Review Summary: Helloween proves that they are far from done by releasing their best album yet.
Helloween was in bad shape as 1993 ended. The German virtuosos have released two of their worst albums, 1991’s Pink Bubbles Go Ape and 1993’s Chameleon have brought on a stylistic change that wasn’t welcome by the fans, and both Michael Kiske and Ingo Schichtenberg were booted out due to their behavior (whether that may be causing the stylistic change, or becoming emotionally unstable). Things only turned worse when the band decided to release a new album in the following year, and hired Glam Metal-vocalist Andi Deris; who will certainly be compared to Michael Kiske in his skill. Everything was coming together for the final nail in the pumpkin’s coffin, but something inconceivable happened.
They finally composed the true musical successor to Keeper of the Seven Keys, Part 1.
Master of the Rings contains highly energetic and varied Power Metal throughout the ten compositions on the album. “Sole Survivor”, in particular, can sway over legions of former fans, with Grapow and Welki’s impressive performances creating shredding solos and simple, yet quite effective, riffing. Grosskopf also does a great job creating a rhythm section. That being said, newcomers Uli Kusch and Andi Deris bring impressive appearances on the song, and the album, as well. Kusch immediately brings a larger presence of the drum work into the album as the track begins, and Deris’s singing contains aggression not heard in Helloween, or even much Power Metal. The following tracks, such as “Take Me Home”, “In the Middle of a Heartbeat”, and especially the curiously titled “Where the Rain Grows” all demonstrate each member’s contributions to the album; including fantastic song-writing. One bizarre, yet fun, example of Helloween’s songwriting on this album is “The Game is On”; a song that is extremely energetic, yet having dark, but humorously done, lyrics of how a man gets addicted to a game and is unaware of the burning house around him. The production of the album is clear; creating a very vibrant and enjoyable experience overall.
With all of these positive elements in the album, it is unfortunate that the album has a few flaws. For instance, I feel that it could have been improved by having an epic similar to “Halloween” or “Keeper of the Seven Keys”, and could have concluded the album in an incredibly satisfying matter (something which “Still We Go” fails to do). Additionally, the album starts to run together near the ending; as the aforementioned anti-climactic finale, along with the bland “Mr. Ego”, hardly stands out against the rest of the very high quality material. “Mr. Ego” especially suffers from dragging on for far too long.
Despite these flaws, “Master of the Rings” is one of Helloween’s finest works and should be remembered as an incredible return-to-form. Deris and Uli’s contributions to the newly-motivated members of their band are compounded with great songwriting and a fantastic production, assuring a purchase by any fan of Helloween or Power Metal in general.
What you should listen to:
Where the Rain Grows
The Game is On
In the Middle of a Heartbeat
What you should not listen to: