The new (and sixteenth overall) self-titled platter from power metal founders Helloween has to be one of the more compelling and anticipated releases of 2021. Why? Because this is the band’s “reunion” lineup, a seven-piece outfit with three singers and some significant history.
For the first time since the band’s 1980s heyday, Kai Hansen is back on guitar and vocals. And for the first time in nearly thirty years, legendary vocalist Michael Kiske rejoins on Helloween. Add these two to the current five-member group (that still features founding members Michael Weikath on guitar and Markus Grosskopf on bass) and you have power metal royalty dripping with potential.
That potential is exercised to its fullest in immediate fashion, as the trio of opening songs is Helloween in all their glory. In fact, “Out for Glory,” “Fear of the Fallen,” and “Best Time” would be right at home on any of the band’s classic albums. The songs are loaded with riffs, stellar lead breaks, driving anthemic drums, and rousing vocal melodies. And combined with “Skyfall” we are gifted with some of the best bookend tracks of the year.
Overall the sound of Helloween spans the band’s career. Tracks such as “Out for Glory” and the Hansen-penned closer “Skyfall” harken back to early times, while “Robot King” and “Cyanide” bring a more modern flair to the proceedings. All of the band but Kiske and drummer Dan Löble hold writing credits here, and nothing sounds out of place on the album. In fact, Weikath displays some superb songwriting talents. The writing and performances all gel nicely, with just the right amount of keyboards versus guitars, and nobody overstaying their welcome instrumentally.
This might be an odd statement for a power metal release, but nothing on Helloween seems extravagant or over the top. Weikath, Hansen, and Sascha Gerstner all deliver great riffs and tasty solos, Grosskopf’s bass thrums and growls beneath them, and Löble’s drumming is never a distraction. Trying to fit three singers into the album and give them each time to strut their wares is a difficult task, and not always pulled off successfully, but there is no denying the overall enthusiasm with which the lyrics are delivered. After one listen you won’t be able to stop singing the chorus for “Best Time,” trust me.
Weaknesses? Of course. Hey, Helloween is twelve songs and sixty-five minutes in length; not many bands can put together over an hour of top-notch bangers, and this album definitely has a few songs that don’t hold up to the rest of the album. That being said, weaker tracks like “Mass Pollution” and “Indestructible” deliver with rousing choruses, even if they are somewhat generic. And if we are being honest with each other here, wouldn’t we all rather hear more Kiske and less Deris? Andi is a fine singer, but tends to get a bit shouty and sits overly high in the mix.
That being said, even those weaker songs are still decent tracks, and don’t manage to upend what Helloween have put together here. The band had a tall task but they managed to hold their own with a fun, enthusiastic, and engaging offering of power metal that manages to evoke feelings of yore while still being modern. The band can be proud of Helloween, and I know a number of these songs will still be getting cranked months from now.
(released June 18, 2021 on Nuclear Blast)
Heavy Music HQ Rating:
Watch Helloween – “Skyfall” Video