Friday, December 18, 2009

Helloween


With the two-part concept album Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Helloween became one of the most influential bands in the power metal genre. Helloween has spent over 20 years crafting albums that jumpstarted a new style of music, one that combined progressive, speed, and heavy metal. The band is still going strong, even with several line-up changes and a shift towards a harsher sound.

Helloween (originally called Iron Fist) was formed in Hamburg, Germany in 1984. In the beginning, Kai Hansen pulled double duty as both the guitarist and lead vocalist. His only contribution vocally was Helloween’s 1985 debut Walls Of Jericho. In 1986, after struggling to both sing and play guitar during live shows, Helloween recruited a young Michael Kiske to be the new vocalist.

Power Metal Pioneers:

Keeper Of The Seven Keys would be Helloween’s biggest success to date. Split into two separate parts, the concept album would be recognized by many as the beginning of the power metal genre. ock festival in 1988.

In late 1988, founding member Hansen left the band and was replaced by Roland Grapow. His first contribution to the band was 1991’s Pink Bubbles Go Ape. This album, along with 1993’s Chameleon, would show a drastic shift in the band’s sound, heading into a more pop-influenced direction. Critics reacted negatively to both albums and Helloween’s fan base began to dwindle.

Kiske Departs:

With the lackluster reaction to Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon came internal conflicts in the band. Helloween was dropped from EMI Records and the band fired singer Michael Kiske, who was the primary catalyst for the new direction the band was taking.

Andi Deris would come in to replace Kiske, and with a new vocalist came a return to form for the band throughout the ‘90s. Albums such as 1994’s Master Of The Rings, 1996’s concept album Time Of The Oath and 1998’s Better Than Raw brought back the fan base that they lost in the early ‘90s.

More Turmoil:

However, the band shifted their sound again, with a darker vibe and harsher vocals. 2000’s The Dark Ride was the first evidence of this changing sound, and the overall reaction to the album was quite negative, with the album becoming one of the worst selling of the band’s career. Helloween’s lineup changed again, with half of the band departing, including guitarist Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch. 2003’s Rabbit Don’t Come Easy was the first with new guitarist Sascha Gerstner. The band elected to use session drummers.

Revisiting The Past:

In 2005, Helloween returned to their early masterpiece with Keeper Of The Seven Keys-The Legacy. Fans and critics were positive towards it, as well as 2007’s Gambling With The Devil, which had the band return to the grittier sound of The Dark Ride.

If You Like Helloween, You Might Want To Check Out:

Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray, Iced Earth

Current Helloween Band Members:

Andi Deris - Vocals (Pink Cream 69)
Michael Weikath - Guitars
Sascha Gerstner - Guitars & Keyboards
Markus Grosskopf - Bass
Dani Löble - Drums

Former Band Members:

Michael Kiske - Vocals (1986-1993)
Kai Hansen - Guitar (1983-1988)
Roland Grapow - Guitar (1989-2001)
Ingo Schwichtenberg - Drums (1983-1993)
Uli Kusch - Drums (1994-2001)
Mark Cross - Drums (2002)
Mikkey Dee – Drums (2002)
Stefan Schwarzmann - Drums (2002-2005)
Jörn Ellerbrock - Keyboards (1991-2003)

Helloween Discography:

1985 Walls Of Jericho (Noise)
1987 Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I (Noise)
1988 Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II (Noise)
1991 Pink Bubbles Go Ape (EMI)
1993 Chameleon (EMI)
1994 Master Of The Rings (Castle)
1996 The Time Of The Oath (Castle)
1996 High Live (Castle)
1998 Better Than Raw (Castle)
1999 Metal Jukebox (Castle)
2000 The Dark Ride (Nuclear Blast)
2003 Rabbit Don’t Come Easy (Nuclear Blast)
2005 Keeper Of The Seven Keys-The Legacy (SPV)
2007 Live In Sao Paulo (SPV)
2007 Gambling With The Devil (SPV)

Recommended Helloween Album

Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I and II
The two-part concept album Keeper Of The Seven Keys was highly influential in the creation of power metal, with many future bands in the genre taking cues from the speed/heavy metal hybrid that Helloween played. While individually solid, together the two parts combine to make an epic masterpiece, even with the occasional cheesy and overwrought moments. With the 13-minute “Halloween” on the first part and the title track clocking in at the same length on the second part, along with emotional ballads like “A Tale That Wasn’t Right,” Keeper Of The Seven Keys is one of the greatest power metal albums of all time

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