For one reason or another, I don't listen to many live albums. Ever since I started heavily listening to music, I've more or less listened to studio recordings. But I still enjoy hearing live recordings, and when I heard that Helloween was about to release a new live album, I decided to check it out. And, as I listen to the two hour recording, fully titled Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy World Tour 05/06: Live From 3 Continents, I'm not really sure what to think of the album. It's a rather good live record at some points, yet at the same time, it's rather bland at others. Kind of disappointing, for a band that has released two other live albums prior to this one.
I'll get to the positive aspects first. The greatest part about this release, recorded in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is the performance of Helloween's musicians. The guitar tandem of Mike Weikath and Sascha Gerstner is in top form. The bassist, Marcus Grosskopf, and drummer Daniel Loble provide as solid a rhythm as they ever have, be it on stage or in the studio. It's quite a satisfying listen, hearing the band cut through the various epics and crowd favourites with relative ease and precision. Legendary tracks such as Halloween or I Want Out are energetic live affairs, as one would assume, and both tracks are converted to the live setting particularly well, especially the latter. Another characteristic of this album which greatly benefits Helloween is the immense production on the album. Similarly to the likes of Gamma Ray's Skeletons in the Closet or even Iron Maiden's Live After Death, the instruments are crisp and everything can be heard, the crowd is loud and plays a role in certain tracks (again, I Want Out is a good example), and Andi Deris has a good command over the mix (I'll get to this later though…). But, luckily, with all this enhancement, Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy World Tour 05/06 still retains a live feel, an aspect which should please fans of live albums. Finally, the set list for this recording is greatly appreciated. Helloween combines several of their older classics such as Halloween, Keeper of the Seven Keys, and Dr Stein with songs off of their latest studio album, tracks like King For a 1000 Years, The Invisible Man, and Occasion Avenue. All but one (Power) of their horribly mediocre 90's tracks have been left off the set list, and this makes for a much more enjoyable show. From my perspective, this a pretty sweet deal.
So where does this go wrong?
Two words. Andi Deris. While I quite like him in the studio, his performance on the band’s latest live album is quite…pathetic. His speeches either rather cringe worthy or rather hilarious, depending on the occasion. This aspect is most ridiculous on the track Future World, where he introduces the band and leads the crowd through the chorus of the track. This carries on for a good five minutes, and while it sounds like the band is having fun, it isn't really all that fun to listen to on the album. Some can make it work, some can't. Deris is among the latter. The criticism doesn't stop there however. While I praised the inclusion of the band's 80's classics, after hearing Andi destroy half of them, I think the term "double-edged sword" fits their inclusion rather well. Unlike Michael Kiske, whose inhuman vocal chords were perfect for Helloween's earlier material, the band's current singer cannot hit the high notes. At all. His range does not encompass such high singing, and it's shocking how much it ruins the song. Luckily, Deris redeems himself with songs like Mrs. God and Occasion Avenue, songs which mostly make use of his lower range vocal efforts and sound a hell of a lot less fluffy. Andi nails most of the newer material (exceptions include the fun Mr. Torture), but his disastrous renditions of the Keepers Pt. 1 and 2 really stand out in my mind and rather lessen my opinion of the album.
Overall, Keeper of the Seven Keys: The Legacy World Tour 05/06 – Live on 3 Continents is a merely decent live offering from the influential Helloween. The actual musical elements are performed exceedingly well, and should impress most power metal fans, but the antics of vocalist Andi Deris will in most cases leave the listening laughing rather than headbanging. A rather unfortunate and harsh criticism, but one that was earned none the less. I don't really recommend going out in buying this release, as there are much better live albums floating around, but if you can stomach Andi's performance, then I suppose it wouldn't hurt to pick this up. But tread at your own risk.
The Invisible Man
King For a 1000 Years
If I Could Fly