Helloween/Walls of Jericho/Judas('85/'86)
I have the Noise re-release version of all this stuff. It starts with the five song Helloween EP, which is a lot better, at least more intense, then the first full length album, Walls of Jericho. "Starlight" is one of my favorites off this CD, with a wonderful intro. "How Many Tears," is pretty cool too. Kai Hansen does all the singing on this CD, and he sucks pretty bad. He sounds about a million times better on Gamma Ray's "Land of the Free." This is some balls-out speedy-thrashy metal, very unrefined. An must have for the die-hard Helloween fan.
Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I('87)
This, along with Part II, was the first CD of German metal that I ever bought. It's just barely a concept album, about the old stuggle of good vs. evil. Any concept of a concept was completly lost by Master of the Rings, however. This album is really short, but it's incredibly dense. There is a whole lot of music in these thirty-seven minutes. Over a third of the album is taken up by the thirteen minute song "Halloween." Just reading the solo list (Kai/Mike/Kai/Mike..a few words..Kai/Mike/Rhythm change/Mike/Kai/Mike/ Kai) is enough to get you excited. After hearing the final track, "Follow the Sign," it's nearly impossible not to pop Keeper Part II into the CD player and listen to that too. Michael Kiske, at 19 years old, shows his early potential as one of the best singers in metal. Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath do some of the best dual lead solos ever. Too bad these guys will never be together again.
Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II('88)
Helloween continues right where they left off after Part I. This album isn't quite as solid as Part I, but it's a lot longer, so there's at least 39 minutes of Part I quality music to be found on it. "Eagle Fly Free" is a classic, especially with the Kai/both/Markus/Mike/Ingo solo. "Dr. Stein" is the source of my IRC nick, even though I'm not crazy about the song itself. "Save Us" is my favorite Helloween song. Its frenetic pace and incredible solo overcome its Christian overtones. Luckily, Kai Hansen made this song again with Gamma Ray, except he called it "Man On a Mission." If Americans are going to recognize a Helloween song, it'll be "I Want Out." Classic anti-system metal lyrics and a catchy riff make this a perfect popular single. The "Halloween" on this album is twenty seconds longer, was written by Weikath instead of Kai, and is called "Keeper of the Seven Keys." Don't worry, it's just as good though. Too bad these guys couldn't have stuck together and turned out ten more albums like these. Oh well, I guess change is good too.
I Want Out-Live('89)
Even though it only has six tracks, this is the best live album I've ever heard. Recorded in the glory days of Helloween, I would have paid any amount of money to see this show. All of the songs they do are better than the album versions. Like the surprise start to "Future World," and the extra interlude on "How Many Tears." But what is really great about it is the interaction between the band onstage. Kiske is a great frontman (much better than Hansi on Blind Guardian's Tokyo Tales, if we're comparing German singers), and the rest of the band really likes to play with him and the crowd. I got this in a cutout bin for $2.00. There is a European version, called "Live in the U.K." and it has "Rise and Fall" as an added song. (no big deal)
The Best, the Rest, the Rare('91)
Released during Helloween's legal troubles, this album was meant to keep the money flowing in. It is a combination of greatest hits (kind of strange, for a band with three albums) and non-album material. The non-album songs are "Livin'Ain't No Crime," a damn catchy jig, "Victim of Fate," sung by Kiske (worse than the Kai version), "Savage," a great drum heavy song, and "Don't Run For Cover." The album would be worth it just for these four songs. The rest of the material has been remastered, and it does sound slightly better than the orignal recordings. Also a great album to get, if, like an idiot, you're only going to get one Helloween album.
Pink Bubbles Go Ape('92)
Well, Kai Hansen is gone. The major force behind Helloween is no longer a member. He was replaced by Roland Grapow, who, while not as prolific of a writer, is an accomplished guitarist in his own right. Not unexpectedly, the style on this album is quite a bit different from the previous works. Lyrically, the songs on this album are either about the environment, self esteem, or both. It's hard to pin down the difference from the Keepers albums, since many of the songs are still fast and heavy, with excellent singing and guitarwork. Perhaps it is the new producer, or simply the lack of Kai. Nonetheless, it is still a quality album. "Someone's Crying" is a deceptively fast song. We get to hear Markus (bass) take a hand at writing, on the totally messed up "I'm Doin' Fine Crazy Man," which is always a treat. The final song, "Your Turn," could almost be taken for a country tune, but it's a really good country tune. The band really doesn't like this album, but I think they're being a little hard on themselves.
Kids of the Century Single('92)
I got this single for the song "Shit and Lobster," which is included on the Japanese version of Pink Bubbles. It would be the best song if it was on the album. In addition to the title track, it's also got "Blue Suede Shoes," yes, an Elvis cover, (ok, actually a Carl Perkins cover) since Michael Kiske is such an Elvis freak. (furthur evidence: I Want Out-Live, Gamma Ray's "Time to Break Free")
If the Keepers albums are German chocolate cake, and Pink Bubbles is potato salad, Chameleon is enchiladas, hot dogs, and egg foo yung all rolled together. Chameleon can't even be considered a metal album. It has a couple heavy songs, but also some very poppish songs, with influences from all areas of music. There are a lot of strings on this album, as well as keyboards, and even some horns. All of this does not in any way mean that this album is no good. If you have an open mind, you can recognize excellence in this album, but just don't expect it to be in the form of metal. "Windmill," a slow piano piece, is one of my mom's favorite songs. If played on American radio, I believe that "In the Night" could achieve huge chart success. The final track, "Longing," an acoustic/orchestral song, is one of the most powerful Helloween songs, and my favorite off this album.
I Don't Wann Cry No More-Single('93)
I picked this up just because it was there. The title track is one of my least favorite off Chameleon, and they even cut out half the solo. All the songs on Chameleon seem like they should B-sides themselves, so I had no idea what to expect from these. The second track "Red Socks and the Smell of Trees" is a ten minute instrumental, basically a blues jam. They don't do a bad job for a bunch of Germans, but it does get a little boring at times. The third song is a Markus-written piece (always interesting) and basically a silly rock and roll song.
Master of the Rings('94)
In another major lineup change, singer Michael Kiske is gone, and replaced by Andi Deris. But much more than the lineup was changed by this album. Helloween was apparently unsatisfied by the direction they'd taken over their last two albums, and decided to return to a style that resembled the Keepers albums. Even the title, and the story printed in the cover of the liner notes, tries to make this a Keeper of the Seven Keys Part III. Lyrically, that is just a big joke, and musically, it is closer to the Keepers, but still quite different. This album is definitely metal, as they will tell you in the final song, "Still We Go." But it has a very different production than previous Helloween albums. It has a slick, glossy feel to it, with very prominent rhythm. Deris is nothing compared to Kiske, but he does have a unique style, and he can write some decent songs. About a year after it was released overseas, a U.S. edition came out, with an additional CD containing the B-sides of all the singles. Definitely get this version, it's the one time us Americans get a better deal than Europe or Japan.
Perfect Gentleman Single('94)
I got this single for the instrumental "Grapowski's Malmsuite 2000 in D Doll." Named for Yngwie Malmsteen, it is an excellent composition, with some great guitaring and cool piano parts. Also included are a Thin Lizzy cover, "Cold Sweat," and Markus-written "Silicon Dreams," which is not about computers, but rather, plastic surgery. Both of these are pretty decent songs too.
The Time of the Oath('96)
The boys continued right in their Master of the Rings style for this new album. It might be even a little faster and heavier. Also, wheras Master only had one good dual lead, on "Where the Rain Grows," this album has one nearly everywhere you look. As most people will tell you, it's got nine fast or heavy songs, two ballads, and one silly rock song. And I really like one of the ballads and the rock song, so it's a damn fine CD.
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