(Nuclear Blast Records)

      When Teutonic Power Metal pioneers Helloween ousted vocalist Michael Kiske circa 1993, I initially found myself less-than-enthused. Although the drastic stylistic changes and subsequent poor commercial performance of Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991) and Chameleon (1993) undoubtedly left the group with few options, the 'death' of their once-revolutionary tonality left me disillusioned. Even the inescapable presence of the mighty Unisonic (their sophomore effort Light Of Dawn, 2014 is a modern day Power Metal classic) failed to entirely pique the interest of certain die-hard fans. Accordingly, when the group announced their arguably long-overdue intention to reunite with both Kiske and co-founding guitarist Kai Hansen in 2016, they quickly found themselves at the epicenter of intense and renewed interest. Now, with the release of the highly-anticipated Helloween, the newly-minted septet (!) has unleashed what must be described as a career-defining, or perhaps even re-defining classic.

     On the brilliant Helloween (2021), an expertly assembled twenty-four song collection of Power Metal, each track, beginning with the delightfully grandiose 'instant classic' “Out For Glory” (featuring the first in a series of Kiske, Deris and Hansen vocal collaborations) and the surprisingly brief (3:43)--albeit maddeningly infectious--jewel “Best Time”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Wasting little--if any--time engulfing listeners amid a seamless, multi-dimensional blend of soaring vocals, blistering fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms, the group repeatedly flexes their more-than-considerable creative muscles early and often. Effortlessly distancing themselves from their few remaining contemporaries without, believe it or not, overly-focusing on any one portion of the combined legacies, they bo-ldly deliver the classic Helloween tonality with a 'modern' twist that effectively amplifies their concerted efforts.

     Continuing with the relentlessly pummeling, shred-laden laments “Rise Without Chains” and the swarming, Deris-fueled riff clinic “Robot King”, the now-rejuvenated combination of lead vocalists Andi Deris (Kymera, No Mercy, Pink Cream 69) and Michael Kiske (Kiske/Sommerville, SupaRed, Unisonic), vocalist/guitarist Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, Iron Savior, Unisonic), guitarists Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner, bassist Markus Grosskopf and drummer Daniel 'Dani' Löble (Blaze Bayley, Element 58, Höllenhunde) steamrolls ahead with an unusually efficient ease. With the previously unthinkable combination of Messrs. Kiske, Deris and Hansen now undeniably firing on all cylinders, they remind us all of their already well-documented lyrical and compositional ingenuity. Surging ahead with a well-deserved air of self-confidence noticeably absent from several of their pre-reunion efforts, the group leaves no doubt regarding their ability to persevere amid such an inhospitable climate.

     Produced and Mixed by a dream team tandem of Charlie Bauerfeind (Angra, Blind Guardian, HammerFall), and Dennis Ward (Place Vendôme, Sunstorm and Unisonic), other standouts, including the curiously-titled--yet outright thunderous--“Down In The Dumps” and the exhaustive, Sci-Fi-tinged closer “Skyfall” further highlight the group's seemingly inevitable return to the dizzying heights of international acclaim. Accordingly, with the collaboration of the surviving members of the Mark I, Mark II and Mark III line-ups providing the group with a much-needed creative re-birth (love it or loathe it, much of their post-The Dark Ride material was dominated by an overwhelming sense of discontinuity), even the most closed-minded of enthusiasts will, without a doubt, find themselves utterly fascinated. The end result(s), as you have likely already deduced, of the group's more-than-considerable efforts are worthy of the highest of critical and commercial acclaims and should be treated as such.

      An absolute must-have for any genuine and sincere Helloween enthusiast (particularly those with a fondness for both the Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part II and Master Of The Rings eras), the majority--if not all--of the ad -renaline-laden wares contained herein wares contained herein are nothing short of extraordinary and deserve to be treated accordingly. Easily the most highly-anticipated 'Old School' release in recent memory, even if you somehow still find yourself less than enthralled with the group's re-vamped configurations, one must, at the very least, sincerely admire the energy and enthusiasm undoubtedly necessary for such an undertaking. As a result, if you've once again found yourself in search of a refreshingly fist-pumping and/or mosh-inducing alternative to the puréed, Pop and Hip Hop-addled excrement that is so often force fed en mass via the proverbial mainstream, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane salve for what ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Select Discography

Helloween (2021)

United Alive In Madrid (Blu-Ray/CD/DVD) (2019)

Ride The Sky - The Very Best Of The Noise Years 1985 -1998 (2016)

My God-Given Right (2015)

Straight Out Of Hell (2013)

7 Sinners (2010)

Gambling With The Devil (2007)

Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy (2005)

Rabbit Don't Come Easy (2003)

The Dark Ride (2000)

Metal Jukebox (1999)

Better Than Raw (1998)

High Live (1996)

The Time Of The Oath (1996)

Master Of The Rings (1994)

Chameleon (1993)

The Best, The Rest, The Rare (1991)

Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991)

I Want Out: Live (EP) (1989)

Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part II (1988)

Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part I (1987)

Walls Of Jericho (1985)

Helloween (EP) (1985)


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