Helloween – Helloween – Album Review

Artist: Helloween

Album Title: Helloween

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date of Release: 18 June 2021

I feel the need to open this review with an admission, regardless of the bother it is bound to cause for me. The truth is that I’d much rather listen to ‘Master Of The Rings’ or ‘The Dark Ride’ than ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II’. I ‘discovered’ the pumpkin-obsessed German power metal band via the former and so it enjoys a coveted place in my heart. I purchased ‘Keeper…’ a little while later having been told in no uncertain terms that this represented Helloween at their majestic peak. I listened, I quite liked it, but for yours truly, it ain’t their best. I readily accept that others think very differently and that’s cool with me. It’s a bit like ‘Star Wars’ – another obsession I don’t quite understand – you probably had to be there at the time it came out to feel the magic more keenly.

This opening waffle serves an important purpose because I suspect that I might not be the only one to think this, with fans the world over preferring this or that album from their extensive discography. But this latest album has been labelled by many as the most exciting release from Helloween since ‘Keeper…’ back in 1988 as it might be the catalyst to bring all Helloween fans together. After an incredibly successful tour under the ‘Pumpkins United’ banner, it was felt that Helloween should continue into the future with three singers, the very three singers that have performed microphone duties with Helloween over their 35-year history, namely Michael Kiske, Kai Hansen, and Andi Deris. It is something that many fans have cried out for and now it is reality.

As always, releases that are so exciting on paper, tend to arrive in my inbox accompanied by nervousness. I think the entire metal world wants this to be a killer album. There will be some who will already think it is without hearing a note, whilst inevitably some will decide it’s awful. In my case, I steered clear of the songs that were released early, so that I could come to the album with completely fresh ears.

But before getting on to the music, I think that a mention needs to be made regarding the artwork. Eliran Kantor is fast becoming one of the most sought-after artists and one look at this cover-art and it doesn’t take a genius to understand why. It is a stunning work and has only raised the level of expectancy from ten to eleven in my book. It also increases my nerves – please don’t let this album be bad.

I would have loved more time with it if I’m being completely honest. 65 minutes of music is not easily digested and, if I’m honest, serves as the only real negative about this self-titled sixteenth album. I’m sure that excitement and enthusiasm within the ranks was the main reason, but I have to be consistent and suggest that it’s just one or two songs too long overall. Apart from that, you’ll be relieved and delighted to learn that ‘Helloween’ is a very solid record indeed.  

Having already mentioned the vocalists, the newly expanded septet is completed by familiar presence of guitarist Michael Weikath and bassist Maskus Grosskopf alongside drummer Daniel Loeble and third axeman Sascha Gerstner. Each and every member of the band have put their heart and soul into this record, that’s clear to hear from beginning to end. It means that the album is littered with ear catching performances, not just behind the microphone as you might expect, but from the energetic drum and bass battery that harks back to the speed of 80s Hellowen, the riffs, melodies, and the guitar leads that are an ever-present element as you might expect from a band with three guitarists.

‘Helloween’ is also an impressively diverse record. The opening seven-minute salvo, ‘Out For The Glory’ will delight fans of the ‘Keeper…’ era, as it rips along at a blistering pace, whilst bursting at the seams with that unmistakeable joie-de-vivre for which the band have long been known. I’m reminded of songs like ‘Eagle Fly Free’ in the tone and delivery if that helps you to salivate more at the prospect. But there’s still space for a little quirkiness, such as the bizarre narration towards the end, and plenty of catchy melody led by the interplay between the three vocalists. It is hard to single out any one of them, but Kiske does sound rather imperious, laughing in the face of the years that have done nothing to damage his vocal abilities.

At the other end of the spectrum, you get songs like ‘Mass Pollution’, which veers headlong into 80s hard rock territory with a swagger and groove that’s hard to ignore. The chorus is a live anthem in waiting, so catchy and strong. Deris leads the vocals on this track to powerfully underline his continued undeniable presence in the band. As is the Helloween way, more of the latter years, there’s still room for a touch of quirkiness, but it all comes together to create an irresistible heavy metal anthem.

By now, many of you will have heard and be familiar with ‘Skyfall’ which is epic both in terms of its 12-minute length and in its grandiose scope. All three vocalists give their all to create a song that lives long in the memory. But equally, so do the instrumentalists, riffing, soloing, pummelling, grooving, and generally creating a merry noise that flies by faster than its length might suggest. Strong melodies meet great dynamics so that there’s rarely a dull moment to be heard, whether it’s a galloping section, blistering bursts of speed metal, or a slower, quieter acoustic-led moment of respite. Again, that joie-de-vivre looms large, planting a great big smile on my face, whilst I love the ‘somewhere out in space’ line that can be heard as the song fades away at the end, as a clever reference I assume to Kai Hansen’s Gamma Ray.

Other favourites include the early double act of ‘Fear Of The Fallen’ and ‘Best Time’. The former begins with a brooding acoustic intro before delivering an urgent riff that’s instantly backed-up by furious rhythmic work and breathless vocals. The chorus is one of the strongest on the record, whilst the bass work of Maskus Grosskopf is nothing short of marvellous. I also love the slightly darker vibe as well as the changes in pace to add drama and punctuate the all-out pace of greater portions of the song. The latter is nothing short of a feel-good hit of saccharine infused fun, with a chorus to absolutely die for. Within seconds, the chorus can be sung along with, whilst the bass-centric verses add more than a hint of the 80s to the song.

‘Rise Without Chains’ is an infectious beast too that I have grown to love more and more with each passing listen. And the thunderous ‘Down In The Dumps’ reminds me, in the best way, or more latter-day Gamma Ray, but with plenty of Helloween trappings for good measure.

If I’m completely and utterly honest though, as I hinted at earlier, there are a few of the songs that, whilst undeniably good, don’t stick in my mind and demand repeated listens. I wanted to publish this review sooner but felt the need to see if this was an opinion formed early on and open to manoeuvre. As such, I have given it plenty of time and attention, but I still form a similar opinion. I can take or leave songs like ‘Angels’ or ‘Cyanide’ as potent as they are and as much as others will no doubt love them. It means that, as good as ‘Helloween’ is, I must admit that even now, I’d still rather listen to ‘Master Of The Rings’. I know that this is down to subjectivity and personal taste, but it’s the truth. ‘Helloween’ is in no way a substandard album. It is really great in fact. And if you love the band, you’ll almost certainly love this record – rightly so. But there’s just something stopping me from falling for it completely and wanting to desperately listen to it at every opportunity. And that’s is a bit of a shame.

The Score of Much Metal: 89%

Further reviews from 2021:

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis –

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

4 Thoughts

  1. Been a Helloween fan since almost the very beginning, and The Dark Ride is my highlight of their amazing discography. Walls of Jericho comes a close second (it is an album that is just brutal, balls to the wall Metal that takes no sh*t from anyone), then the Keys albums. Or Time of the Oath. Or Master of the Rings. Or whatever album I am listening to at the time.

    This is the first album on over 30 years where I have waited until the vinyl (Picture Disc and Holographic Edition of course) dropped through the door on release day before I fired up the record player and stuck on the first disc. I was so worried about this album, after having seen them on the Pumpkins United Tour and being left in tears at finally seeing Hansen singing and playing “Heavy Metal is the Law” live I just had this nagging doubt that they couldn’t have lived up to what they gave us on that tour.

    I was so glad to be wrong. Having already heard Fear of the Fallen, Indestructible and Skyfall I was heartened to discover that the rest of the album lived up to the hype. Helloween have always been a band where my first listen doesn’t really sink in, simply due to the amount they have going on in their songs what with to the incredible artistry of the band members. Now imagine having Hansen, Kiske and Deris singing. With Wiekath, Sacha and Hansen playing guitar. While Dani puts on a masterclass of power metal drumming. Add in the madness that is Marcus on the bass carrying everything along and it just becomes a musical overload.

    On my first listen only two of the new tracks stood out – Best Time and Angels. I wasn’t worried though, I just stuck it on again, and listened again. That’s when I started smiling and I haven’t stopped since. This album is everything I wished for when i heard they were re-uniting in the studio. From the epic Skyfall to the super-catchy-I -cant -wait-to-sing-along-with-this-live Best Time, to the nonsensical Robot King that grows and grows on you, the pounding Mass pollution, I’m not going to go through every song and try to describe them, I will let you make up your own mind.

    I am a happy Helloween fan after this album. I cannot wait until next year so I can see them live again (third time lucky) and hear some of the album live with thousands of fellow Pumpkin Heads going absolutely mental. A special shout out to Eliran Kantor for his quite simply breathtaking album art. My right arm is a homage to Frederick Moulaert, my left is going to be a homage to Eliran. Stunning work, and fitting for such an album.

    9/10 for me, as someone who loved Hansen’s vocals on Walls I would have liked to hear more of him, but I guess the years as a smoker haven’t been kind to him. Still saw him sing Heavy Metal is the Law though, he was a bit blurry towards the end though, bloody stealth onions……

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