Power Metal 101: Meet Helloween

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Class is back in session!

Some geek once told me through the impressive gap in his teeth that his “pen was mightier than my sword.” I cut him and his pen clean in half with a single horizontal slash, spilled ink mixing with spilled blood in a poser-killing swirl of black and red which I promptly applied to my dry elbows as if it were a lotion.

Now, however, the worthy Randall Thor has asked that I take a more constructive approach to teaching posers lessons — teaching posers actual lessons. Last week he schooled you on Blind Guardian, and if that didn’t transform you all into ravening fans of power metal and glorious steel, I sincerely question the value of your lives. Redeem yourselves! Today’s power-lesson is on Helloween.

Helloween

Helloween is objectively the dumbest band name ever. When you wear a Helloween shirt, radio-svcking casuals just assume you’re some nerd promoting some sort of seasonal store specializing in costumes and spooky decorations for your porch. In reality, you’re an even bigger nerd sporting the foremost pioneers of Power Metal, which is admittedly less socially acceptable. While it’s true that they likely wouldn’t exist without the soaring heavy metal of Maiden, Rainbow and Dio to build upon, these Germans braved the cheesy frontier and are in no small part responsible for Power Metal’s presence in the world today. So blame them! Regardless of their stupid name, Helloween, their bad hair, and their stupid jack-o-lantern deserve your respect!

Formed in 1984 and still alive and kicking in 2014, Helloween has had a long and illustrious career and is currently showing no sign of slowing down. In spite of the roller coaster of line-up changes and failed experimentation, they remain a dominant, universally-respected force in the genre. Mr. Randall didn’t leave me with a rubric (or an ethical code, for that matter), so I’m just going to approach this in the way that makes the most sense. Helloween’s career can generally be divided into three Eras: The Pre-Kiske Era, the Kiske Era, & the Post-Kiske or Deris Era (not to be confused with “Dies Irae“). Let’s get started.

 

THE PRE-KISKE ERA:

In 1984, Helloween was formed by Kai Hansen and a group of other dudes with fucking ridiculous last names. Kai was on guitar and vocals, Michael Weikath on guitar, Marcus Grosskopf on bass, and Ingo Schwichtenberg on drums. Do note that Weikath and Grosskopf are the only founding members still in the band. The most important thing to come out of the Pre-Kiske era and probably any era of the world ever was their debut album, Walls of Jericho. While clearly operating within the framework of speed metal, some of the rhapsodic choruses and overblown guitar solos allude to the Powerful future. So much so, in fact, that Walls of Jericho is considered by some to be the very first true power metal album. Obviously the exact point at which heavy metal becomes power metal is the source of heavy debate, but I’m inclined to agree here, at least a little. “Guardians” contains the blueprint for the ubiquitous power metal chorus, which bands across the world emulate to this day (sometimes unashamedly note-for-note).

Some people consider Walls of Jericho to be Helloween’s best album. Others consider it to be Gamma Ray’s best album (we’ll get to that later). Either way, its prestige as a pioneering force can’t be argued with.

 

THE KISKE ERA:

Kiske

Meet Michael Kiske. Immediately following the tour in support of Walls of Jericho, the band began to search for a new lead vocalist, likely because it became apparent during the tour that young Kai Hansen — who had not yet achieved immortality — was having a bit of difficulty singing and playing guitar simultaneously. So Helloween snagged Michael Kiske from some lame local group called Ill Prophecy, who have now amounted to nothing and likely harbor extreme Kiske envy/hate deep within their old, dying hearts. He became lead vocalist and Kai Hansen focused on writing and playing guitar.

In 1987 and 1988, Helloween released Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. I and Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. II. Unlike Walls of Jericho these two albums are indisputably power metal and are almost unanimously accepted genre masterworks, inspiring countless bands to follow in their gloriously cheesy footsteps. “I’m Alive” was Kiske’s big first appearance and it only took him 20 seconds to convince the 20 Helloween fans that existed at that time that he was more than capable of handling vocal duties.

Putting the spotlight on the anthemic, high-flying vocal harmonies and the prominent return of those “Guardian”-esque power chord/gallops, Keeper of the Seven Keys and II defined the European school of power metal. Listen to the chorus of “Eagle Fly Free” for a perfect example of that, or the beginning of “Twilight of the Gods” for THE most power metal moment in recorded music up to that point. The Kiske Era is what put Helloween on the metal map. These albums are the reasons, and they’re damn good ones.

Unfortunately, the great Tom Petty was right when he became the first person to ever say “what goes up must come down.” When the Kiske Era went down, it went down hard. Kai Hansen, dissatisfied for multiple reasons (many involving their record label), left the band in 1989 and formed the mighty Gamma Ray a year later, where he eventually learned to play guitar and sing at the same time. He was replaced by Roland Grapow, and the band went on to release Pink Bubbles Go Ape in 1991, just as rumors of Helloween’s possible disbandment starting cropping up. It’s a strange album. Decent songs like “Someone’s Crying” and “Kids of the Century” are interspersed throughout a lackluster record, with a few tracks that are so bad that it’s actually offensive. Songs like “Heavy Metal Hamsters”, “Doin’ Fine, Crazy Man”, and “Shit and Lobster” sound as dumb as they read, and they make it hard to believe that four out of five of these guys contributed to Keepers of the Seven Keys.

Most importantly, these duds were harbingers for the shitpile that was to follow them: everything on 1993’s Chameleon.

ChamelonApparently failing to learn their lesson from the pathetically bad commercial and critical reception of Pink Bubbles Go Ape, Helloween somehow thought Chameleon would be a good idea. It was not. Chameleon was and is shit. Nobody ever liked or currently likes Chameleon. Randall Thor might tell you that he likes it, but I can assure you that he doesn’t, because nobody does.

It’s really just an uninspired pop/rock album with the occasional horn section and other “musical experimentation” so they could try to pass it off as progressive. Apparently it’s titled “Chameleon because it changes style from song to song. It certainly does so, much like a housefly travels from one turd to another. Make no mistake, Chameleon is Helloween’s Cold Lake. The only difference, and perhaps its only redeeming quality, is that it’s not associated with this.

Following Chameleon, the band quite predictably fell apart. Schwichtenberg was fired from the band because drugs, and Kiske followed soon after due to Weikath’s refusal to work with him any longer after years of butting heads.

 

THE POST-KISKE/DERIS ERA:

In 1994, Helloween picked up their current vocalist, Andi Deris and Derisreleased the comeback they so desperately needed, Master of the Rings. The speed, the headbangability, and the powerful choruses all made their triumphant return, and Andi Deris managed to fill Kiske’s shoes, despite being even bigger than those fucking ridiculous ones you see at Ross. His unique timbre and vibrato compliment the music quite well, and he didn’t take long to prove his mettle when it comes to songwriting; he continued to write some of Helloween’s best material.

To posit that Deris is better than Kiske (or vice versa) in a power metal circle is to spark a debate that will most likely deteriorate into a shitstorm of personal insults. I typically stay out of them because they can get genuinely frightening, but I will say this. Insults directed at Michael Kiske may not reach him all the way up on the fourth octave where there is nary a Deris to be found. That being said, without Andi Deris, Helloween probably would have either a) ended on a bad note with Chameleon, or b) released more bad albums and ended on a different bad note.

Instead, they ushered in the Helloween’s most consistent era ever. Eight of their nine (!) albums since 1994 have been very well-received, the only real misstep being 2003’s Rabbit Don’t Come Easy. That’s quite a feat for a band who put out two stinkers right before firing the fan-favorite.

Helloween are still hard at work cleaning up what Chameleon did to the sheets, and it seems to be working. Last year’s Straight Out of Hell is arguably the best of Deris Era Helloween and a modern power metal classic.


CLASS DISMISSED. Your homework: Go out and slay some posers with steel! Randall will collect their corpses when you come to class next week.

 

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  • Chameleon is a TERRIBLE Helloween album, but I love the music so much.

    Excellent work, warrior!

  • Beunhaas

    Meh

    • Didn’t you want to get into power metal? You just failed your first class, you goat poser.

      • Beunhaas

        This doesn’t get me excited, unlike the Blind Guardian thing from last week. It’s okay though, don’t slay me, I’m innocent.

    • Dolan

      moar lyke geh

      • Beunhaas

        More like geh away from here.

        • Dolan

          KKK

          • Beunhaas

            You’re the worst meme.

          • Dolan

            ur the wrst farm animl i ever fukd

  • Doctor Dickless

    “Unfortunately your image upload failed. Please verify that your image is under 2MB. If you continue seeing this error, please try again later.”
    FUCK YOU DISQUS!

    • Dëpütÿ Dïpshït

      DISQUS!!! MORE LIKE DIQSUQ!!!!

      • Doctor Dickless

        Sometimes I feel like stabbing people because of Disqus.

        • Dëpütÿ Dïpshït

          The pain is felt by all, sir.

          • Doctor Dickless

            Now we need to do the same thing to Disqus as these people did to Metalsucks. We’ll build our own Disqus with blackjack and hookers!

          • Dëpütÿ Dïpshït

            …AND BEER!!!!

          • Doctor Dickless

            You guys deserve beer. I’ll take sea-buckthorn berry juice with me.

          • I don’t even know what that is

          • Doctor Dickless

            Fucking juice pleb!

          • Tyree
          • IT’S LIKE YOU KNOW EXACTLY HOW TO ENJOY POWER METAL!

          • CONAN THE MOTHERFUCKING KING

            reynolds was god – top box office draw of the 70’s. Reason – he appealed to the southern folks as much as the the east, west and north. My favorite is Sharkeys Machine which he directed, i am alone in that but i prefer it to the comical smokey movies. Archers favorite actor.

  • Howard Dean

    I can dig power metal in the vein of the first two songs you posted. That rawer, more traditional heavy metal sound. I know a lot of 80’s power metal and USPM bands sound that way.

    But the sugary/folky/keyboard crazy cheese of modern Euro power metal, like what can be heard in that last sample? I just can’t do that shit.

    • EMBRACE THE FLOWER METAL. You can borrow one of my frilly shirts.

    • Scrimm

      Amen.

    • Cock ov Steele

      That’s why Running Wild rules so much, they bring some trve grit to the power metal table. In my opinion.

    • CONAN THE MOTHERFUCKING KING

      why i love helloween………………this cover, beautiful fucking witch.

    • CONAN THE MOTHERFUCKING KING

      It’s an acquired taste, like spinach, seaweed or brocoli, for me sushi which i still can’t even try.

  • To me, Helloween will always be one of the corniest/dumbest band names…

    • Not as awful as necromancing the stone.

      • Doctor Dickless

        That’s a real band name? I think I need to lie down.

        • lol yes. It’s a new band featuring aris, the absence, someone else members.

          • Doctor Dickless

            I hope that the guy that came up with the name is not their lyricist.

      • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

        They had to stand out somehow, a lineup like that and a horrible name will help to conceal the fact that they are very plain when it comes to what matter,music.

    • Tyree

      Young and in the Way is one of the worst band in my opinion.

      • W.

        Agreed. Also, Job for a Cowboy totally need to change their name to match their new sound.

      • I love it, but they’re locals so I’m biased

      • crazytaco_12

        Agreed, I fucking hate it.

      • Sounds like some sort of retro rock or indie band with a female vocalist or something…i am picturing a music video of people in a field with light leaks across the screen and shit.

    • CONAN THE MOTHERFUCKING KING

      once you love them it will seem like the greatest name ever. I mean rush ? It sounds like nothing right. But now its the name of GOD.

  • Before this post I think this was the only Helloween song I had ever heard. It is a JAM tho. That riff is a killer.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjV8SHjHvHk

    • TO LIIIIVE MYYY LIFE!

      • DeeSnarl

        and to be free

    • Cock ov Steele

      Eagle Fly Free was my first.

    • DeeSnarl

      That was my first, too. Kill tune. Just listened to Keeper 2 the other day…

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
  • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

    Helloween’s revamped version of Dr. Stein they did a few years back in the style of Huey Lewis and the News is such a guilty pleasure of mine–definitely within the “so awful that it’s awesome” category for me.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uyaResnGrU

  • NDNOvHell

    I absolutely <3 Keeper of the Seven Keys pt. 2

    *edit* I never used this symbol (<3) before

  • Bob Saget

    Fuck you all and suck my hundred million dollar cock!

    • Dëpütÿ Dïpshït

      #BagItSaget

      • Bob Saget

        It’s rude to yell at your cock in front of people. I apologize.

      • Dolan

        mor lik deputy shit face

    • Tyree
    • Dolan

      pls. u r a fuking cunt

      • Doctor Dickless

        Look who is calling someone a cunt.

        • Guest

          luk hu is seying luk who is calling sum1 a cunt. some dikless fuk face

          • Doctor Dickless

            You’re so mean. And I’m okay with that.

          • Dolan

            luv u

          • Knock it off children!

          • Doctor Dickless

            Sorry mom.

          • Dolan

            pls

      • Bob Saget

        I am a fuckin’ genius.. according to my gynecologist, who said “That clitoris is gigantic.”

        • Dolan

          do u vn lift

          • Bob Saget

            I once lifted a foot long black dildo out of your mom’s anus. Shit oozed out like a molten ass volcano.

          • The fuck happened man?

  • Stockhausen

    Great post. I mean, I don’t really like any of it, but it was a great post. Can I at least get a C?

    • Say a few more nice things about me and I’ll bump you up to a C+.

      • Scrimm

        What do I get for saying fuck this post?

        • W.

          A sword through the abdomen?

        • A participation trophy?

        • Dolan

          a retractable duk pens

        • W.

          You’re still my boy, Scrimm.

          • Scrimm

            I’m just bored at the DMV. Have to cause trouble somewhere or I’ll go nuts here.

        • POSER, PREPARE TO FACE MY WRATH

          • Scrimm

            You can’t scare me. I have balls of steel.

          • Scrimm

            HAHAHA

          • You haven’t seen that before!? I am so glad I got to be the person to show you that first

          • Scrimm

            Nope first time. Thanks!

          • J.R.

            toppest kek
            Thank you lord Dragon for illuminating my night of Mech/Mat homework with this…thing.
            When do we make a Toilet Vent and all play games as hardcore bros?

          • Xan

            You have THE BALL. You can send those babes to drill the bitch tits out of someone’s brain.

          • Scrimm

            I’d post the seen of the balls coming out of the chick’s tits but it would not be NSFW.

          • Xan
          • Scrimm

            Check these out. From last weekend. Keeps putting them sideways I don’t know why.

          • Tyree

            Reggie!!!

          • Scrimm

            Awesome guy. Even got an autographed cd from him.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RolOQN_4qKY

          • Xan

            You lucky devil. I can’t wait for Ravager to come out.

        • Doctor Dickless

          Best I can do is 10 dollars. I need to frame it.

          • Scrimm

            Post another Arckanum track and we’re good.

          • Doctor Dickless

            Sure thing mate! You (sometimes) know good music.
            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=I1GG6LRT-I4

          • Scrimm

            When have I recommended somthing that wasn’t good?

          • Doctor Dickless

            I meant that your music taste is different than mine in some cases, like Anaal Nathrakh. You still hate Van Halen, that’s important to me.

          • Scrimm

            We’ll always have that.

        • Janitor Jim Dvggan

          A copy of Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX for PS1 is the best I can do. I will provide cheats with it.

          • Scrimm

            I still have that. No PS though.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            I love the game quite a bit. It holds up better than the first Tony Hawk game and it has better physics for when you crash. The music is also very diverse choices in the rock and punk genres compared to just punk or just rock. The second one was one of my favorite games for the PS2.

      • Stockhausen

        Masterlord Steeldragon can pull off an assortment of nice hats.

        If Blockbuster and VHS were still things, Masterlord Steeldragon would always be kind and rewind.

  • Dolan

    dis is kind of sht i am takng abut. fukin power mtl is 4 pusies

    • Beunhaas

      Power metal >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> you.

      • Dolan

        mower petal > you

  • Man, I just realized a pending-post of mine looked very similar to this one. I’m going to have to go and fix that…

    Long-time Helloween fan right here 🙂

    • JAG COMES THROUGH!

      • I don’t know if you saw that but as soon as I read your post I was all like “what the fuck was I thinking?” It was like some sort of subconscious plagiarism of sorts haha.

        • Was it a Helloween post??

          • No, but it was on a band that’s very related though.

          • Which band? We need to collab on our power metal posts so we can cover more ground faster 🙂

          • W.

            It’s a review.

          • Unisonic.

        • I read that last night. I wanted to publish this first and then reference Helloween stuff to that post.

          • I’m glad you didn’t. I didn’t even realize that my wording was totally ripping off MSD’s “101” style. I’m fixing it right now.

          • W.

            My curiosity is piqued.

          • IDK if you’ll be down or not. It’s very likely going to be my AotY for sure.

          • W.

            I have pretty diverse taste in metal. We shall see.

            Edit: As long as it isn’t In Flames, haha.

          • I would make minimal changes. It is solid.

    • Xan

      Yeah…I wrote a post similar to the Don’t Miss This! posts. It was pretty swaggy.

  • W.

    This is a great post, MSD. I’ve always heard great things about the Seven Keys saga, but I’ve never listened. Need to amend that.

    • Those were big albums when JAG was a boy. Keeper 1 and 2 were the albums all Iron Maiden fans listened to when they weren’t listening to Maiden.

      • W.

        It really is interesting to think about the gateway bands for different generations. I suppose mine were nu metal bands :/

        • Well, I listened to a lot of hair metal too. Some of that nü metal wasn’t that bad. I heard “Push It” on the radio today and thought it’s still kind of a cool jam.

          The problem with much nü metal of the time is the same problem with hair metal and other more commercial forms of metal: it gets a bit formulaic. But honestly the same can be said of much of the underground as well.

          • W.

            Yah, I think we have the benefit of revisionist history and time. Now we can note all bands that were just riding the trend. Unfortunately, i think over-saturation will just continue to be a problem due to the modern ease of recording and putting music online.

          • Yeah, I’m starting to get really picky about what I want to listen to in almost any sub-genre now.

            It’s like the opposite of when I was a kid; we could never get enough music. Growing up in the upper-midwest and over forty miles from a decent record store. We went to places like that maybe two or three times a year. As a kid I had like twenty bucks each time and came back with one or two records or cassettes. The rest of my “collection” was taped from friends records and stuff.

            …but every now and then I’d send in for the Columbia Record Club thing and get like a box of twelve tapes in the mail. It was glorious.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            I love Push It. Static X is one of my favorite bands.

          • Never bought an album from them but I like the song and never hated on them.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            They wrote a ton of good songs. It’s a shame they disbanded because I loved them.

          • The singer’s hair was cool. I don’t care what anyone says.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            His hair is the best. He reminds me of the Slim Jim Guy in real life. Do you remember the Slim Jim Guy? He was in the Dave Mirra games and he was their mascot. He’s a great character to use in Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX.

          • Yeah, I remember.

        • Hybrid Motherfucking Theory.

          • Dolan

            pls send nudesz

          • Doctor Dickless

            This is not funny. Please stop this already.

          • Dolan

            pls send nudez

          • Bob Saget

            Stop what? Dolan simply asked for a picture of the void between your legs, doctor.

          • Doctor Dickless

            I didn’t become a doctor and cut my dick off just to send nudes to a idiot duck.

          • M Shadows!

            BACK OF BITCH HE’S MINE!

            -M Shadows!

          • Doctor Dickless

            Our saviour has arrived!

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            Yay, M Shadows has come to save us like Chris Jericho did!

          • Doctor Dickless

            Is this a wrestling guy? You know I don’t understand wrestling.

          • Dolan

            I LUV WWE

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            Yes he is. Jericho is also the singer of Fozzy.

          • M Shadows!

            only if you bought hail to the king! if you didn’t I’m gonna lock you in a room with Nickleback!

            -M Shadows!

          • Doctor Dickless

            What’s the difference?

          • M Shadows!
          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            I bought Hail To The King! It was so good!

          • M Shadows!

            YES! I AM PROUD OF U!

          • No, sorry, I belong to Archspire. Your music sux brah <3

        • Janitor Jim Dvggan

          Mine were nu metal bands as well. POD, Static X, Mushroomhead and Motograter got me into Slayer, Morbid Angel and Behemoth. I still love nu metal though.

          • Always own your roots. If it didn’t suck to you then how can it suck now? The same people who are so quick to mock others and use a word like “poser” are usually the ones posing out and nutriding whatever’s currently cool.

          • W.

            @masterlordsteeldragon:disqus and I have been in a long debate about whether or not he likes any poser bands. Turns out he’s kvlt to the core. I, on the other hand, love Mudvayne, and I’m a big fan of Soulfly from Prophecy -> Conquer.

          • I like Enslaved by Soulfly…I think that’s the only one though. I also think the guy from Mudvayne’s vox are pretty cool and unique.

          • W.

            the biggest draw for Mudvayne for me is their bassist.

          • Scrimm

            I got pretty lucky. I went straight from Maiden and King Diamond to the extreme stuff.

          • Janitor Jim Dvggan

            The answer is it can’t suck. I love my roots and I am seeing Soulfly just so I can see Tony Campos of Static X perform with them.

        • Howard Dean

          So I told that president man that the only gateways I needed are the Gateways of Annihilation.

          http://cdn.meme.li/images/300x/1161245.jpg

          • W.

            How can I not love this comment?

          • Tyree

            I found Gateways of Annihilation in a Best Buy when I was in Middle School or as a Freshmen in high school. It was one of the heaviest things I heard at the time. Of course I worked my way backwards through their catalog after.

          • Cock ov Steele

            Didn’t think I’d ever find Gateways in a Best Buy, hell I have trouble finding it at any record store in my area.

          • Tyree

            I was surprised as fuck when I saw it. There was only one copy.

          • Cock ov Steele

            It’s actually the one Morbid Angel album (Excluding Illud and Heretic) That I have yet to acquire.

          • Xan

            I found a Deicide CD at a Best Buy four years ago. It was a strange occurrence.

  • Doctor Dickless

    Shit don’t work, ignore this.

    • CONAN THE MOTHERFUCKING KING

      skeletor means a lot to a certain generation i take it. He is like an amalgam of doctor doom and the redskull.

  • pigchop™

    1980’s power metal remains as cool as ever. Helloween – kick ass!

    Hey – you remember Peter fighting the chicken on Family Guy? Right – they should have played power metal over that! Have you ever wondered what it would be like if they replaced the chicken with Homer Simpson?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xcrXwijHlY

  • I just realized my very favorite Helloween song is nowhere on here

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E268jKfnJd8

  • crazytaco_12

    I fucking love “Walls of Jericho”

  • Cock ov Steele

    I will point out that Marcus Grosskopf is indeed the man.

  • Simon Phoenix

    I have a fondness for the Deris era due to these 14 minutes of pure epicness.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5aIZv-Auxk

  • KJM

    I had the pleasure of seeing Helloween get wiped off the stage by Armored Saint in 1987.

    • Nice! I love Raising Fear. I actually saw Armored Saint open a show for Quiet Riot and Whitesnake in 1984. The Saint wasn’t even mentioned on the billing. We were all like “who the fuck is this now?” haha

  • Saw them and Gamma Ray together at the Pearl Room (RIP) in Mokena, IL a few years back. Pretty good show, but certainly not their glory days.

  • DeeSnarl

    Awesome post. Not sure, though, how you avoided alluding to “Rise and Fall” as Hansen left. I heard the slide whistle in my head when I read “What goes up must come down”….

  • I’ve shitted out heavier sounds than these guys. Then I flushed.