When a band like HELLOWEEN starts up with a self-titled album after almost four decades of existence, it is clear from the start that this work will not be an ordinary one. After an eventful career with ups and downs and two baton handovers in lead vocals, there is a lot that can be subsumed under the title “Helloween”. The challenge of adequately appreciating the adequate back catalog with its various phases is a great one, and the chance of doing an Oscar-like belly landing is given, as is the prospect of a historic triumph. In this respect, “Helloween” puts everything on one card – it’s about all or nothing, about victory or defeat, about bubbly or stale light beer … or: about seizing a unique opportunity that will not be given a second time.
“Helloween” is HELLOWEEN is HELLOWEEN
The wait was long, but a good thing takes time – and if you can’t sum up the present result as the concentrated quintessence of the work of one of the most important bands in the German metal cosmos, then tomorrow hell will freeze over and Uncle Nergal for them to run for the next papal election. Because if you have to attest one thing in advance, it is that HELLOWEEN answer the question of their own identity more thoroughly and consistently than probably no other band before. Starting with the unprecedented reunion, which unites all three lead singers as well as the (almost) complete founding lineup under one roof, to the perfectly staged artwork, to the fact that Ingo Schwichtenberg’s original drum kit was used for the completely analogue recordings not letting faith decide over anything.
The result of this meticulous work is an album with a record-breaking hit density, which allows the essential creative phases of the band to merge as a matter of course and which actually cannot disappoint any HELLOWEEN fan. The trio of Deris, Kiske and Hansen covers a considerable vocal spectrum due to its different styles and timbres and knows how to confidently showcase both the strengths of the individual singer and the collective penetration.
Some of the tracks in which Michael Kiske takes the lead are clearly reminiscent of the glorious “Keeper” days and only stand out from them because of their contemporary production and sometimes more complex songwriting. Alone the opener “Out For The Glory” is like a revelation – the melodies, the vocals, the bass lines, that wonderful old-school feeling … this track and “Down In The Dumps” create something that seemed impossible for a long time, or only as Product of transfigured wishful thinking – namely to bring the unadulterated flair of the old days to life in a believable way. It was foreseeable that appropriate attempts would be started with Kiskes return, but that the backflash in the direction of the late eighties would run so authentically and naturally by hand, most of them would probably not have dreamed of.
“Fear Of The Fallen”, “Rise Without Chains” and the twelve-minute pre-single “Skyfall” demonstrate the considerable potential of the coalition of the three singers and make it difficult to resist the inhuman urge to headbang. Seldom have I so ardently wanted an antidote to hereditary hair loss … that is, right next to the ability to travel through time and a BMI of 22. Or let’s take a closer look at the casual breaker “Indestructible”: Andi Deris can do the stanzas shine as a rough shouter and underline the harsh sounds with vocals, whereupon Michael Kiske can exhaust his full range in the choruses and inspire in all vocal ranges. Clearly one of the strongest tracks on the record.
Last but not least, the Deris songs can score across the board. With the dirty rocker “Mass Pollution” one downright regrets that the motorcycle on stage is already leased to the Metalgod and with “Cyanide” every fan of the more recent HELLOWEEN history should have their heart valves pounding to the beat of the double bass. Nobody else would be able to perform these tracks in such a way and fill them with magic – so it is essential that this facet of the band in its now broader form does not fall behind.
Up to this point it reads as if the record was flawless in all disciplines – and it is … almost, because one or the other optimization would have been objectively considered. “Best Time” and the melancholic ballad “Angels”, for example, would “only” score four points in the individual ranking and in the otherwise consistently strong “Robot King” Michael Kiske is a little too strong in the angel choir for my hearing (on the other hand, even Tobias Sammet sounds like it a voiced hookah bar inspector). The first work “Walls Of Jericho” could have been represented a bit more stylistically. Or maybe a whole piece with Kai Hansen on the lead microphone? The long history of the band would certainly reveal more ideas … but what does that mean in contrast to the astonishingly long list of grenade songs that this ambitious work has to offer? A little lack of fine-tuning here and one or the other unfulfilled fan request there can’t do more than not put the whole five on the table (and I’ve thought about that for a long time and seriously).
The ultimate HELLOWEEN album?
It is therefore clear that the “Helloween” project delivers what it promises. The almost immeasurable expectations of the historical lineup, which tries to unite all styles and epochs in one album, are met or exceeded in (almost) every respect. The immovable statement associated with the naming of the album can go down in history in close collaboration with the past great deeds of the pumpkins. And when you add up all the aspects that ultimately make up the oeuvre, then you can’t help but realize that the self-titled Dreher has become nothing less than the ultimate HELLOWEEN album with the strongest and most complete lineup in the band’s history. Not to celebrate this monument mercilessly is like a life without heavy metal: possible, but pointless.
One can only hope that this perfect match will not be disturbed by the expected success, the egos or possibly a fight over the last piece of cheesecake …