviness, detail, and warmth.

I was under the impression for a long time that the songs on 'The Time of the Oath' were a bit of a mixed bag, though I've slowly realized that it's simply a case of there being a lot of variety and a slightly overlong running time. It would have been nice to see the album clock in under an hour, particularly considering the needlessly bloated length of 'Mission Motherland' and the inclusion of 12 songs, which again seems slightly unnecessary. That said, there's not much wrong with any of them, except for 'If I Knew', which is a bit ropey in places, though I've never been a big fan of too many ballads. The real killers are surely the furiously fast opener 'We Burn' (which is a little bit funny if you think that Deris might be squealing "wee - burns" about a urine problem) and the monstrously majestic title track, which could easily have been written by Candlemass and kicks so much ass even Oprah is looking worried. In between, the quality is not quite so high, but there are probably about 6 songs on here that are really great and the rest are all decent, so I don't have any further complaints.

In conclusion, 'The Time of the Oath' should not be written off - a sin of which I am thoroughly guilty - and should be listened to with a big smile for best results. Good stuff.

In case you forgot, we're a power metal band! - 85%

Ridley, November 17th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1996, CD, Raw Power

Sometimes, a little time can work wonders...

After releasing a lukewarm "Return to form" album a la Master of the Rings (I still have no idea what that album title has to do with anything), the newly formed lineup of Weikath, Grosskopf, Grapow, Kusch, and Deris returned to the studio to begin work on their next album. I think the biggest reason behind the overall "Lacking" quality of their previous opus was simply that it was rushed. Less than 1 year isn't a long time to throw a full-length album together. Well, 2 years was all the power metal quintet needed to load some anthracite in the engine and get the old locomotive back to flying down the railway. Well, nearly so, at least.

The first thing you'll notice when picking up the the album is the TOTALLY METAL album art. The "Keeper" featured on Keepers 1 makes a return, with FLAMES, DEMONS, AND CRYPTIC IMAGERY. METAAAAALLLLL!!! It's the perfect set-up for great things or absolute crushing disappointment, and fortunately it's the former that reigns victorious. Nearly everything has changed or has been improved on since last time, with the most notable adjustment being the choice to cling to what they have always done best: straight up power metal. See, the last album had a sort of split personality between hard rock and power metal, quite likely influenced by Deris as his previous band, Pink Cream 69, was certainly more hard-rock orientated. Whatever happened within those 2 years, in the end the hard rock sound was pushed aside for the most part and metal was brought back to the forefront... And with that came a production job that is a little more "Muddy" and less atmospheric. It's a very subtle change, but in the end I believe it does actually work in it's favor, at least on the faster tracks. Another production change is that Deris isn't drowned in effects like last time, and his voice really gets to shine. Actually, regardless of the production, Deris sounds way more comfortable behind the mic this time around. He sounded surprisingly good o MotR, but it was on this album that he really fell in place with the rest of the band. I mean, just listen to "Kings Will Be Kings" and then compare it to anything off MotR, and... You can easily hear the improved conviction.

The Time of the Oath simply explodes on takeoff, skipping any sort of intro and going straight for the throat (Or in this case, the neck) with "We Burn", a furious burst of energy with a fist-in-the-air chorus and some killer soloing. It's a short song, but that's the beauty of it: it really pumps you up for the album without dragging you do with it's length. It is followed up by an equally great track, "Steel Tormentor". It's a slower number, but never becomes boring due to having an absolutely killer main riff and some beastly rhythm work. Oh, and the lyrics kick ass, too; but hey, with a song title like Steel Tormentor, you already know it's going to pulverize on all levels.

As the album rolls along, one gets the feeling that they put a whole lot more thought into pacing the album correctly. I hate to draw so many parallels to MotR, but that album had probably the absolute worst pacing in any Helloween full-length release, with the speedy tracks loaded on to the very beginning and end of the album and nothing but midpaced (And often shitty) tracks filling up the middle. This album spreads everything out evenly for the most part, with only one gripe I have which I will point out later.

There are plenty of gems strewn throughout this album. Two of the album's singles, "Power" and "Forever and One", succeed in their individual goals as a power metal anthem and a moody ballad, even if the latter has one-dimensional love song lyrics that could have been written by an angst-ridden high school outcast who just lost his girlfriend. This album also marks the return of the "Minor key speed metal" style of songwriting which had been absent for quite a while from any Helloween full length. Along with the opener, we also get "Before the War", which really penned Deris as a capable songwriter with it's interesting chord progressions and rhythmic choices, and the aforementioned "Kings Will Be Kings", which is probably the strongest song on this album. It has it all: blazing riffage, strong bass work out of Grosskopf, Deris singing at his best, and Kusch pulling off his best performance on the album. Kusch's drumming is actually a major talking point, as he avoids the common pitfall of falling into simplistic rhythm and manages to keep things interesting throughout the entire album with creative beats and fills thrown around. Hell, listen to the insane, out-of-signature drum fill after the first chorus on "Kings..." and tell me that this guy isn't beyond competent.

There's very little here that could be considered filler. "A Million to One" is rather boring and uneventful, with a chorus that sounds oddly reminiscent of Iron Maiden circa Somewhere in Time, which should be a good thing but it just doesn't have any real hooks. "Anything My Momma Don't Like" could easily be called filler because of how goofy and surprisingly simple it is in composition. A lot of people absolutely hate this track, and I know I'm in the minority when I say that I love it. Looking beyond how stupid and simple it is, it somehow manages to be catchy and FUN. Maybe it isn't "Tr00" enough for people, I dunno. TTotA unfortunately loses steam in the last third of the album. This is the only area where the pacing is weak, and it isn't helped that the final two songs are yawn-inducers. Then you have the album's signature epic, "Mission Motherland". Too bad it's completely unfocused, bereft of any good hooks, is repetitive as a skipping vinyl at times, and goes on for way too long. It's crammed full of *cough* Nu-metal*cough* riffs, sure, but it just never forms into anything beyond sounding like the whole band just pooled a bunch of unrelated ideas together and called it a song.

A huge step in the right direction? Yes. Perfect? Certainly not. It wouldn't be until their next release that they really knocked it out of the park, but The Time of the Oath showed the world that yes, Helloween is back. Back with a fury.

And again a small step forward - 75%

morbert, April 29th, 2008

Biggest difference with Master Of The Rings is that this album sounds more cohesive. The balance is much better and as a whole the album is purely a power metal album from start to finish. Except for one song that is. The average pace is slightly higher this time and also there are more guitar harmonies within songs.

However unlike many others I think Deris’ performance on this album is less impressive than on “Master of The Rings” and albums that came after this. On the previous album he sang a bit more raw and raspier. This time he tries more clear falsetto vocals but it becomes obvious he loses a lot of power when he does so. Kiske sounded more powerful when he sang higher and higher. With Deris however it is the other way around. What happens a lot on this album is that some songs do not achieve an epic touch because the falsetto vocals at certain points fail to give some songs a deserved powerful climax.

As a result of this some songs don’t have a chorus that is majestic nor impressive enough to make them rise from decency. A good example is “Power”. The song has potential and is light weight speed metal we knew from Helloween in the eighties. The song is good, but unfortunately not excellent.

“Before The War” does a better job. Now this is a song which is fast and has so many strong parts it can easily compete with eighties Helloween. Also “Kings Will Be Kings” is one of the best power metal songs here.

Opener “We Burn” is a simple and enjoyable up tempo opener with a decent speed metal chorus and dito riffing. Second song “Steel Tormentor” has more in common with mid-eighties Iron Maiden than Helloween. Except for the double bass drums this song sounds like the Piece Of Mind / Powerslave period but with Paul Di’Anno’s brother doing vocals. Strong song though.

The titletrack “The Time of the Oath” gives me mxed feelings. Everytime I heard this song live it was one of my favorites. This studio version however is lacking something. Maybe it’s heaviness, maybe it’s Deris’ vocals which are more powerful live. I’m not sure what it is exactly. Good live song though.

Now for the bad section of the album. “Forever and One” is pretty awful. Imagine the song with a female vocalist and you’d have the cheesiest Nightwish/Within Temptation song. Of course those bands were not as big back then and in those days I obviously couldn’t compare Helloween to them. But looking back now it is obvious.

“A Million to One” and “Wake Up the Mountain” are mid paced sin-a-long tunes but far from impressive (except for the middle section of “Wake Up the Mountain” which is impressive). The verses and chorusses sound much more generic than for instance the old classic “I want Out” and “Future World” did. These songs would have been decent coming from a Helloween clone, but not the masters themselves.

Funny thing is that after “A Million to One” the next song “Anything My Mama Don't Like” sounds pretty enjoyable. It is a hardrock tune with groovy touch and balances between the Pink Bubbles and Chameleon albums yet has little to do with the power metal approach on the rest of the album. But because it is so much better than “A Million to One” it becomes refreshing at that point. When changing the tracklisting on the album it has far less impact though and sounds like a funny B-side.

Now for “Mission Motherland”. The length promises an epic track. It is not however. It is a stretched mid paced pounder with an overlong middle section and a rather average chorus. Not a bad song, not at all, but just nothing more than decent.

So even though it is slightly more cohesive than Master Of The Rings it still is an inch short of the best Deris-era works.

The Real Bounce Back! - 87%

hells_unicorn, March 2nd, 2008

After falling off the face of the earth in the early 90s, Helloween was wrestling with it's own identity. Kai Hansen, who had pushed the band the most in the Power Metal direction, had opted to make music on his own terms and basically abandoned a band he co-founded.

During subsequent years, a power struggle was developing between singer Michael Kiske, who wanted to go a more eclectic route, and the others who were not keen to the idea. With the exodus of Michael Kiske, and the entry of Andi Deris and Uli Kusch, the course had been set.

After a somewhat powerful yet inconsistent first effort in "Master of the Rings", the new line-up delivered solid gold with this release. We have some amazing shredding visive Roland Grapow on "Wake up the Mountain" and "Steel Tormentor", rivaling Malmsteen, one of his primary influences. Marcus Grosskopf is still in top form, writing highly active bass lines, including a rather technical slap bass part for a section of "Mission Motherland".

Andi Deris displays his amazing range and adaptive vocal style in every song, but his rough edged grunts on "We Burn", his high Halford-like wails on "Mission Motherland", and his tempered low range on "Forever and One" deserve the most note.

Uli Kusch makes one hell of a racket, paying tribute to the memory of Ingo Switenberger, whom this album was dedicated to. "Before the War" and "We Burn" display his speed, while "Wake up the Mountain" shows off his more intricant slow work. And Michael Weikath is still composing some great rockers, including "Power" and "Steel Tormentor".

The songs basically fall into 4 categories, the fast ones, the medium tempo ones, the experimental ones, and the ballads. Of these, the strongest are the fast ones. "We Burn", "Steel Tormentor", "Power" and "Before the War" are instant classics. Of these, "Before the War" is the most powerful, not letting up for a moment between Deris' vocal storytelling and the rhythm section's unrelenting assault.

The medium paced ones are a tiny bit mixed. "Wake up the Mountain" is an amazing technical display, The title track is extremely memorable, and lyrically quite surprising for a band that wrote Rise and Fall 8 years ago. "A Million to One" is a solid rocker, but "Anything my momma don't like" gets a bit silly at times. It is a well-meaning attempt at either recapturing or satirizing the spirit of angst driven bands like Twisted Sister.

Of the experimental ones, the epic "Mission Motherland" is loaded with many treats for the ears, not the least of which is an amazing vocal performance. The Ballads are also a bit of a mixed bag, "Forever and One" is a charming ballad with a good melody, but "If I knew" is a bit boring, and a tiny bit too long.

Although not quite a perfect release, this is the Helloween that I remember from the late 80s who were more concerned with writing great songs rather than trying to mix genres in innovative ways or delve into abstract philosophical concepts with their lyrics. Although I have a preference to Michael Kiske's voice, it is obvious that he ultimately was not the right personality for Helloween in the long run. Andi Deris fills his shoes adequately, and brings a unique new sound to the fold. Recommended highly to power metal fans and to fans of older Helloween material.

Great, with Moments of Genius - 90%

Milkfiend, November 10th, 2006

Helloween’s “The Time of the Oath” follows a structure that has become pretty standard for a power metal release - a mix of fast and mid-tempo tracks, a vaguely “epicish” track near the end and the obligatory couple of ballads thrown in for good measure. Nevertheless, despite the variety of the songs and the fact that there are four contributing songwriters, the release maintains a certain continuity that differentiates an album from a mere collection of songs. The production is adequate and as it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of any of the songs I won’t mention it further.

What separates “The Time of the Oath” from similar releases are the patented Helloween moments of genius, both in the compositions and in the performing. The album also manages to avoid the clichés of modern power metal such as repetitive double bass drumming that can reduce a grown man to tears faster than throwing handfuls ground glass into his open eyes and the entire lyrical “exploration” of “sword and sorcery” themes. In particular, the title track (which succeeds in being purely evil - and not merely in a “scream-through-your-eardrums-and-rape-your-brain kind of way that I understand many black metal bands are going for), “Power”, “Kings Will Be Kings” and “Steel Tormentor” standout as brilliant.

The title track is my personal favourite on the album, being the most menacing piece of atmospheric metal since Tony Iommi and the boys sat down with Satan himself and penned “Black Sabbath”. The mood is perfect and while the heavy and malevolent primary riff might not be quite as distinctive as the one from the aforementioned song, atmospheric keyboard work and an excellent vocal performance really make this one a standout. My only complaints with this one are the occasional stupid “whooshing” sound effects (there’s only about 3 in the whole song 7 minute song so its not a major issue) and that the solo that kicks off at 4:00 seems slightly out of place. Don’t worry, they haven’t inserted a cut of 1910 Fruitgum Company’s “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” or a reggae breakdown into the song, I simply think that a slower-paced, heavier solo would fit better here than the speedy guitar work on offer.

“Power” is the furthest thing from “The Time of the Oath” on the album (and yet is my second favourite track), being a more traditional happy, sing-a-long Helloween song with an exceedingly catchy chorus and nice guitar leads. Surprisingly, the lyrics are another high point of this song and seem to document Helloween’s history from Weikath’s (slightly smug) point of view.

“We Burn”, “Steel Tormentor” and “Before the War” are great blazingly speedy yet melodic metal tracks and all three are among some of Helloween’s best of the style. Steel Tormentor is the superior of the three, though “Before the War” isn’t far behind.

Uli Kusch debuts as a songwriter on this album and his two compositions, “A Million to One” and “Wake up the Mountain”, stand out as particularly important as his influence is to grow and he is to become more involved in the song writing on the following two albums. His contributions here are both enjoyable, mid-paced tracks that provide the listener with something slightly different while still remaining true to the Helloween sound.

The ballads are the weakest part of the album and unfortunately don’t maintain the high standard of the other songs. “Forever and One” just seems uninspired and rather boring, it’s not dreadful though. “If I knew” strikes me as a longer, less interesting version of “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” from the first Keepers album and during its 5:31 length, the “skip track” button beings to look awfully tempting. The only plus side I can think of is the deliciously melodramatic ending: “I’d simply break down…. and cry”.

“Mission Motherland” is the “epic” of the album and seems to be an attempt to marry the many changing tones and intricate instrumental work of another Helloween epic, “Halloween”, with the more melodic style of another of their earlier compositions, “Keeper of the Seven Keys”. The result as a whole doesn’t quite live up to either of the earlier works and isn’t as memorable (though Grosskopf’s bass work is just as remarkable as it was on “Halloween”) but the song remains tight and doesn’t get boring despite its 9 minute length. There are also some great vocal melodies early on in the piece and in the chorus.

In my opinion, “The Time of the Oath” contains some of the greatest Deris-era (and even some of the greatest Helloween) songs and is essential for fans of the band and comes highly recommended for fans of the genre. This record is often overshadowed by the following two albums and, while I can’t speak for “The Dark Ride” (I haven’t heard it), I’d place this release at least on par with the heavier follow-up “Better than Raw”. And as a side note, if you really don’t like the ballads on here there’s a quick fix – just burn the CD minus the two ballads onto a blank disc. The thing will still be about 52 minutes long (longer then a fair number of other power metal releases) and it will save you having to reach for the “skip track” button on your player at any point during the disc.

Good... but that's all... - 82%

arkbath, November 1st, 2005

Definitely a strange album from Helloween. I don’t know what happened with the incredible anthems these guys prepare on each album. The songs are no as remarkable as in other albums, even though this doesn’t mean it’s a bad album. I really prefer the predecessor (Master of the Rings) or the successor (Better Than Raw) of this album, but in the end it has some nice tunes on each song and good ideas on the solos and melodies. Let’s talk about these strong aspects from The Time of the Oath.

There are two songs on this album that have the typical trademark from the pumpkins: We Burn and Power, the only problem I find is that they’re too short hahaha, but it seems that they work specially good live because of their sticky and powerful choruses (We Burn) or the leading riff (Power). Maybe the strongest song of the whole album would be Before the War, I really like this track, the bass performance is impressive and the solo section is the highlight of the song. Wake Up the Mountain and A Million to One are good and in a very “sing along” style, but don’t have anything special to mention. The rock ballads are good enough (Forever and One and If I Knew) and maybe the best of the whole Helloween career just as In the Middle of a Heartbeat from Master of…, but remember that Helloween is not very good with ballads. Anything My Mama Don’t Like is the Rock & Roll song of the album: the riff, the lyrics… there’s always one on all the Helloween albums from the Deris era. Mission Motherland is awesome and has a lot of flawless interpretations: the vocals, the slapping bass section, and of course some progressive drums and guitar riffs mixed with the galloping metal main riff. A long song, but you won’t notice it; it’s very well driven only a step below the superior Revelation from the Better Than Raw album. Finally comes The Time of the Oath, a little bit long and repetitive, but strong enough as all the Grapow’s contributions to this band, without mentioning that the solos for this one are among the best of the album.

The Time of the Oath is an album to be heard because everyone has different points of view about its importance in the pumpkin history. I must say that in my opinion every album from any band is important. But if you want to hear to the best from Helloween look after Better Than Raw or Master of the Rings, or maybe you must listen to anything from the Keepers’ era (when the real history began!). Anyway, is a good choice to complete your Power Metal collection.

Darker, heavier, faster and rawer - 88%

Bloodstone, January 25th, 2005

And best of all: more COHERENT and therefore a lot better. That was the biggest problem with the previous album, that several songs sounded a bit underdeveloped and poorly constructed, thus losing a lot of coherence and character and therefore overall enjoyability. However, even the weaker parts showed promise in places; and after all, the circumstances were that 'Master of the Rings' was recorded just one year (or so, I don't have the exact dates) after the pop-metal "experiment" 'Chameleon', and this with two new members on board, so the result could have been much worse. I guess all Helloween needed now was to reload and refocus for the follow-up, this very album.

They did. On this album, the band just sounds a lot more comfortable and focused, creating a much clearer "identity"; something that the previous album really lacked in places. The songwriting is still every little bit as fresh and original as the previous album, though, still making the band difficult to compare with any others. Actually, I've often heard this album being described as a return to their roots, but I find that a bit hard to agree with, as I generally hear more 'Master' here than either Keeper or even Walls. There's ONE important thing it does return to in places, though...

...namely the SPEED!! This album has a fair share of straight-up speed metal blazers; the previous album had pretty much none, at least nothing of this caliber! This album therefore belongs a bit more in the power/speed metal vein than the pure power metal one of 'Master', and add to that the heavier and more vicious guitar tone and it's noticeable that the band has shifted up a gear since two years earlier. However, including a few speed metal songs does not automatically make you 'Walls of Jericho', so with all things considered, this album being a full return to their old sound is quite far from the truth. It's still a NEW sound they're working with - but a really good one (and just as fucking METAL), mind you.

There's just this one thing that unfortunately forces me deduct a point or two - namely the production. I did write "rawer" in the title, and as 'Master' wasn't really all that soft-around-the-edges either, that doesn't necessarily have to mean a good thing (it's just seemed a bit synonymous with "darker" and "heavier";)). I mean, it's not quite raw in that said sweet, balls- out 'Walls of Jericho' sense, but rather in an "awful mixing" sense. The hi-hat tends to completely bury the guitars quite often, especially when they're playing really fast - in which the BASS becomes more audible, in fact! Actually, EVERYTHING on here sounds rather low-budget and technologically backwards, but at least the guitar tone carries enough punch to fit the heavy nature of the riffs.

There are twelve songs on here, making up over an hour of music in total, but with the exception of a couple of clearly skipable tunes, this is an album that completely keeps my attention from beginning to end. There aren't just highlights everywhere, there are also a number of absolute fucking CLASSICS that stand out even more, deserving special mention.

For example, "Power" just plain fucking rocks. Flowery as fuck and equally fun, it's Helloween doing what they do best - inventive, but no bullshit power metal. Check out the amazing lead after the second chorus - this has been turned into some silly sing-along section at a few live shows, probably because it's MEMORABLE as fuck!! Not quite in the raw, heavy speed metal vibe of some of the other tracks, though...

like "Before the War", for instance!! Holy shit, is this one aggressive, but still with an extremely good sense of melody, like in the chorus and of course THE SOLO!!! Hell fucking yes, best solo since "The Chance", if you ask me - Roland Grapow is indeed more than Kai's shoe-filler (I think he's the one doing that first solo, yes?).

You want more speed? The two first tracks really blaze as well, with the second one, "Steel Tormentor", probably being the highlight of the two. Can't miss that fast vocal delivery in the verses!! Then, "Kings Will Be Kings" is solid too, but unfortunately a bit like a watered-down "Before the War" and VERY hurt by the terrible mixing, more than any other track. At least it's a bit epic and memorable.

The two Uli Kusch (drummer)-written tracks, "Wake Up the Mountain" and "A Million to One" are a bit slower and more experimental, but both are surprisingly awesome and surely among the true highlights on here. "Wake" has an especially amazing verse - Andi truly takes it away here. "Million" has this really interesting and extremely catchy chorus, nice emotional verse and also that super-nifty lead at 2.52...Helloween are doing just FINE w/o Kai Hansen, thank you very much!! Happy power metal works for them, aggressive speed metal too, also slower and more melodic stuff, even ballads...

Well, not quite this time. Both ballads on here are more in the overblown, almost symphonic vein rather than the said country-esque "In the Middle of a Heartbeat" on the previous album. "Forever and One" isn't bad,'s just kinda movie-soundtrack cheesy, but admittedly works just fine when played live, as the sing-along-ability is undeniable. "If I Knew" is also pretty OK, I guess, but definitely overlong and just kind of uninspired in places. Anyway, to me none of them really come close to "In the Middle...", but ballads in this vein are usually what you can expect from a German band;).

But don't go just yet, there are more highlights up ahead! "Mission Motherland" is one of the heaviest numbers, if maybe not the fastest, but some of the riffs just plain crush, in a fast chugging while not-quite-generic groove sense, while still not sacrificing anything in the way of melody. At around nine minutes, it's "teh epic" on here, but unfortunately it really feels more overlong than epic and thus not quite as good as it could have been. Maybe it was made for nostalgia, just to make some old fans happy by trying to sound a bit like "Halloween" or "Keeper of the Seven Keys" just by making the song a bit long. It does not succeed in that, but oh well. "Anything My Mama Don't Like" is the obligatory goofball track ala "The Game Is On", but actually, it's almost a bit like a recycled "Why?", as the main riff is quite similar. Not bad by any means this time, though; the pre-chorus is excellent, the chorus is mindless fun and the verse riffage is still fairly heavy for what it is.

Finally, the title track - HELL FUCKING YEAH! Amazing dark, epic and EVIL fucking power metal tune thought 'The Dark Ride' was dark? This makes whatever the darkest track on that album is sound like Freedom Call in evilness and Europe in heaviness, even though this one DOES incorporate keyboards, as well...but even they are surprisingly evil too, making the "Mr. Crowley" intro sound like "Jump"! Holy shit, this track just has to be the high water mark of Roland Grapow's career as far as songwriting goes - the riffs are dark, heavy and convicting, the atmosphere is thick as FUCK and the vocals sound eerie, torn-up but also soaring at the same time. All this, finely crafted into a perfectly written and constructed seven minute masterpiece of power metal. The best track on here and maybe the best Helloween track EVAR. That includes EVERY album with the "Helloween" label on it.

Yeah, I guess you can say that it was with this release that Helloween were TRULY back. Not back with the old line-up, not even back with the old sound - but back as one of the top power metal units in the world (though not with that much competition by 1996, I guess), a position they've upheld ever since. As I said, they're more comfortable with the new sound this time around than when they created it two years ago; pretty much everything that was wrong about the last album is now gone/corrected, and also, they're not afraid to throw in some blazing speed metal every once in a while, certain to make plenty a metalhead happy.

And YES, this album is obviously underrated as fuck. "'The Dark Ride' was Helloween's comeback album" my ass; THIS is the shit, kiddies. Get it. Now.

An underrated power metal classic. - 87%

Nightcrawler, September 19th, 2003

Holy fucking hell, where did this come from? Master of the Rings was a pretty damn good album, but there was still no sign of the greatness that was to come only two years later.
The Time of the Oath is only my sixth favourite Helloween album in fact, but it is nonetheless completely amazing. The production is instantly noticeable- the difference from Master of the Rings to this one is spectacular. It's thick, it's powerful and it gives the album all the intensity and explosivity (is that a word?) it deserves. The guitars especially sound ten thousand times better, which alone increases the overall quality of the album alot, since Helloween like any other metal bands obviously rely heavily on the guitarwork.
The band also sound much tighter and well organized, they really work like a well-oiled machine in this one. But the biggest notable change is still in the songwriting. Master of the Rings was very good, but this is incredible. The actual style is pretty similar to the previous album, although the general pace of the songs has increased quite alot. And of course, the quality has increased hugely. This is classic power metal of the very best kind, through almost the entire album. A few of the songs don't quite reach up to the general standard of the album, but they are few and the difference is rather marginal.
The lyrics also seem a bit more serious for the most part. They are still in the traditional fun-loving Helloween vein, but there are no all-out silly moments like there were on most of the previous offerings.

What we have here, is that the band totally puts their heart and soul into the album, and manages to whip out intense, asskicking riffs, fun and memorable vocal lines and tons of divine lead sections like only Helloween can do them.

We Burn and Steel Tormentor start things out with a solid kick in the sternum. Fast paced power metal with speed tendencies, loads of melodies, and overall ownage straight through. Steel Tormentor is in fact one of the album's best songs, and a true Helloween classic.
Wake Up The Mountain is a bit more experimental, with very cool bass highlightings during the verses and a quite different atmosphere. The solo is also completely mental. Power goes back to the style of the first two, and is just as amazing. Forever And One (Neverland) is the first of the album's two ballads, and is in fact one of the best Deris-era ballads ever. Like any Helloween ballad it's very, very emotional and cheesy. It's a love-hate thing, and I fall into the former category.
Before The War is the best song on the entire album. Speed metal based riffwork with a lethal dose of melody, fast sung vocal lines whose awesomeness cannot be put into words, and a mindblowing guitar solo are all standout factors on this power metal masterpiece.
A Million To One is another pretty different tune. Midpaced, melodic, fairly emotional and has a very interesting atmosphere overall. Not one of the highlights, but a great song nonetheless. Anything My Mama Don't Like seems to be the least well-liked song on here. But of course, I love it. Fast and catchy riffwork, killer lyrics and more splendid soloing- and of course the strange, silly ending. Kings Will Be Kings is standard Helloween: Pretty fast and heavy underlying riffwork with excellent melody lines supporting the memorable vocal lines, a great chorus and whatnot. Mission Motherland reaches over 9 minutes, and has a semi-epic atmosphere and a killer middle section featuring a bunch of heavy riffs and solos.
If I Knew is the second ballad on the album, and is yet another masterpiece of cheese. It's a beautiful acoustic track with a more sad atmosphere than Forever Than One, although it's not quite as good.
We close of with the title track, which is another of the highlights. It has this really dark and scary atmosphere over it, and is quite unlike anything the band has done before. It is also insanely heavy, and has these really cool Latin backing vocals towards the end. A magnificent closer to a magnificent album.

With The Time of the Oath, Helloween reclaims the title of Power Metal Gods, and rightfully so. And they just seem to get better with each record.