When talking about some of metal's most influential albums of all time, you'll hear names such as Black Sabbath, Paranoid, The Number of the Beast, Reign in Blood, Black Metal, Painkiller, and so many more. Each of these albums has helped shape metal into what it has become over the years. Each genre has its own "Bible album", and power metal is no different. The beginnings of power metal are not at all difficult to trace. One of the very first artists of the fledgling genre was Helloween.
Formed around the beginning of the 80's, the band recorded its debut album, Walls of Jericho, an album rooted in speed metal. On vocals, the band featured a young Kai Hansen, only 22 at the time. Kai had a difficulty playing guitar and singing at the same time, a difficulty which soon affected his performances on both duties. So Helloween began looking for a new vocalist and stumbled upon a 19 year old Michael Kiske, who quickly jumped aboard. Soon enough, the band had their second full length album written. Originally, Keeper of the Seven Keys was meant to be a double album (Much like Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy), but the record label insisted that they be divided into two parts. In 1987, the band released the first half, Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1.
Today, Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1 is regarded as not only one of power metal's first albums, but also one of its finest. Unsurprisingly, superb melodic leads can be found all throughout the album. The leads and harmonies are very effective in creating an upbeat atmosphere that is both catchy and memorable. Speed is another characteristic that factors into the album's impressive sound. Though there are plenty of faster bands out now a days, the sped up riffs are very infectious and memorable. Songs like I'm Alive, Twilight of the Gods, and the mega epic, Halloween, show off Helloween's impressive arsenal of riffs and leads. The aforementioned Halloween, a 13 minute long track, is quite possibly the best song the band has ever written, with only Keeper of the Seven Keys even remotely close. There is virtually nothing you can complain about with the song, save for the sketchy lyrics which don't look like they have much to do with each other. Hansen really struck gold with that song, as it perfectly exemplifies the attitudes of power metal, whether it be the numerous shredded solos, the fantasy lyrics, or the fast paced riffing. Great stuff. Helloween attempt a couple slower paced songs, the upbeat, happy sounding Future World, and the ballad, A Tale That Wasn't Right. Both these songs are excellent outings, though I have to admit, I much prefer the more power metal-ish outings.
Vocalist Michael Kiske was an excellent discovery for the band. Kiske can hit all the high notes very well. Though he has very few weak moments, songs like Halloween, I'm Alive, and A Tale That Wasn't Right showcases his insane talent level behind the mic at its best. Kiske compliments the album's sound very well with his impressive vocal range. With the likes of Future World and A Tale That Wasn't Right, Kiske proves that he can be relied on to carry a song vocally. Even though neither song is remarkably good instrumentally, neither of them lull thanks to Michael's efforts. Despite being the new kid on the block, Michael Kiske delivers a world class effort on Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1, an molded himself a reputation as one of metal's greatest singers. Despite apparently wanting to distance himself from the metal scene, not even Kiske himself could deny that the job he did on the album is nothing other than topnotch.
I have one complain with the Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1. Yes, only one. Though the back of the album reveals 8 tracks, only six of them are actual songs. The opener, Initiation, and the closing track, Follow the Sign, are only short filler tracks that do not really serve any purpose. Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 1 is only 37 minutes long to begin with, and even though neither of the previously mentioned tracks are longer than 2 minutes, the album begins to seem very short. Perhaps this disadvantage would not exist if this was released as a double album to begin with, but the short length is really disappointing. Good thing we have the remastered album which came/comes out this year.
Overall, Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1 was a very important album in the world of metal. The album helped build Helloween's legacy as one of the grandfathers of power metal, a legacy by which the band will soon not be forgotten by. Though some may shrug off the album by today's standards (something I don't quite agree with, but hey), when Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1 was released back in 1987, it was very fresh. Some may ask, which is better, Pt 1 or Pt 2? To tell the truth, I like Pt 1 more, but this is mostly due to my preference of Kai Hansen's songs over Michael Weikath's writing. We definitely have an essential album here.
Twilight of the Gods