OK by now you have all made up your minds regarding this album and its right to bear the Keeper name, but I still feel compelled to tell you why I think this is one monumental triumph for the Germans and indeed one of their finest moments. Yes, the two original Keeper albums are classics but the time is here and now and so I will only focus on this album and not make constant references to its predecessors.
I must admit that I’ve always liked Deris’s vocals more than Kiske’s (I know some of you will call this blasphemy!) and I feel that he has a much more characteristic style and sound than that of Kiske, who sounded just a tad too much like a Dickinson/Tate-clone. I also hold some of the post-Kiske albums like “Master Of The Rings” and “The Dark Ride” in high regard, so my expectations were very high for this album. They were exceeded by a country mile. You see, this album is the natural culmination of this band’s career – everything just clicks on here: the riffs, the soaring vocals, the instrumental interludes in the songs, the drums, the lyrics, the production etc. This is very much a perfect album! I am not kidding or exaggerating folks.
Kicking off with the epic “The King For A 1000 Years” we are immediately introduced to HELLOWEEN 2k5 – heaps of brilliantly intertwined melodic riffs, thundering drums, Deris singing very emotionally and tons of technicality. Yes, this is progressive Power Metal and it has a cerebral edge that is undeniable and much needed in this style of Metal. Next up is the equally brilliant “The Invisible Man” with Deris giving us some of his best vocals during the first bridge and an absolutely mesmerizing melodic break in the middle, all backed up by a very strong chorus. “Born On Judgement Day” follows in similar style but with a more bombastic chorus and speedy drumming, while the next track, “Pleasure Drone” does everything right with it’s memorable riffing and an epic-yet-melancholic chorus that will not leave your head in a very long time. Two lesser, but still great songs close off disc one: “Mrs. God” the first single and “Silent Rain”. The former is the sort of joke/novelty type song that this band has become known for and is very catchy. The latter is a rather typical hard rocking ‘ween number with heavy riffs, but it is the weakest song on disc one.
As if that wasn’t enough, we are treated to more HELLOWEEN mastery on the second disc. It opens with another epic number, “Occasion Avenue”, just like disc one. This song is another instant classic and it runs through multiple time- and riff changes, emotions and again features some brilliant vocals. Wow, this is progressive, forward-looking stuff, people! This sets the bar very high for any aspiring contenders to the crown! Next up is the obligatory ballad, “Light The Universe”, featuring Candice Night (of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT) on guest vocals. It is a laid back song with a sad feeling, but thankfully it comes off as neither saccharine nor contrived. The next few tracks are some of the heavier, more rocking tracks on the album – “Do You Know What You’re Fighting For?” is a great song with some very atypical riffing (sounds almost like something off a AUDIOSLAVE album!!) during the pre-choruses, but still manages to impress with a strong chorus. “Come Alive” is, sadly, a weaker track. It’s good but is devoid of that HELLOWEEN feeling and energy. “Shade In The Shadow” is a brilliant song with some of the most memorable guitar licks all over the place and an equally rousing chorus. That’s how to do it boys! “Get It Up” is a track similar to “I Can” (off Better Than Raw) with a motivating, happy feeling. The masterful “My Life For One More Day” ends off this outstanding album with some classic ‘ween riffs and a chorus that just yells out to be screamed at live concerts. Excellent way to end off such this monster of and album!
There really is nothing to criticize on here, with even the weaker tracks being among the best this band has penned in recent years. Charlie Baurefeind has ensured that this has the best sound of any HELLOWEEN album, with a perfect balance between the instruments and vocals. Hats off to him! Both musically and thematically this album is a triumph. They play with a level of energy and conviction that I’ve never heard from them before and the prevailing progressiveness and intricacy of these songs bear testimony to their musical chops. Weikath and relative newcomer Gerstner form a deadly riff section, while Grosskopf’s bass has finally been given more space to breathe. Deris gives his career-defining performance on here, while newbie skin basher Dani Löble is by far the most proficient drummer this band has ever had. Like I said, there’s nothing to fault on here. Even the cover art kicks ass – seeing that hooded wizard grace the cover again was great!
I understand that fans will have divergent opinions on this album because of the absence of Kiske and Hansen and because some of these new songs aren’t just typical (simplistic) Power Metal fare, but the ones bashing this album are the ones losing out. I usually don’t care about other opinions and I respect their right to have them, but in this case all I have to say is this: Fuck the critics! This is musical perfection from one of the most influential Metal bands around and this new album deserves to be heard! This album is able to stand on its own against any of this band’s previous output and is so strong that the fact that it it’s a sequel becomes irrelevant. It’s that simple.
All hail the pumpkins!!!!!!! (Online June 21, 2006)