So your favourite band has just released a couple new albums, albums that are being praised by both fans and critics as some of the best material around. The band has a bright future ahead of them, with plenty of potential. You're really looking forward to what they will release in the future. Then out of the blue, the band's founding member, and figurehead quits the band, and then releases a well received album of his own. Surely the band will be energized to one up his album with a brilliant album of there own.
More or less, that was the position German power metal band Helloween was in, during the years after guitarist Kai Hansen jumped ship. The expectations were set high, and the band was espected to create another power metal masterpiece, Kai or no Kai. Needless to say, the band apparently didn't feel the same way. After hiring guitarist Roland Grapow, they toured for a few more years before beginning to craft their fourth full length album, Pink Bubbles Go Ape ("!). Unlike previous albums, this one did not do very well, and was both a failure commercially, and rejected by many fans.
It isn't hard to see why so many disliked this album. Here, Helloween changes their direction from straight on power metal to a more hard rock influenced band. There are moments where the band holds onto some of the elements that made them so successful, such as the track Mankind, but these moments are overshadowed by some pretty bad songs like I'm Doin' Fine Crazy Man or Number One. One problem is that it seems uninspired, which obviously affects the sound in a negative way. Save for the incredibly memorable Heavy Metal Hamsters, nothing on Pink Bubbles Go Ape really stands out. The riffs are boring. The vocals occasionally go off key. The drumming is dull. When listening to the album it seems very easy to lose concentration, and entire songs can go by without realizing. The closer, Your Turn, is especially guilty of this, due it having no real hook, and fairly unimpressive performance from each member. When I listen to this album, I just get the impression that nobody really spent a lot of time on it, or put very much effort into making is satisfactory.
It's kind of strange how one can go from producing one of metal's greatest albums of all time, to producing Pink Bubbles Go Ape. But Chris Tsangarides seems to manage doing it anyway. I enjoyed the production on Painkiller, but Pink Bubbles sounds pretty weak. Especially on Michael Kiske's voice. Though yes, the production on the Keeper albums was not great either, I feel it was much easier to listen to than this album, where the guitars sometimes feel like they were given second priority to the other instruments. However, one this I like is the audibility of the bass guitar, which is very easy to make out.
At least the band stayed true to one of its characteristics. Pink Bubbles Go Ape features a couple silly songs, most notably, track four, Heavy Metal Hamsters. You know, it's kind of sad when you're getting excited about joke tracks such as these... Anyways though, while Heavy Metal Hamsters has some of the strangest lyrics you'll ever hear, they're well done. With many references to the music industry and bands which are lured into forsaking their identity for money. Another thing I like about the song is the lack of strange noises that found their way into songs like Mrs. God and Dr. Stein. Finally, the music, while not spectacular, becomes fairly interesting during the middle of the song, with some cool harmonies and an excellent solo. Great all around song, especially for a joke track.
Overall, Pink Bubbles Go Ape is both disappointing and strange. Surprisingly, the album's joke track, Heavy Metal Hamsters, was the best song on the album, as it contains one of the catchiest choruses the band has every recorded. It, along with Mankind and to a lesser extent, Someone's Crying, stand as the only tracks on the album worth listening to. The rest of the album is just merely there – uninteresting and forgettable at best. Surely, Helloween had hit rock bottom by now, and there was nowhere to go but up, right" Unfortunately no, the worst was yet to come.
Heavy Metal Hamsters