Sometimes dreams do come true. For long-running German Metal institution Helloween, three separate vocalists representing each segment of the band’s storied career have manned the microphone, and each one occupies a place in the hearts of their legions of fans. To get all three of these massively successful gentlemen together for a world tour was one thing. To get them to record a new song together, an even more special treat. But now, coming to fruition on June 18th, 2021 via Nuclear Blast Records, an entire album featuring each era of vocalists will become reality. Entitled Helloween, it seems like a great time for such an eponymous moniker, as the reprised appearances of Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske make this truly a career-spanning effort.
Spend any time around Helloween, it becomes apparent how light-hearted and enjoyable they seem as people, and this energy is always brought to the fore on their studio output. Now, be it the excitement of reuniting – or with some individuals in the band – uniting creatively, Helloween has brought forth one of their most natural and free-flowing albums in years.
Depending on where you stand as a fan, its hard to argue with the seamless grandeur of 1998’s Better Than Raw or those classic ‘Keeper’ albums. “Mass Pollution” is a belter out of space and time, Andi Deris sounding as dominant as he ever has. Joined by his compatriots for the chorus, one need only look to the embarrassment of the most recent Mötley Crüe performance to understand that when you care about your art first and your celebrity second, the sky is the limit and age is just a number.
Speaking of upper limits, “Skyfall” is the stamp upon this album that, having been out for a while, has no doubt etched itself into your skull. If you have not done so, waste no time and crank it up. Once in a while, Helloween has been guilty of making long songs that don’t quite make the impact of some of their classics, but this sweltering beast is superb. Each singer gets his air-time, and the throaty riffs give way to some of the best guitar solos this side of heaven. Damned if you can’t hear Walls of Jericho’s best moments seeping into the epic atmosphere of those ‘Keeper’ albums. Name me a classic ‘legacy’ Power Metal band who cut their teeth in the 1980s. Helloween is making better music today than they are, period.
Long for the double-bass laden, mosh-inducing stomp of songs like “Midnight Sun” or “Where the Rain Grows,” look no further than “Robot King.” Soaring vocal passages, the always articulated and fantastic bass-playing of Marcus Grosskopf (this man needs to be mentioned in the same breath as Steve Harris and Steve DiGorgio, dammit), this is that Helloween magic fans will embrace like an old friend. Guitar solos duel, trading off each other with unrivaled chemistry and aplomb. Charlie Bauerfeind was a great choice as a producer, providing the room for this group of lifelong friends to fill the space with such splendor.
The pugnacious opening of “Indestructible” brings the thrash to the fore, with Kiske sounding like 1988 never ended. When was the last time Helloween sounded this unfettered? The truth is they hit that stride in places on virtually all their albums, but this album is where it happens from start to finish. Earworm choruses abound, here and on “Down in the Dumps” and second single “Fear of the Fallen.” Kiske shines on “Rise Without Chains,” as well as on “Angels,” the closest thing to the balladry of “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” but with the heaviness turned up. Daniel Loble pounds the drum kit, while the guitars of Kai Hansen, Michael Weikath, and Sascha Gerstner weave their sorcery.
An atmosphere of reinvigoration surrounded the news that Helloween would proceed with all three of their singers, as well as Hansen’s guitar. We knew it was going to be good. We knew it was going to be heartfelt, but I don’t think anybody could guess that 2021 Helloween was going to feel like 1984-1988 Helloween again. There is magic in that old pumpkin yet, folks. CrypticRock gives Helloween a solid, brilliant, fist-in-the-air 5 out of 5 stars.