Helloween - 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys - Parts 1 and 2' (Deluxe Edition)

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Helloween - 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys - Parts 1 and 2' (Deluxe Edition)

Without doubt the ultimate edition of two of the greatest power metal albums of all time!

When you look at the proliferation of power metal bands we've seen over the last couple of decades, it's easy to take it for granted that the scene has always been there in one form or another. Sure, heavy metal acts have always gravitated towards the hard and aggressive way of doing things, whilst the emergence of thrash in the early 80's introduced the concept of speed metal riffs; but it would take the rise to prominence of a German band that fused the two together to create the blueprint for the future. That band was Helloween, and the ramifications of their watershed 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys' sets still reverberates down the ages.

Formed in Hamburg as a four piece in the early 80's, the beginning of Helloween was fairly inauspicious, their sub Iron Maiden ramblings proficient enough per sae, but hardly anything that made them stand out from countless other European metal acts at the time. All that changed however when guitarist Kai Hansen gave up lead vocals to concentrate on his playing, and the vacant front man spot was filled by an unknown eighteen year old by the name of Michael Kiske (who up until that point was going nowhere fast with a band called III Prophecy). The chemistry between the vocalist and his new band mates was obvious from the off, and as they set about recording their first album as a five piece, little did they know that they were about to change the course of history!

The original plan had been to record a lavish double album set to introduce the new look Helloween to the world, but when then record company Noise thought it too risky, plans changed to two separate but connected albums some eighteen months or so apart, interspersed with heavy tour support. I should at this juncture reinforce the fact that whilst the two epic tracks 'Halloween' and 'Keeper ...' itself are intrinsically linked, contrary to popular belief the two albums do not really share any common thread or concept.

Originally released in early '87, 'Keeper of The Seven Keys Part 1' was predominantly the brainchild of Hansen, but it was the catalyst that broke the mould and catapulted Helloween to international acclaim. Driven by the thunderous rhythms of bassist Markus Grosskopf and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, and dominated by the razor sharp riffs and rabid solos of Hansen and Michael Weikath, what really set Helloween apart was the sky skimming vocals of Kiske ... most metal singers would scream from time to time, but this guy could hit sustained notes most could only dream of, and still stay in perfect tune! Nothing short of a revelation, blistering tracks like 'Twilight Of The Gods', 'I'm Alive' and 'Future World' had metal heads frothing at the mouth, whilst the complex arrangements and progressive time changes of tracks such as 'Halloween' showed that a much deeper intellect was at work.

With major plaudits for 'Part 1' still echoing loud in their ears, at the end of summer '88 Helloween unleashed 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 2'. This time around the lion's share of the songwriting had fallen to Weikath (a deliberate move on the band's part), which whilst staying true to the sound they'd created the previous year, leant a slightly different slant to the songs. Still, the rapidly expanding Helloween faithful lapped it all up, taking tracks such as 'Eagle Fly Free', 'I Want Out' and the brilliantly funny 'Dr. Stein' to their hearts.

Now reissued as a lavish double CD digipack with expansive liner notes (courtesy of Malcolm Dome) and no less than nine bonus tracks, this is without doubt the ultimate edition of two of the greatest power metal albums of all time!

Dave Cockett

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