German legends Helloween are probably in no need of any further presentation, since I assume the vast majority of you are well familiar with the works of the Hamburg act. Me personally, being somewhat of an old school metal fanatic, I am a very big fan of primarily the early days of the band. Then I am of course talking about the first EP “Helloween” from 1985 alongside “Walls Of Jericho”, when the band were more in the vein of speed metal, but also the first two “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” albums that really set the bar for how power metal is supposed to sound.
I’ve not been a huge fan of the Andi Deris era, but I have of course kept myself somewhat updated. I’d say that “The Dark Ride” from the year 2000 is a good example of a favourite from the forementioned era. I can also tell you right now that this new album from the german veterans probably is their best since “The Dark Ride”. I’ll tell you why, now.
First of all, you can’t look past the fact that Kai Hansen as well as Michael Kiske have rejoined the band. These two are by far the best things about Helloween if you ask me, so in my book their return have a huge impact. However, I must say that this whole “Pumpkins United” lineup thing feels a bit weird on some parts. Now when Michael Kiske – probably the greatest power metal singer of all time – is finally back; why keep Andi Deris too? With Kiske being the superior vocalist by far, this very strange decision feels like if Iron Maiden would have kept Blaze Bayley on as well after the comeback of Bruce Dickinson and just have them both sing. If this new album only had Kiske behind the microphone, the final outcome would have been far better.
When it comes to the songs, the album starts off as well as finishes with the two best tracks. The opener “Out For The Glory” is truly majestic and can’t help but to put a smile on your face with it’s unmistaken sense of that old school Helloween vibe. The best song on “Helloween” (why does it have the same name as the EP by the way, so strange?) however is by far the epic closing track “Skyfall”. 12 minutes of pure power metal bliss.
The songs between “Out For The Glory” and “Skyfall” are often pretty good, however I can’t help but to feel that a lot of them are a bit too much generic power metal for my taste. Some truly memorable choruses, but overall not that many songs that in a whole really stay with you in the long run. The total running time of over an hour portioned out over 12 songs is a bit much as well. Few bands can serve this kind of amount of music without making it feel a bit boring after a while and Helloween is no exception to this rule. They should have cut down on the sheer volume of songs and kept it short and sweet instead, for a more solid performance with 8-9 songs.
Still, it’s nice to see both Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske back in their natural habitat, really revitalizing Helloween. We have some really high peaks on this album, so I truly hope this is just the beginning of a return to the older Helloween sound, which we at least get a few glimpses of here and there.
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of release: 18/6-21
Stand out track: Skyfall