Helloween - Keeper of the seven keys/The legacy 3.5/5

Reviewed: 12-16-05


Disc 1
1. The king for 1000 years
2. The invisible man
3. Born on judgement day
4. Pleasure drone
5. Mrs. God
6. Silent rain

Disc 2
1. Occasion avenue
2. Light the universe
3. Do you know what you're fighting for?
4. Come alive
5. Shade in the shadow
6. Get it up
7. My life for one more day

With their 2nd CD since the band split in 2 after ‘The dark ride’, Helloween finds themselves on solid footing again after a mediocre effort with ‘Rabbit don’t come easy’. This new CD is burdened with being given the name ‘Keeper of the seven keys/The legacy’ which brings a standard and an expectation that is difficult to live up to. In some ways, however, this CD is able to do that. The CD is split into 2 discs, both totaling under 40 minutes because the total running time was just a little too long for a single CD. The result of this is one great disc and one that sounds like leftovers. As would be expected, the band sounds great, the CD has excellent production and the quality of the CD comes down to just one thing – the quality of the songwriting.

Disc 1 is truly a triumph for Helloween. With all due respect to the original 'Keepers...' CDs and my personal favorite Helloween CD, ‘The dark ride’, this disc may be the best 40 minutes that Helloween has ever done. One thing that cannot help but be noticed is the songwriting contributions of Sascha Gerstner who appears on just his 2nd Helloween release. On this CD he quickly establishes himself as the key songwriter for the band and possibly will be the reason for the band to continue making quality releases in the future. There are just 2 tracks on Disc 1 that he didn’t write or co-write the music for and, based on Disc 2, it appears that those contributions are desperately needed. The opening track “The king for a 1000 years” is the definition of an epic. Almost 14 minutes long it has several pieces, alternating between fast and slow, heavy and soft. It has some nice instrumental pieces and is more musically interesting than the sing-a-long tracks that Helloween is often thought for. The rest of the tracks on Disc 1 are more typical Helloween, a little shorter and more vocal intensive; however they still have some very good instrumental breaks. 2 Gerstner written pieces, “The invisible man” and “Silent rain” have insanely catchy choruses. As opposed to the quickly written sing-a-longs that Helloween can sometimes write, these are truly impressive melodies. As good as those tracks are, however, the highpoint for the 2 disc set has to be the Michael Weikath written “Born on judgement day”. Weikath has become a very inconsistent songwriter over the past few CDs but occasionally hits a stroke of genius and he does so with this gem. It has the classic Helloween sound, an original and strong melody, nice instrumental breaks and wraps up with a wonderful ending. The other 2 tracks on this disc, “Pleasure drone” and “Mrs. God” are at a level just below the others, but are still top quality Helloween tracks.

And, then, there is Disc 2. And the listener can only ask – why? There is one good track on this 2nd disc, the opener “Occasion avenue”, a very heavy riff fest. The rest of Disc 2 ranges from the mediocre, “Shade in the shadow”, to the decent “Light the universe” to... well, decent is about as good as this disc gets. There isn’t anything terrible here, it’s all OK and something worth listening to maybe once or twice a year. But after Disc 2’s opener there really isn’t a reason to listen to the rest of the CD. If this CD is simply considered to be the leftovers then it is nice to have them on a separate disc – but there is a huge drop in quality from Disc 1 to Disc 2.

This is a very strange release in that the first disc is absolutely brilliant, as good a 40 minutes of melodic power metal as I have ever heard. But the 2nd 40 minutes, especially after the first track, should have been left in the studio – at most a couple of these tracks should have been released unless they were released as extra tracks that didn’t make it onto a real CD; while they aren’t bad, they are throwaway tracks that will almost unanimously be considered as tracks that lower the quality of any good Helloween CD. Interestingly, the aforementioned Gerstner doesn’t have any songwriting credits on this 2nd disc after dominating on the first. Although the 2 Disc set gets a 3.5 rating as a whole, the CD is more worthy of a purchase than that makes it sound because the listener can simply listen to the first disc’s brilliance and forget about the 2nd disc. This release leaves me very optimistic about Helloween’s future and hopefully next time they can be a little more cautious about which tracks they release and which they leave in the studio or keep for bonus tracks.




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