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HELLOWEEN Reissues Castle (2006)

With their roots in the late 70s, Helloween came together in Germany in the mid 80s, releasing a self titled 5 track mini album in 1985.

Walls Of Jericho (Castle CMQDD1177 (72:03) (34:33)) was their first full album, and given a full release here with more bonus tracks than you can shake a stick at.

Searing high paced European metal, itís now considered a classic, and rightfully so. Speed metal with melody; crank Iron Maiden up to a million miles an hour and you get the idea.

Kicking off with that 5 track mini album (good if a little rough, amateurish compared to the following album), the full set follows with blistering pace. Riffs and solos to pop any ear drum!

Vocalist/guitarist Kai Hanson hits the high notes with power, adding to the Judas Priest at their most extreme influences. Guitarist Michael Weikath plays superbly throughout.

And running at nearly 8 minutes, How Many Tears is a bit of an epic. ****

With Kai Hanson concentrating on guitar and new vocalist Michael Kiske in place, the expanded line-up released the first Keeper Of The Seven Keys (Castle CMQDD1178 (57:04)) in 1987. The bandís cohesion, production and song writing had by now all improved 10 fold, and if the sound was a tad more melodic, itís still faster and ear ripping than most. Iím Alive is as catchy as speed metal can get. This album would set a template for European metal for two decades. *****

The bandís sound continued to improve with Keeper Of The Seven Keys Pt 2 Castle CMQDD1179 (54:48) (31:50)) , the guitar interplay intricate and at times extreme, while Kiskeís vocals mixing Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson. A far cry from the bandís debut, itís still a metal classic. With work as strong as this album, no metal fan would complain about the increased melody. Check out Eagle Fly Free, Ďand the classic Helloween single Dr Stein; European metal at its best. *****

With Hanson gone (to form Gamma Ray), guitarist Roland Grapow was brought in to complement Weikath. And although not a bad album, Pink Bubbles Go Ape (Castle CMQDD1180 (60:37)) was different enough to alienate some fans and even more critics. Grapow proved himself a fine guitarist but the unit didnít gel; with Hansonís contribution to song writing and arrangement Helloween seemed a whole new band. And this has to be one of the silliest album titles (and covers too) ever.

After the strange (also rather annoying) acoustic intro, Back On The Streets and Number One are good solid metal tracks, and thoroughly enjoy in their own right, but for Helloween they lack identity. ***

For expanded reissues Sanctuary have done a great job, proving Helloween demand more than a passing interest. At least two of these albums are essential listening.

Review by Joe Geesin

Related>> DVD review

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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