Review Summary: Same formula, worse outcome.
The year is 1987. Helloween, a German band almost solely responsible for inventing the power metal genre with their recent and now-classic release Keeper of the Seven Keys (Part I)
, really have it going for them. Starting off with a great debut EP, working further up with the excellent Walls of Jericho, and yet they topping it all with their new album, they reinvented part of their sound for the best. Needless to say, expectations were exceedingly high in ’88, when the band would release their follow-up, obviously titled Keeper of the Seven Keys (Part II)
. There was a single question that kept the fans busy: could or could not Helloween match the quality of Part I?
In terms of popularity, it most certainly did. Sales were increasing for Helloween, and everyone was willing to eat up the same formula twice. Because not very surprisingly, Keeper II
works just about the same as Keeper I
. The structure is very comparable, with, amongst other similarities, both a similar intro and yet another 13-minute epic towards the end of the record.
There are a few notable differences, however, and in some ways the second part is nothing like the first. The most immediate change is the length. Where their previous effort had a running time of a mere 37 minutes, this album expanded it greatly with 54. A second crucial difference concerns song writing. As many may be aware of, founder and creative leader Kai Hansen left Helloween after this release, and that was not without reason. He felt he lost interest and control over his band, causing him to form Gamma Ray
later, which lasted much longer for him. The effect Hansen’s stand had is already clearly visible on the second Keeper. Where almost all material on Part I was credited solely to him, Part II sees him credited for only 3 of 9 tracks. Second guitarist Weikath largely takes over here, allowing his writing to dominate the album whereas Hansen’s had dominated the other. But as had previously been shown with A Tale That Wasn’t Right
, the weakest effort on the first part of the Keepers
, Weikath was inferior as a writer. This is where the album’s problem ultimately arises.
It would be foolish to argue for this point entirely on the basis of one song, of course, but Weikath failed to equal Hansen once again, and this time he showed it on even more occasions. His melodies are not as catchy, his riffs are not as impressive, and his lyrics are far more cheesy, or just plain weak, and often form an annoyance factor for the track. He clearly tried to mimic Hansen: Eagle Fly Free
is an all-too-obvious attempt to create another I’m Alive
, and so is the title track, wanting to best Hansen’s prime epic Halloween
. Weikath tried very hard, that cannot be denied, but fact is he needed some growing as a writer. The only moment he got close to greatness is the joke track Dr. Stein
(quite sadly, yes, a joke track is one of his best moments). This results in far more filler. Part I may have been short, but everything was strong. Due to the weaker material on II, the album drags, and should have been cut down. In that case, it would still not have been as good, but at least it would have been above average if the more enjoyable tracks had been picked.
Vocalist Michael Kiske makes another solid contribution with You Always Walk Alone
, similarly to what he did with A Little Time
, but what really saves what is the disappointment that is Part II are the tree Hansen-penned tracks: March of Time
, I Want Out
and Save Us
, of which the second is the best and most recognizable, and the only real Helloween classic on the album. That said, even Hansen failed to equal the likes of his earlier work such as I’m Alive
and Future World
, but seeing his loss of interest in the band, that is little of a surprise either.
What this album ultimately is, is Helloween failing to recreate their original quality, and after Hansen’s departure, it would only get worse. The second Keeper
stands in shame next to its older brother, and despite some moments of promise, Helloween should have considered keeping it at a single Keeper of the Seven Keys
. Part II is too lengthy, contains too much filler, and is far, far weaker as far as writing is concerned. Many fans view this as the other excellent part in the duo, but really, they should go ahead and open their ears to the truthful conclusion.
I Want Out
March of Time
You Always Walk Alone
- Michael Kiske ~ Lead Vocals
- Kai Michael Hansen ~ Lead & Rhythm Guitar
- Michael Ingo Joachim Weikath ~ Lead & Rhythm Guitar, Keyboards
- Markus Grosskopf ~ Bass Guitar
- Ingo Schwichtenberg ~ Drums