I am working backwards discovering German rock music.
When I discovered Avantasia I learned all about front man Tobias Sammet, and knowning him I learned about his band Edguy. Sammet becomes my hero and through him I learned about Michael Kiske, Toby’s hero. Learning what an incredible singer Kiske is I learned about Helloween.
Helloween was formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kai Hansen who performed the important roles of lead guitarist and lead singer. After only one album “Walls of Jericho” Hansen decided that performing the duties of both singer and guitarist was too much for him to handle during live performances, so they decided to invest in a lead singer. This is a reoccurring challenge for many musicians; in fact Tobias Sammet himself originally played bass and sang before deciding that was becoming too challenging to do both live all the time. The man they would find to sing for Helloween would be Sammet’s hero Michael Kiske, and yeah, that was a good idea.
Helloween’s second album “The Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1” would be a huge leap forward for the band both in artistic development and commercial success. Kiske’s voice added that certain something that changed Helloween from a decent rock band to the stuff of legends. Also the song writing as a whole advanced a few steps forward from “Walls of Jericho,” so much so that the Keeper’s albums are the landmark of Helloween’s career, nothing that came after would ever be quite as good. The Keeper’s albums would make Helloween one of the largest driving forces of the rock scene in Europe, especially Germany.
The name of the band “Helloween” is clearly a play on words from the holiday “Halloween” this is neither subtle or particularly cleaver, but having said that, “Helloween” is as good a name as any. The point I am attempting to raise here is the men of Helloween did not forget what brought them to the dance, they did not forget the theme of their rock band, the theme of dark, hellish, Halloween. Appropriately the central narrative song from “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1” is a track called “Halloween.”
“In the streets on Halloween
There's something going on
No way to escape the power unknown
In the streets on Halloween
The spirits will arise
Make your choice, it's hell or paradise
The title of this song caused some confusion for me when I first discovered it as I thought the chorus might have been saying “Ah—we’re Helloween” which would have been effective I am certain but ultimately is completely incorrect. If you are going to combine hell and Halloween you expect the devil to show up right?
“I'll show you passion and glory
He is the snake
I'll give you power and abundance
He's the corrupter of man
Save me from the evil one
Give me strength to carry on
I will fight for all mankind's
Deliverance and peace of mind”
Not only is this last set of lyrics giving us the much needed references to Satan but there are key expressions here that tie in directly to the next two Helloween songs I want to talk about. “Halloween” is the just the first part of a trilogy you see, a trilogy that defines Helloween in my opinion.
It is such a contrast comparing the video/radio edit of “Halloween” to the studio version, the radio edit is a meager five and a half minutes, where as the full version is thirteen. “Halloween” in its intended form is an operatic metal song about mysticism and devil worship, it sets the stage for the rest of the Trilogy, and it even set the stage for the rest of Helloween’s career. “Halloween” despite appearing shallow in concept is actually the beginning of a grand musical opera; it is the first piece of the Keeper’s Trilogy, but also the first flagship song of the band Helloween.
Keep on rocking in the free world.
- Colin Kelly