Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Helloween - Helloween [1985] (EP)

Power metal wasn't a full-blown subgenre by the time 1985 rolled around, with only a handful of bands playing the style of music that was very rooted in the vein of bands like Maiden or Angel Witch, only the music was usually faster and thrashier. Bands like Omen, Savage Grace, Jag Panzer (and the earlier incarnation of Tyrant) and Fates Warning all took their stab at paving the way for this new form of music and they released some damn fine records, but this was mostly being done in the states. Enter Helloween and their self-titled EP, a five track showcase for the young group who would later become much more important in Europe's power metal movement. The music here isn't like the band's latter material that they're more well-known for, but it doesn't shy away from the speedy onslaughts that were made awesome on records like "Battle Cry" and "Metal Church," providing plenty of quickness in the riffs and a lot of substance as well. 

This EP is the brainchild of the master himself Kai Hansen, who not only brandished the kickass riffage on "Helloween," but handled vocal duties as well. His high pitched approach isn't anything overly special or innovative, but it suits the music perfectly and any fan of traditional metal probably wouldn't be able to complain about him. The man is also an absolute beast with his ax, too. The amount of insane soloing throughout this EP (and pretty much every other Helloween release he played on for that matter) is crazy. It doesn't matter if the man is shredding away, playing solos that are as fast as the riffs, or writing more melodic leads that are meant to add some memorability to the songs, this man does not know how to write a bad solo. The rhythm section is also solid. The bass playing and drumming aren't too much of a highlight on their own, but combined with Hansen's impressive guitarwork and vocals, they don't really need to shine so much. 

The EP kicks off with "Starlight," a catchy number that features upbeat riffs, ear-catching melodies and a lot of shredding from the German extraordinaire (which is a common theme for pretty much all of the band's early material that Hansen played on). "Murderer" and "Warrior" both tread along a similar path as both feature their share of solid riffage, solos galore and more over the top vocals (sound familiar?) Of course there's a bit more variety to this EP and that couldn't be more evident than on the track "Victim of Fate" which has some stellar melodic riffs and Hansen's best vocal performance. The way he yells "You will burn in hell!" is fucking killer and reminds one of Grim Reaper's Steve Grimmett, before the equally kickass solos come in and make the track a must-listen. The final track "Cry For Freedom" is almost as excellent as the preceding song; the acoustic intro with Hansen's vocals make for a nice change of pace and show that the band is more than capable of writing more than just fast riffs and a bunch of solos. "Helloween" is definitely a great way to make some noise for a young band getting their start, and while I wouldn't call it a must-have EP for every metal fan, it's definitely worth listening to if you're a fan of the band or the power metal genre. It's just a shame that Helloween would go on to create some shite music that couldn't be any further from the early creations that made the band so awesome, but again, that's a rant for another day. 

"Victim of Fate"
"Cry For Freedom"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.7/10]