Way back in the 80's, Helloween, a band from Germany, took the brand of metal played by metal giants such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and like thrash metal bands, sped it up. But guitarists and main song writers, Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath, did not forsake melody, instead opting for a more traditional sound than their thrash counterparts. The band released their debut album, Walls of Jericho, and the genre of power metal was born.
Fifteen years have passed since then, and Helloween has endured some amazing successes: such as the Keeper albums; some rather discouraging failures: surprising the departure of guitarist Kai Hansen, the frustrating, tension filled power struggle surrounding Chameleon, an album which also failed to impress; and sad times: the unfortunate suicide of former drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. The band has also seen frequent line up changes, and only two band members remain from the original line up. So yeah, Helloween's been through a lot. But they were still trudging on in 2000 (and still trudging on in 2006). Helloween released what was at the time their best album since the Keeper albums, The Dark Ride
. The band's ninth album was the darkest of their storied career. Yes, you heard me right. The same band that wrote songs such as Future World, Heavy Metal Hamsters, and Dr Stein released an angry album. Pretty wild, huh"
As the name implies, The Dark Ride is a dark ride through the darkest of the power metal band's catalogue. Not only are the lyrics darker than your average Helloween album, but the music is also heavier. Songs like Escalation 666
, Mirror Mirror
, and We Damn the Night
, show off a heavier side of the band through mid-paced, heavy riffs and rough (for power metal) vocals from Andi Deris. Other songs, such as I Live For Your Pain
, The Dark Ride
, and The Departed (Sun is Going Down)
, are not truly heavy. But through excellent songwriting, these songs still have a dark atmosphere to them. Of course, there are still lighter moments to the album. The album's third track, All Over the Nations
, is your typical Helloween song. Songwriter, Michael Weikath, went with a more melodic approach for this song, as well as happier lyrics. The album also contains two ballads, the excellent If I Could Fly
and Immortal (Stars)
. These two songs aren't exactly dark lyrically, but they remain emotional, and some of the albums more enjoyable songs. The Dark Ride is not devoid of humourous moments. The most obvious silly track is Mr. Torture
. Though the song has a dark touch to it musically, with lyrics such as: "If you’re feeling alone / Then just pick up the phone / Dial 1 8 Double 0 – Mr. Torture", this song isn't meant to be taken very seriously, nor will it.
One pat of The Dark Ride that I really enjoyed was much mangled vocalist Andi Deris. Though he isn’t a Michael Kiske or Kai Hansen, Andi's singing fits the band really well. He can hit the higher notes, but he can also sing at a lower range to compliment the darker moods of the album. As seen in the ballad, If I Could Fly
, Andi can sing with some emotion in his voice, adding to the song's catchiness. I'm not quite sure why Deris gets so much heat, as he performs superbly on The Dark Ride. The guitarists, Michael Weikath and Roland Grapow, don't give one much to complain about. Though their playing isn't the most impressive you'll ever hear, it's still very enjoyable, and well done power metal. The rhythm musicians don't really stick out, but you can hear them if you listen carefully. Drummer Uli Kusch has an excellent showing on The Dark Ride, never letting up on his thunderous drumming. Uli's drumming provides an excellent heartbeat for the heavier music found on the album and adds some excitement to the mix.
The Dark Ride is, as the album's title points out, a pretty dark album. Hell, even the album cover, which shows a giant pumpkin head (and he doesn’t look very happy) staring at our planet, is darker than usual. At the time of release, The Dark Ride was Helloween's best album since Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 2, which was released twelve years earlier. The album is a good listen, and fans of the heavier variety of metal will probably enjoy it more than any of the other album's the band has done. I recommend getting The Dark Ride to new listeners, but only after the picking up the Keeper albums to get a feel for the band's sound.
The Dark Ride
If I Could Fly
The Departed (Sun Is Going Down)
We Damn the Night