Helloween are power metal legends. But with such a huge back catalogue to devour (16 full length studio albums and counting), where do you start?
Well, fear not! We’ve re-assessed Helloween’s entire back catalogue and done the hard work for you.
Too much of a change…..
16. Chameleon (1993)
This black sheep of the Helloween family is renowned for being one of metal’s biggest disappointments and no re-evaluation here is going to remedy that!
The final recording to feature golden-era vocalist Michael Kiske until 2021’s Helloween, Chameleon may have been a (misguided) attempt to show another side to Helloween’s skies but it failed on almost every level.
Excursions into pop, swing, glam and straight-up proggy weirdness were just too much of a departure from the surging power metal that made their name…..and many fans were left angry and confused in return.
In its defence, Chameleon isn’t entirely unlistenable (“I Believe” and “Giants” have their metallic moments) but it just doesn’t sound like a Helloween album and is doomed to be remembered as nothing but a huge misfire. 4/10
Pink what do what now?…..
15. Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991)
Here began the start of Helloween’s early 90s decline.
Undoing the majority of goodwill and adulation earned via the releases of seminal classics Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I (1987) & Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II (1988), 1991’s ridiculously titled Pink Bubbles Go Ape was simply too silly (the less said about “Heavy Metal Hamsters” the better) and too neutered to follow such classic releases and much of Helloween’s core audience were left far from happy.
Pink Bubbles Go Ape appeared to court mainstream acceptance with the likes of the self-titled opener and the saccharine-sweet “Number One”, dropping the epic nature of prior compositions in favour of a more streamlined, radio-friendly, straight-up ‘heavy’ metal approach.
Not without its moments – “Kids of the Century” had just enough chug to warrant more than just one spin – the majority of Pink Bubbles Go Ape simply lacked the bite of its predecessors and feels watered-down in comparison. 5/10
Only completists need apply…..
14. My God Given Right (2015)
Helloween’s 15th studio album failed to maintain the momentum gained with the release of the far superior Gambling With The Devil (2007) and 7 Sinners (2010) but still managed to provide a few snippets of superior power metal along the way; no more so than on the bombastically glorious one-two combo of opener “Heroes” and “Battle’s Won”, which kick-started My God Given Right on exactly the right note.
The satisfying chug of “Russian Roulé” maintained the energy but, overall, My God Given Right was home to way too much filler to warrant ‘must hear status’ and for a band with such a knack for soaring anthems, the issue here was a distinct lack of truly memorable songs.
While there was nothing inherently wrong with the material found on My God Given Right – it’s a pleasant enough listen – the distinct whiff of a band merely going through the motions is impossible to ignore. Hardly essential. 6/10
13. Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy (2005)
Expectations were understandably high for Helloween’s continuation to their 1987 and 1988 albums Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I and II but the sprawling progressive nature of Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy was, overall, somewhat of a disappointment.
An often ungainly double-disc set, Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy retained the relevant elements from earlier key releases but the magic wasn’t quite reignited, despite the sterling efforts of operatic opener “The King for a 1,000 Years” and the immediacy of “Mrs. God”. With some judicious editing, Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy could have recaptured the majesty of its forebearers but, as it turned out, fell a little short due to its cumbersome nature.
While this most progressive of Helloween albums showcased a band unafraid to add layers to an established blueprint, ultimately Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy didn’t earn the right to bear the ‘Keeper’ name. 6/10
The one with the misleading title…..
12. Straight Out Of Hell (2013)
Despite its title, long-time frontman Andi Deris himself confirmed that Straight Out of Hell was intentionally made to be a “happy” Helloween album and it certainly does bleed positivity, with ebullient energy positively emanating from every pore!
It’s also immensely enjoyable but in a predictable way, with no real surprises in store for both long-term Helloween fans and power metal veterans alike, meaning Straight Out of Hell offers plenty of Euro-power highlights without quite reaching the heady heights we know this band can reach.
A solid modern-day Helloween album…..but not a great one.
Opener, “Nabataea”, is class though! 6/10
Making up for prior sins…..
11. 7 Sinners (2010)
With Andi Deris taking on the lion’s share of the song writing duties on 2010’s 7 Sinners, it should come as no surprise that the band sounded infinitely heavier than on the preceding (and disappointing) acoustic compilation album, Unarmed – Best of 25th Anniversary (not officially included in this countdown due to including re-recorded versions of Helloween songs).
Instead, 7 Sinners was a mostly successful collection of speedy head-bangers. Lead single “Are You Metal?” (well, are you?) summed up Helloween’s approach perfectly while “Where the Sinners Go,” “Raise The Noise”, “Long Live The King” and epic finale “Far In The Future” exploded out of the traps with feral indignation.
Another solid, if overall unspectacular, offering from a band who know where their bread is ultimately buttered! 7/10
Album title’s apparently don’t come easy either…..
10. Rabbit Don’t Come Easy (2003)
Finally re-establishing themselves in the new millennium as a power metal band of considerable note, 2003’s Rabbit Don’t Come Easy (eh?)remains a relatively underrated album in Helloween’s oeuvre (even by us ironically, if this placing is anything to go by). Back were the soaring, catchy anthemic choruses and full-tilt power metal riffs, with Helloween emphatically announcing their ‘re-birth’ as the tongue-in-cheek titans of Euro-power we always knew they were!
Fast and heavy, yet melodic in that inimitable Helloween way, Rabbit Don’t Come Easy (still a crap title, though) harked back to more ‘traditional’ times while resolutely announcing itself as a modern power metal album.
“The Tune” may be bawdy nonsense but the likes of the speedy, in-your-face metal of “Liar” and the classic, punchy Helloween sounds of “Hell Was Made In Heaven” and “Listen To The Flies” enabled Helloween to re-establish themselves as more than just mere contenders to the modern power metal throne. 7/10
Turning to the dark side…..
9. The Dark Ride (2000)
The darkest of Helloween’s albums is quite the anomaly, with the band tuning down and Andi Deris employing a gruffer vocal style, but it remains a curiosity well worth checking out if power metal with added grit tickles your fancy.
The thrills come not from the de rigeur cheese of “All Over the Nation” but from the less expected crushing mid-tempo stomp of “Escalation 666” and the black, S&M themed, humour of “Mr Torture” – which gets by on its incessant chug alone – while “Mirror, Mirror” ably balances both styles and is an album highlight.
The Dark Ride is Helloween at their most mature and, by dialling back on the histrionics, is a perfect entry point for metal fans looking to expand their power metal palette. 7/10
Helloween come full circle……
8. Helloween (2021)
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 thankfully handled with aplomb!
This was 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 was an unmitigated success and one that ably balanced 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 wasn’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 reached for the stars and, ultimately, succeeded in virtually every department.
We never should have doubted them. 8/10
Better than their peers …..
7. Better Than Raw (1998)
In the midst of nu metal’s dominance stood Better Than Raw, an album that saw Helloween refusing to bow down to prevailing trends. As it turned out, they closed out the decade in fine form – modernising their sound and yet retaining their inimitable Helloween-ness.
A ‘proper’ heavy metal / power metal album, Better Than Raw harnessed elements of thrash, doom and groove metal and fashioned it to their own power metal blueprint. The results were outstanding, with the pure propulsive power of Euro-power classic “Midnight Sun”, the thrashy sonic excesses of “Push” and the immediacy of “I Can” proving Helloween were still full of ambition and still had the bit set firmly between their teeth.
Better than raw? Better than 99% of power metal album out there! 8/10
6. Master Of The Rings (1994)
Master Of The Rings was somewhat of a comeback album considering the ground lost with the release of 1991’s Pink Bubbles go Ape and 1993’s disappointing Chameleon. Out went beloved members Michael Kiske and drummer and co-founder Ingo Schwichtenberg (R.I.P.) and in came new vocalist Andi Deris (ex-Pink Cream 69) and Uli Kusch (Holy Moses / Gamma Ray) respectively….. and the result was a complete rejuvenation which instantly re-established Helloween as power players of the scene!
Replacing such a dominant figure as Michael Kiske was never going to be easy but Andi Deris made an instant impact and his writing partnership with Michael Weikath was fruitful from the get-go; the duo contributing arguably Master Of The Rings’ finest tracks in the shape of “Perfect Gentleman”, “Where the Rain Grows” and “Sole Survivor”.
Master Of The Rings lit the touchpaper for a flame that burns bright to this very day and Helloween probably wouldn’t still be with us if it wasn’t for this outstanding album. 8/10
Time for a concept classic…..
5. The Time Of The Oath (1996)
An undisputed classic, 1996’s The Time Of The Oath picked up where 1994’s Master Of The Rings left off, slapped a concept on it (the prophecies of Nostradamus, in case you were wondering) and delivered a supreme set of Euro-power songs in the process.
While rarely straying from the path they themselves carved, The Time of the Oath simply finessed Helloween’s own recognisable high-speed, quasi-thrash riffs, glorious harmonies and caterwauling vocals and hit the mother of home-runs.
From the thunder, chug and atmosphere of the title track to the intensity of “We Burn” and on to the chest-beating Euro-power balladry of the self-explanatory “Power”; The Time Of The Oath had it all! 8/10
The one that started it all…..
4. Walls Of Jericho (1985)
Rewind the clock back to 1985 and Helloween’s full length debut, Walls Of Jericho, was a speed metal phenomenon. Far from the power metal colossus they would eventually become, a Kai Hansen fronted Helloween was a far more feral beast, one capable of complex and crazed compositions such as “Ride The Sky” and “How Many Tears” as well as blasting out speed metal symphony’s.
Barely able to contain their own unbridled energy from spoiling over into chaos, Helloween were very much in their infancy at this stage in their career…. but it’s that unspoiled, unshackled passion which makes Walls Of Jericho so damn appealing over 35 years on.
A mind-blowing release from a band who would transform into an entirely different unit just 2 years later! 8/10
Place your bets…..
3. Gambling With The Devil (2007)
As good a ‘modern’ Helloween album as you’d care to listen to, 2007’s Gambling With the Devil found the band letting rip with a cavalcade of aggressive, fast-paced power metal anthems. “Kill It” may well be the ‘heaviest’ song in Helloween’s arsenal and latter-day classic “Paint A New World” and “The Bells Of The 7 Hells” didn’t lag far behind. The key to Gambling With The Devil’s success lay in its relatively stripped-back approach and, with no concept to concentrate on, Helloween simply delivered their darkest, heaviest collection of songs since 2000’s aptly titled, The Dark Ride.
Super-fast, ultra-heavy and packed to the rafters with modern metal bangers, Gambling With The Devil is the finest Andi Deris fronted album….and, 14 years on, it still packs a considerable power metal punch! 8/10
The keys to the kingdom….
2. Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II (1988)
Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II remains a genre milestone and every – and we mean every – power metal album that followed in its wake owes this ground-breaking album a monumental debt!
A fitting showcase for European power metal in all its soaring, uplifting, bombastic glory, Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II is home to an embarrassment of riches, with the legendary likes of “Eagle Fly Free”, “Dr. Stein” and “I Want Out” blossoming into eternal classics that the band themselves have never bettered (never mind the legions of bands that have attempted to encapsulate this lightning-in-a-bottle moment over the preceding decades).
Pure operatic theatricality set to Michael Kiske’s vibrant and vivacious vocals, Ingo Schwichtenberg’s explosive percussion and the neo-classical nature of Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath’s endless array of searing riffs, Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II invented ‘modern’ power metal in all its guises and the anthemic, absurdly catchy nature of its thrilling compositions galvanised a scene that didn’t know it needed galvanising. 10/10
The king of kings….
1. Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I (1987)
What else could possibly be at number 1?
Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I formed part of a double-header which single-handedly created the genre of European-style power metal and its status as an undisputed 80’s metal classic is set in stone.
Heralding the arrival of 18 year old vocalist Michael Kiske, Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I was a veritable tour de force of ultra-melodic yet expansive and frenetic heavy metal the likes of which the world had never seen (or heard) before.
From the joyous sounds of “I’m Alive” to all time Euro-power classic “Future World”, Helloween were overflowing with confidence and ability (in particular, Michael Weikath and Kai Hansen were an electrifying guitar duo) and there’s no denying that “Halloween” remains Helloween’s pièce de résistance; an ambitious, extravagant 14 min epic that allowed the band to explore every facet of their astonishing sound.
A power metal powerhouse had emerged! 10/10
Agree / disagree with our rankings? Sound off in the comments section below…..