- Torfinn Sirnes
The history of Helloween
Today, the legendary metal band Helloween releases their 16th studio album. The album Helloween is the first album to feature all three original vocalists in the band: Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske and Andy Deris. Why is the German band so legendary?
The band debuted back in 1985 with a self-titled EP. The band never broke up, so they have been around for 36 years! The music has been quite diverse over the band's long career but has mostly been rooted in a fast, melodic and complex power metal performed with a twinkle in the eye. Well, the band name says it all, doesn't it?
Helloween first fronted the German speed metal scene with their self-titled EP and debut album Walls of Jericho, which were both released in 1985. In the beginning the band consisted of Kai Hansen (vocals and guitars), Michael Weikath (guitars), Markus Grosskopf (bass) and Ingo Schwichtenberg (drums). The music was already at this point described as power metal by the band's first label Noise Records but is more commonly referred to as speed metal in retrospect: very fast, aggressive, raw and a bit less melodic than their later sound.
Vocalist, guitarist and co-founder Kai Hansen left vocal duties to new singer Michael Kiske for the band’s next two albums The Keeper of the Seven Keys (part 1 and 2), released in 1987 and 1988. The two albums pretty much define the subgenre of power metal and classic songs like “Eagle Fly Free” and “March of Time” are blueprints for the later European power metal wave in the 90’s: fast and melodic songs with long impressive solo sections centered around majestic themes. The two albums also featured two epic progressive metal masterpieces, “Halloween” and “Keeper of the Seven Keys”, both clocking in at over 13 minutes each! Adding both a bit of quirky sense of humour and life optimism in songs like "Dr. Stein" and "Future World", the true identity of the band was born.
Guitarist, founding member and former singer Kai Hansen left the band to form his own power metal band Gamma Ray and was replaced by Roland Grapow. The next years, however, were troublesome for the band. After a conflict with Noise Records, the band released two albums on EMI called Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991) and Chameleon (1993) in the eraly 90's. Pink Bubbles Go Ape almost felt like a sense of forced commercialism with a lighter sound and lack of direction while Chameleon was far more adventurous and experimental than metal fans were ready to handle. Both albums are underrated as they have some excellent moments but in the wake and shadows of the grunge explosion they didn't live up to the high expectation to the band.
Tensions between the band members led to a major line-up change in 1994. Kiske and Schwichtenberg was fired (R.I.P. Ingo Schwichtenberg!) and Pink Cream 69 vocalist Andy Deris was brought in to replace Kiske. Together with founding members guitarist Micheal Weikath and bass player Markus Grosskopf, Deris re-established the band as the driving force of the rising European power metal movement. Master of the Rings (1994) was released only one year after the commercial failure of Chameleon and was the first of four increasingly successful quality studio albums and tours with the new line-up, featuring Deris and new drummer Uli Kusch. The Time of the Oath (1996) serves as the ultimate power metal experience while The Dark Ride (2000) is a dark and progressive masterpiece in its own right.
Another major line up change came when Grapow and Kusch left/were fired and formed Masterplan after The Dark Ride tour in 2001. Sascha Gerstner from Freedom Call became the band's new guitar player while the band went into Spinal Tap territory regarding drummers for a few years. The band used three different drummers on Rabbit Don't Come Easy (2003), including Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee. However, when Daniel Löble joined in 2005 the band established the most steady line-up in the history of the band. The six studio albums from 2003 to 2015 consolidated Helloween as one of the best and most influential metal bands in the world.
One of those albums, Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy (2005), was a brave double album sequel to the two classic albums from the 80's, linking the new incarnation of the band with their glorious past. The versatile album includes another 13-minutes epic gem in "The King for a 1000 Years". The music of Helloween the last 20 years has remained rooted in the power metal genre but the band has also taken a good deal of chances. A good example is the brilliant progressive song "Falling to Pieces" from Gambling with the Devil (2007).
Helloween is a true live band and has toured every album they have released. The live shows are all about amazing songs, great energy, musical virtuosity and a happy vibe that brings a smile to everyone's face. In that regard, it is somewhat strange that they only released four official live album in 36 years. But hey, quality beats quantity any time of day - and aren't enough metal bands cashing in on a live album for just about every tour they do?
Helloween were already legends in the late 2010's holding the titles both as power metal forefathers and power metal kings, so what was next for this intriguing band? The answer was simple, but regarded unthinkable by many fans: A real family reunion. A reunion never before seen in heavy metal history. A reunion that would be the greatest gift a Helloween fan could ever dream of.
The dream came true. In 2017 former vocalists Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske both re-joined the band for The Pumpkins United Tour, a happy metal celebration of the band’s whole career so far with all three original vocalists on stage together. The reunited pumpkins also celebrated the happy occasion with the great single “Pumpkins United", a song co-written by Hansen, Andy Deris and Micheal Weikath.
Helloween is a band of such great talent and integrity - never giving in to conformity, They are a serious band refusing to become too serious and they stretch the boundaries for what music can express.
Today the new album is finally released. It's simply entitled Helloween, just as the band's debut EP from 1985. The circle is completed. Let's wrap up the album and listen!
“Ride the Sky” from Walls of Jericho (1985)
“Eagle Fly Free” from Keeper of the Seven keys pt. 2 (1988)
"Power" from Time of the Oath (1996)
"Falling to Pieces" from Gambling With the Devil (2007)
“Fear of the Fallen” from Helloween (2021)
Helloween (EP) (1985)
Walls of Jericho (1986)
Keeper of the Seven Keys, pt. 1 (1987)
Keeper of the Seven Keys, pt. 2 (1988)
Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991)
Master of the Rings (1994)
Time of the Oath (1996)
Better Than Raw (1998)
The Dark Ride (2000)
Rabbit Don't Come Easy (2003)
Keeper of the Seven Keys, The Legacy (2005)
Gambling with the Devil (2007)
Seven Sinners (2010)
Straight Out of Hell (2013)
My God-Given Right (2015)
Live in the U.K. (1989)
High Live (1996)
Keeper of the Seven Keys - The Legacy World Tour 2005/2006 (2007)
United Live in Madrid (2019)
Check out the video for "Skyfall" from the new album here: