Whatever way you look at HELLOWEEN there is one thing for sure: they have gifted the Metal-genre with some of its finest audio moments. So it is with a touch of sadness that this epic 29-track Best of is released as I think it may well prove to be the last issue from the German Metal-pumpkins.
But what a legacy to leave if they do decide to hand the keeper back the keys. From humble beginnings in Hamburg to the biggest Metal-stages the HELLOWEEN (Dark) ride has been fantastically high and extremely low on many occasions.
Their influence on just about every Power/Melodic-band out there today is overwhelming. Many of these bands may have surpassed them in the popularity/relevance-stakes, but few have ever attained the brilliance of song writing that catapulted the band to stardom in the 80's.
Of course I refer to the ground-breaking "Keeper"-albums, which should be in every Metal-fan's collection without a thought. They ushered in a new type of fast, controlled, technical Metal that leaned heavily on the twin-axe-attack of MAIDEN, but added a more Speed Metal-element. It isn't difficult to see why this lot where destined for bigger and better things. The voice of Michael Kiske coupled with the talents of Kai Hansen on guitar could only prove to be right. In fact all band members are graced with unnatural talent.
Originally a four piece their eponymous debut "Helloween"/"The Walls Of Jericho" (1985/1986) set out the standard for aggressive Power Metal. With the likes of "Starlight" ("Helloween") and "Murderer" ("Helloween") showcasing just how Heavy Metal HELLOWEEN could be. "How Many Tears" ("Walls Of Jericho") and the awesome live classic "Ride The Sky" ("Walls Of Jericho") set the scene for many of HELLOWEEN's epic epics!
1987's "Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1" really got the ball rolling and defined the sound that would be so influential all these years later. A more melodic commercial sound came out from the first "Keeper"-sessions resulting in the classics "Future World" and "A Little Time". The second "Keeper Part II" (1988)-album only brought more acclaim and success to the band. The epic title track being one of the most revered HELLOWEEN-songs to date. The chart-hit "Dr Stein" also brought the HELLOWEEN-name into the mainstream and "I Want Out" was yet another classic Metal-romp.
By 1991 the bubble was beginning to burst. Hansen left to pursue success with GAMMA RAY, his replacement Roland Grapow was every bit a good guitar player as Hansen, but the 1991 album "Pink Bubbles Go Ape" was not well received. Then followed by 1993's "Chameleon", which was also poorly received. Gone was the sweeping Melodic Power Speed Metal that the band was famed for. And so was vocalist Michael Kiske who quit the band at this time. However worse was to come for the band as drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg committed suicide in 1995.
The band pulled themselves together and by 1994 had hired Andi Deris on vocals and Uli Kusch on drums. The resulting album, "Master Of The Rings" was HELLOWEEN back on track. "Sole Survivor", "Perfect Gentleman" and "In The Middle Of A Heartbeat" brought fresh focus and new drive to the band. It also brought them back to loud, melodic Heavy Metal-music. 1996's "Time Of The Oath" continued the revival with the likes of "Kings Will Be Kings", "The Time Of The Oath", "Forever And One", "Where The Rain Grows", "Mr Ego" and the classic anthem "Power". The live-album "High Live" (1996) was a fitting tribute to the lows of the previous years, but once again HELLOWEEN stumbled and 1998's "Better Than Raw" was a step away from what the fans wanted. Experimentation was the order of the day. This was a much more diverse sounding album. "Midnight Sun" and "I Can" are the stand-out-tracks, a few others kept the record above water, but once again fans where asking just where are the band going? The, perhaps, final nail in the coffin was the rather lack lustre "Dark Ride" (2000) which really didn't hit the mark at all. Represented on "Treasure Chest" by "Immortal" and "Mirror, Mirror" it was obvious that HELLOWEEN had decisions to make.
And those decisions are still in the balance. Maybe one day they will get it together and maybe not but it is no bad thing if they don't. We still have their music and memories.
Pumpkins fly free…
(Collectors please note that a 3-disc box set with additional rare/ b-sides CD is also available)