You’d think that upon entering their third decade of existence, German power metal pioneers Helloween might take a break or try something different. No, instead they come out with one of their strongest releases in years, 2005’s Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy
. The decision to make something of a pseudo-continuum to two of the band’s most iconic albums, 1987 and 88’s Keeper of the Seven Keys
parts one and two, might have signified the band’s return to its origins. Prior to this time, Helloween had been receiving the typical “sell out" routine from critics and fans alike. While an awful lot of these claims were completely baseless and inaccurate, one could assume that they may have had some
sort of effect on Helloween. The Legacy
had huge shoes to fill at its inception: the first two parts of Keeper of the Seven Keys
are widely considered as having created power metal. The eighty minute, thirteen track, two disc album does not disappoint.
Yes, The Legacy
is a very good album. All the elements that make Helloween, and power metal in general, a fantastic experience can be found here. Soaring vocals, light-speed guitar lines, thundering bass, and furious drumming come together with surprisingly fluid results. Front man Andi Deris balances both operatic clean vocals with the occasional guttural snarl. His singing on “Light The Universe" alongside [wife of famed guitarist Ritchie Blackmore] Candice Night is among the best performances you’ll here from him with Helloween. The ballad-like “Light The Universe" is easily one of the most notable tracks on The Legacy
as a result of the fantastic dual vocals and impressive instrumentation (particularly the piano). However, Deris can stand quite well on his own, as is evidenced in the epic near-fourteen minutes of “The King For 1000 Years," which nearly all of his vocal tricks throughout.
Songs like “The King For 1000 Years" also draw obvious attention to the fantastic guitar duo of Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner. The pair’s playing is as heavy as one may expect, without losing any and all sense of melody, on The Legacy
. The crisp, clear as a bell guitar lines are a wonderful example of modern production values. This is Helloween for a new era, and with all sorts of technology at their disposal, the band is hardly afraid to exploit it. Excellent string-slinging moments can be found all over The Legacy
. From the diabolically heavy riffs of “Do You Know What You Are Fighting For," “Silent Rain" and the like, to the seemingly orchestrated madness of “My Life For One More Day," both Weikath and Gerstner impress at every turn. Bassist Markus Grosskopf holds the ax attack together with his rumbling basslines. Grosskopf showcases his chops quite handily on songs such as “The Invisible Man." Drummer Dany Loeble throws up a wall of sound on The Legacy
’s entirety, once again accentuate the top-notch production values to be found on the album. The instrumentation, overall, presents plenty of both old and new Helloween sounds, making for a uniquely varied listening experience.
Interestingly enough, Helloween actually blend many progressive elements into the music on The Legacy
. Not only do both of the album’s discs open with anthem-like tracks with full-on over-the-top instrumentation and wild vocals, but Helloween really try to draw you into their music, by crafting atmospheric soundscapes complete with ghoulish choir. While this (to an extent) is nothing new to Helloween, or power metal in general, it casts a different light on The Legacy
. Other examples of the progressive undertone include the numerous electronic samples littered throughout the album. The intro to “Occasion Avenue" pretty much sums the whole idea up, with the sounds of a playing radio that eventually breaks into an engrossing prog-power metal experience of mammoth proportions.
Lyrically, The Legacy
isn’t as cheesy as it’s power metal-status might lead you to believe. Even for a person who has been turned off of this particular genre by the lyrics might find something to like here. “Light The Universe," “Mrs. God," and a host of other songs exude a certain sense of content and/or attitude that’s rarely found in power metal (even with a little bit of flavorful profanity). The chorus to “Born on Judgement Day" is particularly impressive, as Deris sings:
“I was born on judgment day/And I have no words to say/Don’t know good or bad/Kinda feel so sad/But still I sing this song for you…"
Okay, so maybe the lyrics on The Legacy
ditched power metal’s typical curiousness, but at least they feel a little more accessible. The lyrics sheet on The Legacy
is definitely more down-to-earth than most power metal albums, which is an excellently refreshing change of pace.
For all of it’s strengths, however, The Legacy
does have a few glaring weaknesses. For one thing, it’s never easy to trek through an album of this nature in one sitting. While Helloween have slightly alleviated the listener’s troubles by splitting the album onto two discs (this was also a maneuver to allow all the content in its entirety to be presented for the album, as it slightly lapses the storage of one CD), but the fact remains that The Legacy
can be fairly tedious at times. One of the more disappointing drawbacks of the album is the occasionally annoying erratic vocal-work of Deris. At times it seems as though he couldn’t decide what he was going to do with a particular lyrics, so we’re left with a cracked vocal or two that can really drag a song down. Outside of that, there really isn’t much of a downside to The Legacy
Helloween have managed with Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy
to create an album that will appeal to both die-hard fans and a new generation alike. While it’s nowhere near as good as the monumental albums that it shares its name with, it’s still an excellent piece of power metal that nearly anyone can appreciate. The heavy injections of prog-flavoring along with the accessibility are welcome experimentations to the Helloween mix. Helloween may well have reasserted their position as the rulers of power metal with this album. Now all they need to do is keep the genre they created away from being associated with a certain dairy product, and they’re set.