Friday, February 8, 2013

Helloween - Keeper of the Seven Keys (part one) (1987)

Helloween are my favourite band. And this is one of their best albums.

Of course, to my one loyal reader, you already know of my love for this German band - or at least the way they were back in the late 80s, when they were at their finest. So, you don't really need me to tell you this twice. But it's worth repeating anyway.

It is not, alas, a long album - having only six entire songs and a couple of short bits. But do not let that deter you - for one of the songs IS 13 minutes long. The cover speaks volumes - it shows a hooded, faceless figure, levitating a ball of glowing keys (seven of course) whilst behind him - through an open window, you can see a serene lake, surrounded by mountains. Evocative - it makes you wonder - who is he? What do the keys open? Unforunately, for the answers about the keys, you have to wait for the next album.

This is the first album with the adorable Michael Kiske on vocals, and with Kai Hansen taking most of the guitaring roles, as Michael Weikath had injured his wrist and was unable to perform.

It is a simple single-fold sleeve, but does manage to fit all the lyrics in - although the font is rather small.

Let us begin with our "Initiation" into the glory that is Helloween. Tolling bells; triumphant, swelling guitars. Ahhh, it makes your heart soar to listen to it.

"I'm Alive" is a joyous celebration of being, well, ALIVE! The lyrics are not earth shattering, but the energy, the sheer intoxication of this song cannot help but fill your soul with hope and joy.

This feeling continues into "A Little Time", although it has its gloomier moments. So much metal is so angry and aggressive - Helloween chose instead to play the sort of music that thrills and excites you, making your spirit soar. Clever interplay, quirky little guitar gimmicks and the playfulness of the vocals and music add to this impression.

The energy and pace of "Twilight of the Gods" makes it a masterpiece. No need for fancy synthesizers or orchaestras (although those would be wicked) - Helloween achieve a climax of sound with just guitars, drums, vocals and choirs. Masterful, beautiful. It brings a tear to my eye and I've pretty much cranked my speaker volume up as high as it can feasibly go.

Hell, my neighbours deserve to learn the power of Helloween. They play their music all the time, anyhow (at least they have reasonable taste and it's rock, not rap or dubstep).

A softer, heart-breaking number - "A Tale that Wasn't Right" allows Kiske to truly shine, the emotion and power in his young voice - he's only 18/19 here. Wow. Damn, those tears are back...

When I was a teenager, most of my peers had crushes on movie stars or boy bands (yup, we had them in my day too) - but me, I was "in love" with Michael Kiske. I'd still love to meet him (although I no longer fantasize about marrying him).

And now "Future World" - the first Helloween song I ever heard. It was on the "Thrash the Wall" compilation cassette*. From its celebratory opening chords, to its highly sing-a-long-able chorus, to its positive, positive message
"... cos we all live in future world, a world that's full of love..."
 Even the band admit that the lyrics are fluffy and over-idealistic (I believe Weikath dissed them in an interview I once read - I read a lot of Helloween interviews - claiming they'd never write that sorta nonsense again) but to a teenage girl, facing (albeit pretty mild) bullying, peer pressure, teen angst and a lack of friends - it is a message that sticks - and it was right - my "future life would be glorious" - or at least pretty damned good.**

The jarring beginning and crashing beats of "Halloween" are powerfully evocative. Like being steamrolled with music. The vocals are magnificant, the music stupendous, little quirks like the tinkling of magic in the air, the whispering voices... all combines to create a wonderful, dramatic, evocative, melodramatic and overall wonderful aural experience. Masterfully clever, and even at 13 minutes long (the video is much abridged), it changes pace and style enough to keep you entertained.  Oooh, that sounded like a flurry of bats!
 (Btw, if you watch the video, make sure you check out Kiske's expresion when the demonic voice tries to corrupt him. It's priceless. If he didn't decide to follow the path of using his glorious voice, he would have made a decent actor, I reckon - he's definitely charismatic and expressive enough.)

The haunting little instrumental, with whispering voice, bids us to "Follow the Sign" and probably subtly encourages us to buy the next album. Which, if you've heard this one (and if your music mood sensors are wired like mine) - you will anyway, since one is NOT enough.

 THIS is the essential album for every speed metal, power metal fan's collection. If you like this genre of music and you do not have this album - BUY IT NOW. And, while you're at it, you might as well get the second one too, because together they are EPIC.

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you my rating - but I will anyway - a triumphant 10/10.

 * Oddly enough, I don't think I liked it that much on the first listening (my brother can probably recall my comments). I believe at that point I was in my "Sepultura phase" which lasted about one week and then I turned up the volume on "Future World" and it hit the pleasure synapses in my brain and I fell instantly, irrevocably, in love. Back in those days (remember, I was around 13), I used to watch RTR countdown, which was the NZ music chart show, counting down the top selling cassingles for that week (nowadays, that would be itunes downloads, for all you modern-day teens) - and every week I would make my own list. This song stayed at #1 for an awfully long time, until finally getting shunted off by the Escape Club's haunting "I'll Be There".

** Although I am sure my 13-year old self would have considered it more glorious had Michael Kiske come and whisked her away!


  1. Ah, the sweet nostalgia on this one. I don't know if I ever had the first part, I think it was always Keeper Part II for me.

    Classic albums (both of them) and they were a extremely likeable metal band, musically speaking. Great post.

    1. You had part two, I had part one. Of course, as soon as I got an indepent source of income I bought them all. All of the Helloween! (except the latest)

      Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske have got back together and formed a band called Unisonic. If I buy it now, I might have to to review when I get back to "U" (cos currently I've got nothing else).