So, this week’s Classic Albums is sort of by accident. I was listening to something on iTunes in the H’s, and wouldn’t you know, that this lil gem was next. I took it as a sign that we were meant to devote this week to the one, the only Helloween, and their classic masterpiece Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I. I still remember the summer of 1987, watching my VHS recording of the previous night’s Headbangers Ball, fast forwarding through a lot of nonsense to get to that almighty THIRD HOUR. The hour where a lot of new bands were shown, and There. They. Were. From Hamburg, Germany…Helloween!! To a guy like me, this band had it all: a four-octave vocalist, twin guitar attack, and machine gun-drumming! I hopped on my 10-speed and made my way up to Busy Bee Flea Market, picked up the cassette, flew home, and pressed PLAY…
After the “Initiation”, “I’m Alive” takes off with Ingo Schwichtenberg’s rapid fire drums, guitarists Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath laying down a barrage of riffs and leads, as they would throughout the entire record, and Michael Kiske singing in a voice that shows he CLEARLY worships at the altar located at the corner of Dickinson St. and Halford Blvd. Hey, to a lot of us, this was no problem whatsoever. This band had the chops, believe me.
“A Little Time” has riffs for days, and a meaty bass backbone from Markus Grosskopf over a mid-tempo double-bass groove. And who doesn’t remember the alarm clocks going off in the middle there, huh? The band quickly jumps back into fifth gear for “Twilight of the Gods”, which is mystical, but at the same time, one of the most anthemic, catchiest songs on the record. A quick downshift brings us to “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” showing a slower, but by no means softer side of Helloween. Michael Kiske is on absolute fire during the choruses here, and the whole feel of the song makes it a perfect way to end side one.
Now, to a kid like me, who rode his bike everywhere in 1987, this was the perfect tape to have in my Walkman, whether it was for the ride to Busy Bee, my girlfriend’s house, or just about anywhere. And no song exemplified that better than “Future World” for me. It has the perfect tempo, with the perfect sing-along chorus, and would just motivate me. It’s the first song on side two, and STILL my favorite to this day. Plus, the way it starts, with chugga-chugga riffs and Michael singing:
“If you’re out there all alone, and you don’t know where to go to,
Come and take a trip with me, to Future World.”
I’d get on the bike like, “FUCK YEAH! Let’s do this!!”
And then…well then we have “Halloween”. 13:19 of absolute fucking greatness. The intro, the stops and starts, the haunting atmosphere, everything about this is a metal masterpiece! Imagine how I felt when I realized MTV had spliced off EIGHT minutes for their silly video edit! I didn’t know whether to be pissed over them ripping us off or happy because we got those eight extra minutes. Hey, when you’re 14, these are the issues you wonder why they aren’t on ABC World News Tonight, dammit.
After you pick yourself up off the floor from being tossed about like a rag doll over the course of this epic, things end on a rather ethereal note with the outro “Follow the Sign”, featuring an atmospheric solo, and a promise of Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II.
Helloween was a great band that drew lots of comparisons to Iron Maiden, some derogatory, some not. I, for one, loved them. Unfortunately, time would not be kind to this band. Label disputes, a lightening of the sound, drug addiction that led to in-fighting, firings, and ultimately the death of Ingo Schwichtenberg in 1995, served to only destroy what these men had created. Helloween continue to release albums to this day, some good, some bad, with Michael Weikath being the only original remaining member. But nothing and no one can ever take away the greatness that they harnessed on Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I. The memories I have of this one, listening to it on my bike, or in the kitchen with my buddies are priceless. It really should be a part of any metalhead’s collection, and I hope this has maybe inspired a few of you to check it out sometime. ~dc