March 8, 2016 Helloween Take Over PlayStation Theater, NYC 3-1-16 w/ Them
Helloween is known as one of the key founders of German Melodic Speed Metal and one of the most influential Metal bands under similar rankings as the iconic Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. Having released fifteen flawless albums and sold over eight million records, which a few have made Gold and Multi-Platinum status, they continue to showcase different styles with the use of unforgettable melodies and guitar riffs since the initial formation in 1984. Nineteen-eighty-seven and 1988’s Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I & II have been considered to be one of the most successful German Metal albums of all time, and have influenced bands such as Blind Guardian, Sabaton, and Edguy. Power Metal would not be the same, nor would it truly exist, if it was not for Helloween. They have stayed true to their style for over thirty years and even survived through the many changes in the Music Industry, including the Grunge Rock era in the nineties. The band has headlined all across the globe over the years, where they are no stranger to the Metal scene.
It was 2015’s My God-Given Right Nuclear Blast Records release that has proven they are stronger than ever. It has been considered to be one of the top Heavy Metal albums of the year. Shortly after this release, Helloween announced a return to North America, which would make it their first visit since 2013 when they were supporting the album Straight Out of Hell. This time around, their 2016 tour would consist of seven carefully selected dates, kicking off on February 28th in Montreal and concluded on March 7th at the Avalon in Hollywood, CA. On the third night, Tuesday, March 1st, Helloween stopped at PlayStation Theater in New York City as many fans from the tri-state area rushed to see them.
As the venue appeared to be halfway full of fans, the stage turned into a graveyard, ready for New York City based supporting act Them to take the stage. Recently formed in 2015 and influenced by the legendary King Diamond, founding member Troy Norr (Coldsteel) transcended his inspiration to create the upcoming conceptual album, Sweet Hollow. The audience was in for a treat this evening to see the story unfold on the live stage. The band consists of Norr, who plays the role of Klaus König, followed by Sylencer’s Markus Johansson (guitar), Symphony X’s Mike LePond (bass), Suffocation’s Kevin Talley (drums), along with Lanfear’s Markus Ullrich (guitar) and Richard Seibel (keyboard).
The set carried the audience back in time to the 1800s, in the cemetery known as Sweet Hollow Cemetery. Performing acts from the album, stories included the young woman that reminds König of his daughter who becomes possessed by a Crimson Corpse, showcased in the violent track of “Blood From Blood.” This possessed woman killed her entire family using an axe, along with hanging her dog before she murdered her immediate family. The grandmother was the only survivor as she locked herself away from the danger. The audience witnessed, during the track of “When the Clock Struck 12,” the grandmother run in desperation to the cemetery to seek help from König. The character König appeared to have special abilities where an exorcism of the possessed girl was taken place, however, this exorcism failed, and the only way to kill the demon inside was to kill the girl.
Concluding with the girl’s unfortunate death that haunted the crowd, König himself might have awakened another demon inside himself. The concept goes even further where one must buy the album Sweet Hollow after its official release to find out more. The performance was a mix of theatrical entertainment and Heavy Metal Melodic talent as many eyes remained glued to the stage.
During a brief intermission, the house filled up as the banner of My God-Given Right unfolded in the background and fans were ecstatic to see Helloween take the stage. There have been a few lineup changes over the years, including the departure of Guitarist Kai Hansen and the unfortunate suicide of the founding member and former drummer of Ingo Schwichtenberg back in 1995. However, the lineup has been vigorous and consistent since 2005 where Michael Weikath (guitar) and Markus Grosskopf (bass) are the only two original members left; the rest includes Andi Deris (vocals) since 1994, Sascha Gerstner (guitar) since 2002, and Daniel Löble (drums) since 2005.
As the house lights shut off, fans cheered, and the introduction of “Walls of Jericho” from 1985’s Walls of Jericho came on. The stage lit up as the band walked on with an incredible amount of energy as “Eagle Fly Free” from 1988’s Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part II started the official set. Helloween looked happy to be there as they casually performed with an enjoyable energy. Deris himself took in the crowd’s roars of such enthusiasm as he informed all how glad they were to be back in New York, then continued into another classic, “Dr. Stein.”
Deris introduced the new album and joked about having to perform the title track first, where he taunted the crowd to shout out “My God-Given Right” until it shook the venue with the enthusiastic screams. The screams led the band to perform the title track followed by “Steel Tormentor” from 1996’s The Time of the Oath. Deris announced the next piece as he stated it moved four years later in their career with 2000’s The Dark Ride as they went into “Mr. Torture.” It was this point where it did not matter which song they performed throughout their entire career, as fans managed to cheer and sing-along to each song including the next, “Waiting for the Thunder” and “Straight Out of Hell” from 2013’s Straight Out of Hell.
As the set was heating up to a near halfway mark during “Heroes” from My God-Given Right, the band left the stage, leaving only Löble to showcase his drumming mastery. During this solo, Gerstner casually walked around the venue amongst the fans to watch this magic from the crowd’s perspective. A few fans noticed his appearance, but he snuck in quite well, similar to how he walked back onto the stage for the next, “Where the Rain Grows” from 1994’s Master of the Rings. Deris explained the next piece being based on a true story where the band was sitting on a plane having a drink and hearing the flight captain announcing that they are high and far, not knowing where they are, being “Lost in America.” The energy between Weikath, Grosskopf, and Gerstner captivated the crowd during the solo instrumentation. Deris continued to power up the crowd as he had everyone screaming out “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” until he announced, “Ladies and gentlemen you got the ‘Power’” as “Power” came in from 1996’s The Time of the Oath. Deris thanked the crowd and the stage lights shut off briefly, leaving the audience clapping for more. As many shouted, cell phones were raised in the air, ready to record the famous ballad track of “Forever and One (Neverland).” The lighting switched to a dark and emotional set, where fans felt the mood by loudly singing along.
As the set was coming to a close, the moment many have been waiting for came in as the stage turned into an All Hallow’s Eve setting with Orange lights and Deris walked on with the iconic black top hat as the medley began with the classic “Halloween.” It was a glorified moment filled with iconic Helloween tracks that included “Sole Survivor,” “I Can,” “Are You Metal?” and closing it with “Keeper of the Seven Keys.” Shortly after this, each member of the band had a solo exit of their own to give everyone a moment to take a final bow. As the stage lights shut off, the crowd stood by crying out “Helloween!” Moments later, the band walked back on the stage for the encore and opened it up with “Before the War” from The Time of the Oath. After this track, Gerstner was left alone on the stage in a spotlight for an incredible solo. The band walked back onto the stage after this moment and continued with “Future World” from 1987’s Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part I, which featured a duelling solo between Gerstner and Weikath.
The evening officially closed with “I Want Out” from 1988’s Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part II. Grosskopf had a moment to interact with the crowd just before Deris grabbed the mic to raise a glass of California Red to the audience for a toast. Fans continued to follow his direction by screaming “I Want Out.” This song extended into the crowd’s participation with clapping, cheering along, and with a grand finale circle pit. The moment lasted until the sounds of “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” came on for the band’s final exit.
After it was all said and done, everyone were left PlayStation Theater with glowing faces as it was a remarkable evening of Power Metal. Helloween, even over three decades into their career, remain fierce and continue to rile up fans from different parts of their history. The tour itself was short and sweet; hopefully, they will return again soon enough.