Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Helloween - Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I [1987]

Here we have an album that many consider to be one of the most influential Euro-power metal albums of all time, and that wouldn't be an inaccurate statement, only it was influential for a sound that I couldn't care less for. Helloween showed that they were a legit band capable of delivering doses of brilliance in their music when they released the masterpiece "Walls of Jericho," but this album is just... different. For one, "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I" sees the introduction of Michael Kiske on vocals, and while I have nothing against the man, it's a shame that Hansen could no longer pulled double duty on guitar and as the frontman, because his unpolished and enthusiastic approach to fronting the band was a joy to hear on the debut EP and full-length. Kiske's vocals are on their own outstanding, but they suit a watered down version of Helloween a lot better, and that's really what the band is on their sophomore - watered down. 

It may sound like I'm bashing "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I," but I do enjoy the album, it's not what I was expecting to hear after listening to the much more raw debut, a bonafide classic, and while this record is considered a classic, it just doesn't live up to expectations. For the most part, the kickass speed-oriented riffs that Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath mass-produced before are gone; replaced by more midpaced riffage akin to groups like Priest and Maiden, which isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't spark the same feeling that amazing songs like "Ride the Sky" and "Victims of Fate" had. It's not all bad, though, as songs like "I'm Alive" and "A Little Time" are great midpaced tunes that show off Kiske's great voice, as well as the non-stop shredding from the guitarists, with the former track featuring excellent solos that are actually some of the better parts of the music at points throughout the record. This album also has one of Helloween's best songs ever in "Twilight of the Gods," an epic anthem with an insanely catchy chorus, stellar guitar playing on both ends, and Kiske's phenomenal vocal performance. 

However, I find myself needing to complain about this album again. It's very short and with only six songs of actual substance, all six of these songs needed to be overly-exceptional, but that's not the case. "A Tale That Wasn't Right" is an acoustic ballad that just falls flat and makes me want to hit the skip button, while "Future World" is another song that just fails to retain anything that could be considered awesome. I don't want to sound like some miserable cunt, but the song is just too damn happy sounding and has no real substance to it. Had these two tracks been cut from the record, "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I" would've made a terrific EP and another Helloween release that could be considered a major "win." The basic tale of the tape for this record is one that sees the band evolve their sound (which is a natural thing for bands, and one that we as fans have no control over), but not for the better. There are still some great songs here that save it from being a total flop, with "Twilight of the Gods" and the epic closer "Halloween" being worth listening to this record again on their own. This is a band that showed a lot of promise, but unfortunately fell short and it's safe to say this is the last record where I could summon enough fucks to give about the group after they teased me with their fantastic debut. 

"I'm Alive"
"Twilight of the Gods"

Final Rating
Barely Awesome [8/10]