Let’s be realistic, the idea of Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen returning to Helloween, without Andi Deris having to depart to make space for them, sounded great on paper, but whether they could be seamlessly integrated back into the fold on a permanent basis was another thing entirely.
While the Pumpkins United performances laid to rest the majority of concerns, the recording of a new album with all three involved was always going to be a trickier test and one that this seven-strong line-up has thankfully handled with aplomb!
This is Helloween ramped up to obscene levels – with Kai Hansen proving his worth on guitar and vocals and Michael Kiske and Andi Deris effortlessly combining – and the majority of Helloween is an unmitigated success and one that ably balances this much talent without detriment to the song writing. With the threat of compromise eliminated and ego’s seemingly in check, it’s clear that this isn’t a marriage of convenience but a coming together of passionate, like-minded individuals intent on pushing the band to hitherto unreached heights. While surpassing their most worshipped releases would be an almost impossible task – it would take something ridiculously special to usurp Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts I & II from their lofty perch – Helloween nevertheless defiantly reaches for the stars and, ultimately, succeeds in virtually every department.
Suitably epic opener “Out For The Glory” is everything you demand from the band as it rides, Valkyrie-like, through a swathe of operatic, power metal pomp and ceremony. It is, for want of a better description, fuckin’ glorious! The energy and enjoyment doesn’t relent either with each successive track bringing nothing but the purest of heavy metal joy to those willing to join Helloween on their euphoric journey to power metal glory.
“Fear of the Fallen” opens delicately but stands its ground and morphs into an uber-catchy, ultra-melodic workout, “Best Time” is pure 80’s (in a good way) and “Rise Without Chains” is as power metal as they come….and considering Helloween practically invented this shit, it’s as convincing as all hell.
While not as heavy as much of the material found on Gambling with the Devil and The Dark Ride, singles “Indestructible”, “Cyanide” and the aforementioned “Fear Of The Fallen” are rip-roaring affairs and perfectly showcase Helloween’s desire to remain at the forefront of the power metal scene.
It’s notable just how much Helloween appears to have crystallised the band; bringing the fearless sonic excesses of the 80’s, the experimental elements of the 90’s and the more focused, power metal / speed metal aggression of their post-00s output perfectly into line. No easy feat but one which the power-prog-tastic “Robot King” and “Skyfall” easily achieve.
Helloween know there place in the pantheon of metal and with Helloween they’re clearly not afraid to embrace their illustrious past while greeting a new dawn with the same level of energy, enthusiasm and unbridled effervescence that stood them out as world-beaters well over 30 years ago. Indestructible simply because they are now as one, Helloween is far more than the sum of its parts. We never should have doubted them. 8/10