Review Summary: Power Metal's best
Helloween is arguably the most important Power Metal band of all-time. Pioneers in the European Power Metal scene, they earned their reputation mainly thanks to the couple of album called “Keeper of the Seven Keys”. The first of those Keepers remains until today the best and most important Power Metal album of all-time.
After releasing their debut “Walls of Jericho” (which was more of a speed metal record), Kai Hansen decided to leave the vocals, and hired none other than a young boy (just being 18 at that time) called Michael Kiske. Hell he was right. His vocals are really outstanding, high-pitched but keeping his tone so enjoyable. One of the most talented singers I’ve heard really. This addition really meant a big change to Helloween, since Kai’s vocals were rawer and lower in tone (not necessarily bad, but inferior to Kiske’s), and he devoted to song-writing and playing his guitar.
Their previous album showed energy and potential, but was far from perfect. Song-writing was really good, but would be improved here, Kai’s vocals might be annoying at times, and production was unclean. All the merits of Walls of Jericho were maximized to a certain level here that the band would never achieve again.
The keys for the success of this album, aside from the amazing vocals, are of course the guitar work and awesome songwriting. Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath display such a powerful set of riffs and solos that make you think “hell these guys rule”. Riffs are so heavy and powerful that you get immediately hooked with them. But they are not just catchy, they overflow energy. Take I’m Alive for example, the main riff is pure magic, yet it’s not so elaborated or complex, but it draws your attention. Here guitars sound very melodic, something which has improved from the previous album, and very creative. Bass guitar also rules hard; Markus Grosspkof is a talented bassist, who plays equally good on the predominant fast passages and on the slower ones. It can be clearly heard, and that is an advantage for the album.
Every song on the album has something to it. Initiation and Follow the Sign are instrumental short tracks which play a minor part on the album, but build the atmosphere. I’m Alive, the really opener, is nothing short of amazing, with that previously mentioned riff which made me gape the first time I heard it, and the couple of melodic solos leading you into a wild ride which will satisfy anyone with certain love for metal. A Little Time, while slower, is a nice song to follow up, and has a weird yet likeable passage of experimentation. Twilight of the Gods and Future World are two great songs, the first one being led by a melodic guitar duo. The second one was the more radio-friendly one of the album, for its catchiness and instantly likeable riff. The ballad, A Tale that Wasn’t Right is an incredibly fine one, mainly because of Kiske’s talent to sing it with passion and energy.
But this album would be nothing if it wasn’t for the incredible Halloween. This song represents the pinnacle of all Power Metal, being the finest song Helloween ever released. Clocking at almost 14 minutes, this is nothing but a fest of astounding riffs, infectious solos and masterful songwriting. The main riff should immediately catch your attention and prepare you for what’s to come. The climax arrives when after the last of the three slow passages, Hansen and Weikath start playing melodic solos in a way that leaves you pleading for more. I wanted to go back there, just to listen to those two guys playing their guitars in such a way. My God, this song is one of the best I’ve heard in my life. No kidding.
It’s hard to find any flaw here that is why this album is so important for the Power Metal scene. While the genre might turn cheesy, Keeper of the Seven Keys part 1 gets away from that as much as possible within the genre. Lyrics are what you would expect from such an album, but they are funny anyway, and they fit with the music. The album is just 37-minute long, but it is worth every damned minute of it, even the short instrumentals.
All in all, this is undoubtedly the best Power Metal album ever recorded, and every self-respected metal fan should own this. A combination of fast and catchy riffs, melodic solos, and awesome high-pitched vocals that will satisfy your need of banging your head, or your need to get melodic guitars, or you need to sing a chorus out loud. The sequel of this (Keeper of the Seven Keys part II) is also an excellent album on its own right, but fails a bit short in comparison with this sophomore record in their discography.