“Aaaaah, it´s Helloween!” The German Power Metal institution before any other have blessed the metal community with countless (well, almost) hours of aural goodness courtesy of classics like “Walls of Jericho”, “The Dark Ride” and the majestic duo of twin albums “Keeper of The Seven Keys Pt I & II” all the way from their inception back in 1984. And now, finally, I might add, the band has reconciliated with former singer, pivotal song writer and guitar player Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray).
But wait, there´s more! When the news broke that former vocalist Michael Kiske, who fronted the band during the their first glory days in the late 80s/early 90s was back as well the internet nearly broke down. The incredibly powerful tenor´s comeback was like manna from heaven for die-hard fans all over the world.
Together with the remaining core of the band, Michael Weikath (guitars), Sascha Gerstner (guitars, backing vocals), drummer Daniel Löble, bass player Marcus Grosskopf and long time singer Andy Deris (ex-Pink Cream 69) sat the world on fire during their immensely popular Pumpkins United tour of 2017/2018 and their fanbase have been eagerly awaiting this album with baited breath.
So…. have these fans waited in vain then? Is it actually any good? The answer is a loud and resounding: YES! But just to set the score straight from the get go: they do not reinvent the wheel here, neither are they touching the impeccable heights of the “Keeper of….” albums. With that said, this is just a smorgasboard of all sorts of awesome stuff for supporters both young and old. THE Kings of Power Metal really show their class here as there is only two songs that does not really work for this reviewer and these songs range from ok to good.
But instead of focusing on what does not work, let us look at what does, ok? Things kick of formidably with the Weiki-penned “Out For The Glory” where Michael Kiske proves once again why he is considered to be one, if not the best vocalist of the entire genre. But his main sparring partner Andy Deris really steps up his already impressive game and delivers some of the best singing of his already illustrious career. Listen to his incendiary vocals on “Cyanide” and “Robot King” for instance. Kai Hansen sings the least of the three lead vocalists and with good reason. His voice is shot to absolute sh%t but with the help of some studio trickery he sounds pretty decent here. But his amazing and sadly only contribution to the song writing this time around, “Skyfall” takes pole position regarding the prize for best songs together with Sasha Gerstner´s fantastic “Angels” and Weiki´s “Cyanide”.
Having lost none of their ferocity, playfullness and melodic sense, Helloween delivers one of the finest records of their long career and that is saying something. If I was hard pressed to divulge my top three Helloween albums, this self titled effort actually snags the third spot, bested only by the duo of the sublime “Keeper of The Seven Keys” albums. This is a record that demands repeated listens and pays off beautifully as every spin divulges more and more details. The way that the three singers voices blend and shine is just a pleasure to experience and the instrumental parts are memorable and superbly played as always.
Welcome back, Helloween! Long may you reign!
Label: Nuclear Blast
Playing Time: 65 minutes
Date of release: 2021-06-18
Place of origin: Germany
Standout tracks: Angels, Robot King, Skyfall