Thursday, October 25, 2012

Helloween - The King for a 1000 Years



“Ages of fire - Aeon of darkness, fear and hate
Wake up my creatures
Stand up you bringers of man's fate
No one can kill us
We cannot die, a death one knows
Mankind is sleeping
My victory near, their end so close

I know your secrets
I know it all”

After the departure of Kai Hansen from Helloween, singer Michael Kiske would only stay on for another two albums, “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” and “Chameleon.” Around the same time drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg was dejected from the band, tragically Schwichtenberg suffered from schizophrenia and an addiction to alcohol and drugs which led the poor man to suicide. Guitarist Michael Weikath and bassist Markus Grosskopf would march on still carrying the banner of Helloween.

The departure of Kiske would prove problematic since his face and voice had become synonymous with Helloween so the replacement had to be someone special. The man they would recruit was Andi Deris a very talented singer, and more importantly he is very “metal.” In some funny ways Helloween experienced what Van Halen experienced when David Lee Roth left and was replaced with Sammy Hagar. Everyone likes Sammy Hagar but most people liked David Lee Roth as lead singer of Van Halen more, intense and needless arguments ensued. Meanwhile for Helloween, everyone likes Andi Deris as a singer but everyone likes Michael Kiske more and intense and needless arguments ensued. I am of the popular opinion that Kiske is the better singer both in and out of Helloween the guy is just amazing, however I really do enjoy Deris’s voice. The two singers are fundamentally different in their range and style but it makes for a variety in Helloween that I believe was advantageous.

What made Helloween famous was the Keeper’s albums. The albums that came after, which I am sure are decent never made the same impact as “The Keeper of the Seven Keys” but there was room to grow and a mythology that could be expanded if only they dared go there. In 2005 Helloween released a double CD set titled “The Keeper of the Seven Keys - The Legacy.”

Unlike “The Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 & 2” the over arching narrative in the legacy has more continuity from one song to the next, themes such as devil worship, quests for immortality, betrayal, and sorcery reoccur. Furthermore there is a direct narrative from the song “Keeper of the Seven Keys” and the primary song of this third addition to the mythology “The King for A 1000 Years.” After being sealed away by the keeper of the seven keys the devil and his minions have been waiting biding their time to return and ruin mankind, and suddenly we have continuity.

The leap from the keeper’s sage in 1987-88 to 2005’s legacy was plenty of time for Helloween to change, and looking at the multiple members involved in the band’s history it is easy to see why Helloween changed. Music had changed too, metal music had gotten heavier and harder and Helloween had in so many ways mimicked this and for a song about a hateful Satan rising up from hell and threatening all mankind, heavy is a good thing.

Another interesting detail is the differences in narrative style from “Keeper of the Seven Keys” to “The King for A 1000 Years,” in “Keeper of the Seven Keys” the entire story follows the hero fighting the devil, who won’t let us be, while in “The King for A 1000 Years” the story follows Satan and his efforts to break through to our world, most notably through the corruption of humans.

“Say you want to live forever
Minus one day
Say you will obey and I

I will show - I will show
I will show your Reich of gold
And I will show - I will show
I will show you friend and foe”

What a great line, “say you want to live forever, minus one day,” this is very much the kind of backhanded crooked deal we have come to expect from the devil of our modern culture. Though I still need to look further into Helloween’s discography I suspect that “Keepers of the Seven Keys – The Legacy” along with the song “The King for A 1000 Years” is Andi Deris’s best work and Helloween’s best work since the keeper’s sage in the eighties. It helps that “The King for a 100 Years” and “The Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy” tie back to the memorable albums of the eighties, and perhaps it speaks of Weikath’s creativity since he wrote the two best songs from the series, the last two. Perhaps Weikath revisiting “The Keeper of the Seven Keys” reignited some of the passion he had for the genre of heavy metal demonic fantasy adventure. Whatever the creative reason, it is these three songs “Halloween,” “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” and “The King for A 1000 Years” that really made me fall in love with Helloween. Everything you need to know about Helloween is being told to you in these three songs, the theme and stylization of Helloween’s music and how it changed over the years, also who was involved in each song explains a lot of that. Helloween is a band that has had many talented men come and go but thanks to Weikath and Grosskopf there has remained a unique consistency of metal spirit that can and will stand the test of time.

Say you want to live forever, minus one day....

- Colin Kelly

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