Some things you just never expect to happen. Helloween reuniting with Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen was one of those “when pigs fly” moments. The band’s new Pumpkins United lineup recording a new album was an even higher unlikelihood. Yet, here we are. Helloween fans around the world have their self-titled album, Helloween. With any “reunion” album like this, whether it’s Deep Purple’s Perfect Strangers, Iron Maiden’s Brave New World, or Judas Priest’s Angel of Retribution, there’s always the question: is it just a money-grab?
In the case of Helloween, no. It’s on par with the very best efforts that the band has put out. For a band that basically invented an entire sub-genre, Power Metal, that’s no easy thing. Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 and 2 are two of the landmark albums in the history of metal. They spawned myriad bands and albums after that, using that music as the blueprint. Don’t let that take away from the excellent Andi Deris era albums in Master of the Rings and Time of the Oath, either. Those albums continued the evolution of Helloween as a band.
Helloween continues the band’s legacy and gives us the best of both worlds when it comes to music. The album has multiple songs with three singers: Michael Kiske, Andi Deris, and Kai Hansen. All the tracks have guitar work from Michael Weikath, Kai Hansen, and Sascha Gerstner. Daniel Löble and Markus Grosskopf round out the lineup on drums and bass guitar.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the album.
1. “Out For The Glory” (Michael Weikath)
If you wanted a perfect opening track for the album, here it is. Michael Weikath always seems to have the flair for the dramatic in his songwriting, and “Out For The Glory” is no stranger. The song fits right in with any era of Helloween. From the blitzing opening riff to the melodic and soaring chorus, this one fits right in with “Eagle Fly Free” and “I’m Alive” as perfect opening tracks. Need a refresher on what Helloween is all about? This is it.
You get Michael Kiske singing soaring vocal lines with the gravely screech of Kai Hansen during the chorus. It was enough to bring a tear to my eye hearing it for the first time. “Out For The Glory” is like stepping in a time machine with one of your favorite bands. It only gets better as the track continues on. There are subtle callbacks to riffs and guitar parts of the past, which add to the song’s flavor.
If there weren’t already enough singles from this album, I would have picked this one to be the lead single. Although, it was way more impactful to hear this song as the opener instead of hearing it as a single. This is an instant classic track.
2. “Fear Of The Fallen” (Andi Deris)
If “Out For The Glory” was a classic in the style of Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 or 2, this one harkens back to the Master of the Rings era. Another chorus with all three singers belting out the lines, this one also gets that perfect grade. It’s the second (third, if you count “Pumpkins United”) single released for the album.
I have not been able to get the riff from this song out of my head. It’s been playing in the background of my brain the entire weekend I’ve been listening to the album. It’s simply a special song that also personifies exactly what Helloween is all about. You have the two sides of the coin and then the third side from Kai Hansen rounding out the album’s end.
The moments with the slow acoustic-sounding guitar and Deris and Kiske singing “decide” are among my favorites of the album. It’s a welcome break in the song that builds and builds to a crescendo of guitars and a ripping guitar solo.
“Fear of the Fallen” is an uplifting track that provides that extra bit of oomph to start off the album.
3. “Best Time” (Sascha Gerstner, Andi Deris)
The album continues with Sascha Gerstner‘s first songwriting credit, alongside Andi Deris. After listening to the album more and more, “Best Time” has grown on me. I started off thinking it was more of a filler track following the two instant-classics to start the album. While it’s not as impactful as those tracks, “Best Time” is another uplifting track that combines the best of the three singers here.
It’s all about picking yourself back up from a down moment and being the best person you can be. What’s more Power Metal than that? (Besides something about dragons, knights, or fantasy, of course).
4. “Mass Pollution” (Deris)
This section of the album could get lost in the shuffle of the first two tracks. They’re not as soaring sounding or “classic” Helloween sounding. But make no mistake, “Mass Pollution” continues and focuses on the vocal talents of Andi Deris. You’ll find yourself banging your head along with the chorus to this one.
I enjoy this track thoroughly, and it’s one that I hope they end up playing on their upcoming tours.
5. “Angels” (Sascha Gerstner)
Sascha Gerstner gets the lone writing credit on “Angels.” It’s a track that sounds like it could be on Chameleon but in a good way. This is a showcase for Michael Kiske’s vocals, and it’s a slower-paced song than the previous ones. It slows down in parts; it even has some piano tracks, but that all just adds up to a damn good song that fits right in with this new sound for Helloween.
The guitar solo around the 2:30 mark of the song is melodic and piercing. “Angels” is another track that took a couple of listens to really get an appreciation for. Once you do, though, it’s a much more rewarding song.
6. “Rise Without Chains” (Deris)
For an Andi Deris written song, this one sure sounds like it could have fit in with those first couple Helloween albums. “Rise Without Chains” is a classic throwback track that combines all the best elements of the band in one nearly 5-minute package. It’s all about rising past whatever is holding you back in life and getting to that better place that you deserve.
The guitar work here is masterful and melodic. You can feel every note and bend, especially in the solos, which are just fast and in your face. Some have said that the Deris material on the album is like filler, but that is the farthest thing from the truth here. “Rise Without Chains” shows that Helloween is a well-oiled machine.
7. “Indestructible” (Markus Grosskopf)
An album like this with this many songwriting credits could have gotten out of hand. Turns out, you just get more sides to the band than ever before. Markus Grosskopf pens a track that combines a lot of what makes Helloween great here. It has another soaring chorus with Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen dueling vocals while the three guitarists shred behind them. You even get some excellent Andi Deris vocals and some lyrical throwbacks to Helloween’s past with this one.
It all combines together for an underrated track that could end up getting lost but really shouldn’t.
8. “Robot King” (Weikath)
Michael Weikath might have only contributed three songs to the album, but the three he did, are among the best. “Robot King” is another instant-classic reminiscent of those older albums. I’m bringing that point up a lot, but it’s the truth. These songs sound like they could fit right in with other band eras. That’s why a track like “Robot King” is so damn great. It follows a similar path to other tracks, sounds similar, but breaks out on its own to become a classic in its own right.
It goes through multiple tempo changes, including a sort of “sing-a-long” portion in the middle around the 4:50 mark. Weikath praised this song when we interviewed him about the album. At the end of the day, the chorus for this song is the strongest part and one of the best riffs on the entire album.
9. “Cyanide” (Deris)
The most straightforward sounding rocker on the album is likely the “weakest” track on the album. “Cyanide” is pretty generic sounding, but it still rises above the level of “medium” for the band. It’s got some excellent vocals on the bridge and chorus from Andi Deris. It’s the only track on the album that feels like it’s not a callback to a different era. “Cyanide” is completely new sound for the band, and I like it.
Even if it’s the weakest track on the album, that doesn’t make it a bad track; there are some real heavy hitters on this album.
10. “Down In The Dumps” (Weikath)
Another slow-starter kicks into high gear with some incredible-sounding guitar work that transitions into classic riffs. The chorus to this one is my favorite on the entire album. It’s a masterwork by the band that’s sort of hidden at the back end of the album. Hopefully, more people will experience this song and just how genuinely masterful it sounds. Michael Weikath was already one of the best songwriters in metal history, and he continues that remarkable legacy with this one.
11. “Orbit” (Kai Hansen)
This one simply serves as an introduction to the following track, “Skyfall.” It’s strange that they wouldn’t just put the two together like “The Hellion/Electric Eye,” but here we are. It’s definitely space-sounding, and it gets across where the album is going and ends. I’m getting some Def Leppard sounding guitar work here, but it transitions into the next and best track on the album…
12. “Skyfall” (Kai Hansen)
Here is your 12-minute epic. In the vein of “Halloween” or “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” “Skyfall” continues that legacy. Some might be mad that Kai Hansen only has one writing credit on the album, but he used all his songwriting power for this track. All about an alien that crash-lands on earth and how they escape. There’s the single-length version that cuts out about 5 minutes. After listening to both versions extensively, the album version is the way to go.
You get more guitars, more vocals, and just a better and more epic feeling track to close out the album. It’s a depth that’s lopped off on that single-length version that’s missing. If your favorite tracks from Helloween are the lengthy, progressive sounding, tempo changing variety, this is the one for you.
This feels the most like an updated version of the band on an album that throws back to previous albums. “Skyfall” is the true main event of Helloween. It doesn’t get any better than this track on the album.
An Absolute Perfect Album, Giving The Best Of The Band A Run For It’s Money
In the discography of Helloween, some landmarks show off the band’s evolution. First, you have the debut in Walls of Jericho, Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 and 2, Master of the Rings, Time of the Oath, and more albums. These are the jewels in the cap of the band. Now you can coronate a new jewel to that crown with Helloween. It’s among the best albums that the band has ever done and should be the front-runner for album of 2021. Across 12 tracks, the band finds a way to improve upon its sound, update its music, and give longtime fans something to sink their teeth into.
I couldn’t put it down after listening to the album extensively this past weekend. The combination of three vocalists on the tracks is a stroke of genius that allows for everyone to shine on this record. The musicianship displayed by everyone involved is top-notch. You have the machine-gun drumming of Dani Loble to the virtuosic guitar play of all three guitarists. There isn’t a bad track on the album. If this is what Helloween is about, we’re in very good hands going forward.
You cannot go wrong with any track on this album; it’s a flawless victory for the band and their fans. Helloween is truly back and better than ever.
Grab it from Nuclear Blast Records, or anywhere else you get your music.
For more on metal, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.