Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Helloween - The Keeper's Trilogy - A Retorspective

It’s Halloween.

In 2010 Helloween released “Unarmed” a compilation album of reworked versions of their biggest hits. This was a great opportunity for the current line up to record versions of Helloween hits that they were not originally a part of. Primarily it gave Andi Deris a chance to sing studio quality versions of all the great songs originally sang by Michael Kiske, which is nice since Deris had been part of the band for nearly two decades by this point.

Given the chance to re-imagine and retool some of their classic songs was not wasted by Weikath, Grosskopf and the rest of the band, who made many fun changes to several Helloween favorites. They introduced a jazz stylization including saxophones to the monster rock song “Dr. Stein.” Operatic indulgences were made to the high emotion “A Tale that wasn’t Right” which was definitely a good idea. One of the most charming songs on the album is “Eagle Fly Free” which is sort of a cover of a cover. Sweden’s “Hellsongs” did an acoustic cover of “Eagle Fly Free” and the Unarmed version is combining aspects of the original Helloween version and the acoustic Hellsongs’ version. The Unarmed version of “Eagle Fly Free” is literally a duet by Andri Deris and Hellsongs singer Harriet Ohllson, and both bands are fully collaborative in this studio recording.

The entire Unarmed album is great but the track that made me take notice was “The Keeper’s Trilogy” a seventeen minute rock opera that combines all three primary tracks from the Keeper’s saga “Halloween,” “The Keeper of the Seven Keys” and “The King for a 1000 Years.” The idea of combining all three songs came from live performances and time restraints therein.

Andi Deris explained in multiple live concerts I have seen online that everyone always wants to hear “Halloween,” “Keeper of the Seven Keys” and “The King for a 1000 Years” in concert, but playing all three songs is approximately forty minutes worth of music, and a concert is only so long, so they combined all three songs into one reasonably long song.

To recap:

“Halloween” - The devil is haunting Halloween:

“Keeper of the Seven Keys” – A mythical adventurer goes out on a journey to slay the devil:

“The King for a 1000 Years” – The devil plots his return, all he needs is a mortal to be his terrestrial hand:

In each review I explained why each individual song is special and fantastic, and how together there is something more to notice, the history of Helloween subtly unfolding, and an adventure saga involving the devil. I wrote in my “Keeper of the Seven Keys” review “If there is one sure fire why to win my heart it is with a long fantasy adventure rock ballad” this is true of “Keeper of the Seven Keys” but even more so for the grand opera of high adventure that is “The Keeper’s Trilogy.” When incorporating all the elementals from all three songs we begin to feel the connection between these three tracks more so than before. The lyrics regarding challenging the devil and fighting for mankind in “Halloween” are the transition point to “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” and the conflict with the devil in “Keeper of the Seven Keys” is the transition point to “The King for a 1000 Years.” These moments flowing together also increases the scope of the adventure. The ordeal of dealing with the devil begins to feel ancient; an enemy of yesteryear will continue to threaten us at least a thousand years from a future date not yet reached.

Maybe it is just me but the whole fantasy element of “The Keeper’s Trilogy” reminds of me a lot of the old PC role playing games like Might and Magic and Ultima. Just compare cover art.

Keeper’s Saga:

Might and Magic 3-5:

Ultima 1-3:

Ultima 4-6:

The Ultima series really seems to fit the Keeper’s saga, the villain Exodus basically looks like Satan anyway, and looking at the cover art of “Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy” the colorization and feel is similar to Ultima three and perhaps even more so Ultima six. The Avatar standing over a writhing demon could definitely be compared to the keeper challenging Satan. The mysterious wizard/cloaked man on all the covers of the keeper’s albums is presumable the keeper himself and he looks like he could very easily slip into any of the video game box art above battling strange creatures in even stranger locations. I think the comparison is apt.

It is funny that I never noticed the female features on the devil on the “Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy” album art before creating the images posted above. For some reason the half metal she devil seems all too fitting for a metal cover. Also the use of computer graphics on the “Keeper of the Seven Keys- The Legacy” album art is typical of metal albums that came out in the 2000s. It reminds me a little of Iron Maiden’s “Dance of Death.”

It is amazing what a bunch of rockers can come up with as their flag ship songs focusing on a Halloween theme. You cannot tell me this theme was not being used, it comes up everywhere. There is of course the song “Halloween” but also all the reference to the devil thereafter call back to Halloween. Dr. Stein is a very Halloween themed song. Pumpkins are the band’s mascot and present even on the Unarmed cover art. In the “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 & 2” box set the cartoon artwork inside the booklet has a man listening to a song with repeating lyrics “Happy happy Halloween” and also his head turns into a pumpkin, I believe this to be a reference to the horror movie “Halloween 2” you know the one that does not have Mike Myers in it, the one with the television commercial that goes “happy, happy Halloween” and somehow the television broadcast was going to cause all the children’s mask, including a pumpkin head naturally, to seal around their heads and kill them. I am sure it is a “Halloween 2” reference.

How does Halloween tie into the Ultima series? I do not know, but I am glad Helloween went there.

Deris stated that it was kind of self indulgent to play all three songs of the Keeper’s Trilogy live given the tremendous length of time required. This gave me pause about doing a Music in Review for each one, because it might seem like I was being self indulgent. But I also remembered that I do not care, I love “Keeper of the Seven Keys” but if I was going to talk about “Keeper of the Seven Keys” I should probably talk about “Halloween” it came first and also it is an easier song to reference to introduce Helloween, but if I am going to talk about both “Halloween” and “Keeper of the Seven Keys” I should probably finish the series, but then there is “The Keeper’s Trilogy” which has all three, but explaining all three at once would be too hard to fit into one review. In the end this is what I ended up with, three Music in Reviews and one retrospective.

It’s Halloween and this is Helloween.

- Colin Kelly

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