Review by Darren Smith for MPM
2021 really is turning out to be a year that musically just keeps on giving! Not only have we been blessed with some great releases from new, upcoming bands, but many bands that have formed a staple part of any rock/metal fans listening over the last few decades have taken full advantage of the lack of touring and live music and hit the studio to record and release incredible albums.
The latest to do that are legendary German power metal/speed metal act Helloween.
Their new opus ‘Helloween’ comes out on June 18th and really is something truly special. It is an exceptional album that encompasses everything that is good and great about the bands music and legacy and it sees them expand their line up to a 7 piece as they welcome back former members Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen into the studio environment.
I say into the studio environment as this line up have already released the phenomenal live album “Pumpkins United – Live in Madrid” in 2019 but I think at the time the tour announcement was made nobody could have envisaged a full return to the line up for the two men who were a major part of setting the band on their genre defining path back in the 1980’s before departing for pastures new.
That new line up announcement in 2016, saw vocalist Michael Kiske, who left in 1993 and guitarist/vocalist Kai Hansen who had departed in 1989 re-join the only two remaining original members, guitarist Michael Weikath and bassist Markus Grosskopf, both who have been in every line up of the famed German metallers.
The new seven piece line-up is completed by Kiske’s replacement, Andi Deris, who has been handing vocals since 1994, guitarist Sascha Gerstner, a member since 2002 and drummer Daniel Loeble who has been providing the thunder at the back since 2005.
Loeble says of this stunning new creation from the bands incredible new line-up “This record is the coronation of the PUMPKINS UNITED journey! Still today I am fascinated by the different character traits and facets of the HELLOWEEN history.
As an example I’d like to point out the legendary voices of Michi, Andi and Kai. To enjoy them now together on one record, under one flag is the ultimate HELLOWEEN experience”. He is not wrong as this is surely stuff that dreams are made of for Helloween fans of any age around the world.
The press release comes with the headline “This is the beginning of a new time calculation: Forget HELLOWEEN – here comes HELLOWEEN”. A truly bold statement but one that the album and the band not only live up to but smash out of the park!
As you may well gather, I was just a little bit excited about this release. The “Live in Madrid” album that these incredible seven musicians recorded is still now getting regular airtime at home and in the car and even with that, as a Helloween fan of some 34 years I never ever envisaged the day that Kiske and Hansen would return to the fold and enter the studio to record another album with their former bandmates.
So with excitement levels already high and the album arriving in my inbox, it was time to hit play. The instrumental build up to ‘Out For Glory’ definitely raised those levels even higher, but when that ends and the vocals kick in, WOW! This feels like meeting an age old friend again for the first time in many years.
The album opener is pure and simply a classic Helloween track. Full of thundering drums, exquisite guitaring and vocal parts to die for. There is melody aplenty and those oh so subtle time changes that for me are the hallmarks of all the great tracks by this legendary act.
‘Fear Of The Fallen’ follows on beautifully to keep the momentum going. A delicate Andi Deris vocal intro quickly leads into another fast paced slice of sumptuous power metal. The riffage on this track is just electrifying, the vocals soar and the harmonies between Deris and Kiske are just a joy to behold and the driving force behind it all, the rhythm section of Grosskopf and Loeble provide a truly insatiable beat.
Both singers were keen to talk about their joy in this devine number, “I had so much fun not only writing a song for my voice but also for one of the greatest singers out there.
I always have an extremely broad smile on my face when I hear Michi singing my melodies“, says Deris and Kiske adds: ”The whole process, including the spirit, was just ideal. If I had the feeling that one of the parts would not be really fitting, I asked Andi if he would sing it and vice versa. There was no competition whatsoever – what counted was what is best for the respective song”.
‘Best Time’ which is one of the albums lighter tracks has a totally infectious beat to it throughout. A real sing-a-long tune, it has a bit of a Billy Idol style vibe to it. Pure fun throughout and it will get inside your head at the very least. If any radio stations want a Helloween track to get on air, then this completely accessible is perfect for them as although different, it still showcases everything that is good about the band.
‘Mass Pollution’ arrives with a delightful bass and drum intro that leads into an out and out metal track with some ravenous Rob Halford style vocals. The track thunders along at breakneck speed, spitting and growling out of your stereo as it keeps you captivated throughout. “Make Some Noise” is a lyrical request throughout and if this beast of a tune makes it into the bands live set, the crowds will certainly be clamouring to do that.
Next up is ‘Angels’. This Sascha Gerstner penned song is a powerful number that takes the album into its middle third. Complete with some glorious dual vocals from Messrs Deris and Kiske, it is yet another number with some of those much loved time changes.
They really give the track and ebb and flow feel as it soars over some thunderous peaks before swooping down in majestic fashion to find moments of stunning tranquillity including a guitar solo that itself flows in an almost celestial state.
‘Rise Without Chains’ is yet another track with more than a bit of a classic Helloween feel to it and would not have been out of place on any of the bands ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’ trilogy releases. That leads into ‘Indestructible’. A Markus Grosskopf written number that lyrically may be an analogy towards the unbreakable career of the band.
It is punchy, catchy, infectious and built to induce yet more sing-a-long moments or air guitar/drumming, whatever is your chosen weapon of choice. Resplendently full of those much desired harmonies and melodies it will keep you entertained time and time again. Oh and just try keeping those feet still while listening to it.
A real crunching riff and thundering drums heralds the arrival of the ‘Robot King’. This seven minute speed metal monster is just sumptuous and sees the band at full tilt. It is awe-inspiring, luscious and above all jaw-droppingly brilliant.
This leads superbly into ‘Cyanide’, another track that that sees the band encompassing their whole 35 year career as it is more speed metal than power metal. These two tracks, make sure that you the listener get no chance for a little respite break as they hurtle forward at full throttle.
Screaming guitars, monstrous riffage, machine gun drumming and in your face vocals surely pay complete homage to the bands earlier releases in regal fashion.
The guitar driven ‘Down In The Dumps’ returns the album back into power metal territory that should more than satisfy fans of the genre before you get ‘Orbit’, a brief one minute musical interlude that leads into the monstrously epic and gargantuan album closer ‘Skyfall’.
Well what of ‘Skyfall’, in all honesty it just has to be heard to be believed, it is a sonic delight from start to finish, that provides pleasure to your aural senses throughout. For me, part of the appeal of Helloween is the fantastically epic tunes that they write, think ‘Halloween’, ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’ or ‘King For A Thousand Years’, well now add ‘Skyfall’ to that list, it is up there with all of them.
If ‘Helloween’ was an a la carte dining experience then the previous 11 tracks would have left you feeling stuffed but with just enough room for dessert, and that final course called ‘Skyfall’ would have just made the whole dining experience one you are going to remember and talk about for ever and a day. Earlier this year, I got to review the seven minute single version of the track but to truly hear it in all its unassailable glory, this is the version you need to hear. It certainly brings the curtain down on what could well be a career defining release in perfect fashion.
If Helloween wanted to or needed to add to their already legendary back catalogue, then they have done this in consummate fashion with this, their 16th studio album.
It is obviously more than just being about the three vocalists, but the extra harmonies and the way those vocalists all work together gives this new material a really special feel. ‘Helloween’ is about using the bands 35 year musical legacy to move the band forward so you get Helloween past to create Helloween present and it creates a stupefyingly brilliant glimpse into Helloween future.
‘Helloween’ has all the hallmarks and more of being one of the great Helloween albums. Hearing both Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen back in this iconic band whisked me straight back to a bygone time when I was studying for my A-Levels at school. Now as I meander through middle age I can hopefully look forward to many more releases from a band I have loved for two thirds of my life with one of my favourite ever singers at the forefront again and a 7 piece “Happy Happy Helloween”.
HELLOWEEN“ will be released on June 18th, 2021 through Nuclear Blast as a 2CD-Digibook, 1CD-Jewelcase, 2LP-2CD Earbook and as an elaborate Deluxe-Boxset including the Earbook, a Helloween-wall clock , pins, necklace, patch and an art print of the cover.
It will be available digitally as well as on vinyl with a 2LP Gatefold-version in different colors and a picture disc. For all collectors HELLOWEEN will also be offered as a limited spectacular 3LP-Hologramm vinyl.
Helloween Track Listing
- Out For The Glory
- Fear Of The Fallen
- Best Time
- Mass Pollution
- Rise Without Chains
- Robot King
- Down In The Dumps
Bonustracks on Digibook & Vinyl version:
01 – Golden Times 4:48
02 – Save My Hide 3:11
Bonustracks on Earbook version:
01 – Golden Times 4:48
02 – Save My Hide 3:11
03 – Pumpkins United 6:20
Michael Kiske – Vocals
Andi Deris – Vocals
Kai Hansen – Guitar and Vocals
Michael Weikath – Guitar
Sascha Gerstner – Guitar
Markus Grosskopf – Bass
Daniel Loeble – Drums
Find Helloween online
Website – www.helloween.org
Facebook – www.facebook.com/helloweenofficial
Instagram – www.instagram.com/helloweenofficial
Twitter – www.twitter.com/helloweenorg