It's probably only a bizarre (and sometimes impenetrable) sense of humour that's stopped Helloween
from attracting the critical acclaim the band's music deserves.
Well no, that's not strictly true, the humour thing's been a problem, but the quality of the band's output has been variable, and that's resulted in a hard to bridge credibility gap.
However, there can be no doubt that when they're at their best, there are few metal bands to touch them.
Recognising that, Sanctuary
Records have gone a long way to redressing the balance by reissuing nine albums from Helloween
's back catalogue. From 1986's 'Walls Of Jericho'
through to 1998's 'Better Than Raw'
. In each case, several bonus tracks have been added to the original tracklist. In general these are Japanese bonus tracks, non album B-sides and the occasional live track. The packaging is lavish, the remastering impressive, and in a few cases the albums have been expanded to two discs to accommodate the extra material.
Now that's what I call respect.
Fans of the band will know the albums, but maybe won't be quite so familiar with the additional tracks. The reissue of the bands' debut, 'Walls Of Jericho'
is one of the two disc affairs. Disc one includes the band's self titled "mini LP" as well as the tracks from their full length debut. The second disc contains the album's seven bonus tracks.
Disc two opens with remixes of the original album's speed metal head turners, 'Murderer'
and 'Ride The Sky'
, two tracks that emphasise the teutonic Iron Maiden
similarities of which they were deservedly accused at the time. The remixes are drier, cleaner versions. The distended riffs and charging rhythms don't sound quite so manic, and Hansen's vocals seem clearer and more distinct (but still wanders out of tune).
The real highlights on disc two are the two songs that started it all - 'Oernst Of Life'
and 'Metal Invaders',
both of which are lifted from the 'Death Metal'
sampler, released in 1984.
The seminal 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys'
- claimed by many to be the precursor of Power metal - yields a few more interesting bonuses. The Michael Kiske
version of 'Victim Of Fate'
from the 'Helloween
' mini LP on its own proves what an astute move it was by the band to bring Kiske
on board. There's a soaring, skyscraping remix (by Kiske
) of 'Starlight'
from 'Walls Of Jericho'
and a "video edit" of the epic 'Helloween',
effectively condensing almost quarter of an hour's hugely ambitious, lung bursting metal into five incendiary minutes.
1988's 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II'
and Weikath separately take more of songwriting role with the band. Kiske
's splendidly metallised single B-side songs 'Savage'
and 'Don't Run For Cover'
are featured on disc two (yes, another reissue expanded to two excellent discs). Single B-side 'Living Ain't No Crime'
and a remix of 'Dr.Stein'
again show the totally different dimension that Weikath brought to Helloween
, greatly assisting the band's progressive penetration of the mainstream metal market.
The cringingly titled 'Pink Bubbles Go Ape'
was released three years later.
After Tommy Newton's hollow production on the previous album, Chris Tsangarides was brought in following his well received work on Bruce Dickinson's 'Tattooed Millionaire'.
And you can hear the difference. With 'PBGA
' the band had moved off in a distinctly hard rock direction, encroaching on Deep Purple
Four bonus tracks this time, most notably the humorously titled instrumental parody 'Les Hambourgeois Walkways'
and the throwback 'You Run With The Pack'
, both originally appearing on the 'Number One' CD single.
Reviews of the next four reissues to follow next week.
NB Ratings below are for the bonus material
Walls Of Jericho 6/10
Keeper Of The Seven Keys 7.5/10
Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part Two 6/10
Pink Bubbles Go Ape 5/10
Written by Brian
Sunday, June 11, 2006Show all reviews by BrianRatingsBrian: 666/10
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Helloween Mark I&II (from the first EP to Keeper II - Kay Hansen years) released excellent... · Read more ·
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