REVIEW: HELLOWEEN – “Helloween”
This is it, one of the most anticipated releases (if not the most) of 2021 is here. Having practically invented power metal, Hamburg’s Helloween is one of metal’s most fun and entertaining bands until today, so every release gets a lot of love from fans, even if some of them aren’t even close to being gems of the genre. So, even higher expectations were created when Michael Weikath and Markus Grosskopf announced the triumphant and official return of the power metal god himself Kai Hansen and of one of the best vocalists of all time, Michael Kiske, in 2017. That reunion gave birth to the acclaimed Pumpkins United tour and fans were eager to see new material, so here we are with the band’s 16th album. Does it live up to the hype?
I was actually very pleased with the album even before hearing it due to the killer cover artwork made by the monster of an artist Eliran Kantor, which pays tribute to ‘Walls of Jericho’ (1985), the Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, ‘The Time of the Oath’ (1996) – among other cool easter eggs – and to the simple, but a powerful and fitting title that definitely relates to the power metal giant’s new era of unity.
The best way to tackle this album is to not really try to compare it against their past work. While it didn’t click with me right from the start, will easily grow on you. Let’s face it, there’s been a lot of choices in the power metal realm for many years now, and being the forefathers of it doesn’t guarantee that you will demolish everything in your path just by name.
As for the songs themselves, there was a lot of expectation of what Weikath and Hansen would come up with after more than 30 years apart. With that in mind, I do believe the duo have managed to put together some decent, at times even great, tracks with regards to songwriting. Opener “Out for the Glory” and the fun “Best Time” and “Robot King” are definitely good examples of this, as they combine Weikath’s carefree ideas with Hansen’s geniality, but the best case here might be already released closer “Skyfall”, which puts everything together – from Gamma Ray to Avantasia, Iron Savior to Blind Guardian – in a 12-minute display of classic Helloween meeting the newer version of the power metal giants.
As It is with almost every album, some bland parts and a couple of fillers are also intertwined with the good stuff. “Angels” may be the only song that could actually be taken out and we wouldn’t even notice, but some minor parts regarding Kiske and Andi Deris’ duos might be a tad too much, but that was to be expected with three vocalists stepping up to the plate. This is nothing to scare you away or something to put fans off, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Speaking of the three vocals, I was glad that they found the good spacing between the three for the majority of the album. While it seems that Kiske is the one with a more prominent role in this new endeavor, Deris also does a great job in his solo parts and actually keeps close to Kiske quality-wise. Hansen, on the other hand, does little by himself and tends to be in the backing vocals duty for most of the record, except in “Skyfall” where he reminisces his ‘Somewhere Out in Space’ (1997) screams (so not a coincidence that this is the best tune here by far).
Grosskopf works like a clock and Dani Löble’s drum skills are crazy, so the kitchen part is as good as ever, and as for the three axemen in Weikath, Sascha Gerstner and Hansen there’s little to say that you wouldn’t expect already because come on, it’s Kai Hansen leading the charge here, we should just bow or heads and say grace.
This is Helloween through and through. Upbeat, catchy, singalong-inducing, and mostly just feel-good metal the way only they can do. There’s nothing particularly dark or anything like that, just the good ‘ol power metal. While this is not essential nor a masterpiece, it is way better than I expected it to be, as I’m often cautious and skeptical about these “supergroups” or reunions. All in all, casuals will find a kick-a*s power metal album to enjoy here, and fans who were expecting ‘Helloween’s release like Christmas won’t be disappointed either.