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Helloween - Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part 1

By: Frank Hill
Published: Thursday, April 22, 2004

Power Metal is a pretty broad-reaching term. Basically, it's metal played with power chords instead of the more traditional blues chords. The early pioneers include Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, and the Scorpions and they were distinctly different in sound from earlier hard rock bands like Zeppelin and Deep Purple and even the doomier Black Sabbath.

There are tons of bands out there playing what is referred to as Modern or European power metal--Gamma Ray, Edguy, Iron Savior, Blind Guardian, Hammerfall, Steel Attack, Nightwish, Falconer, Dream Evil, Dark Moor, Lost Horizon, Kamelot, and Stratovarius are some of the more high profile ones. It's a style featuring fast melodic twin guitars, epic chorus', high-pitched vocals, speedy drums, and inspirational lyrics. Helloween was, and still is, a forerunner in this style.

In 1987, they released "Keeper of the Seven Keys--Part 1" and made a distinctive shift in their own sound. One could argue that Yngwie, Accept, Running Wild, Rage and Grave Digger played the same style first, but I tend to refer to them as well as the earlier Helloween albums "Judas" and "Walls Of Jericho", as Speed Metal. You don't hear that term very often, but back around '86-'88 people wanted a term to differentiate it from Thrash which was hyperfast also, but decended more from Motorhead than Judas Priest.

So, you're thinking..."old-school dude...Euro power metal ...speed metal what." Shit, I don't know, but the term speed metal died out and the modern crop of bands are called Euro power metal. "KotSK--P1" is a primary record for almost all of the current bands. It differed from the earlier releases with lyrics that were more focused on positive spiritual content instead of the negative/darker subject matter.

But how does it hold up years later?  Very well, I'd say.

"Initiation" is the lead-in instrumental to one of the top power metal songs ever, "I'm Alive". Kai Hansen sang adequately on the previous records with a fairly heavy German accent, but Michael Kiske powers this song forward with his incredible vocals and a glorious chorus. Next up, "A Little Time" isn't as good, but it's not a track to just skip either. "Twilight of the Gods" is a tremendous number about the perils of nuclear war. The pace changes with the slower, ballad "A Tale That Wasn't Right". It's a nice song to ready for the inspirational "Future World".

Like I wrote before, the band's lyrics became fairly spiritual and "Future World" is a prime example. It isn't spelled out, but it could be about Heaven, Nirvana or any other place that is utopian in nature. The epic "Halloween" pretty much closes out the record at an ambitious 13+ minutes in length . It's an incredible vocal tour de force from Kiske with umpteen riffs and rhythm changes. The last song, "Follow the Sign", isn't really a song, it's more of a spoken piece.

The scene has probably gotten to the saturation point with today's power metal crowded with symphonic, progressive, thrash, and black metal elements being added to the power metal base. "Keeper of the Seven Keys--Part 1" still stands as one of the top records of the style long before it became cliché to make fun of all those triumphant, dungeons and dragons, sword-bearing, warrior songs. If you like this style, this Helloween release is a must.

Track Listing
1. Initiation
2. I'm Alive
3. Little Time
4. Twilight of the Gods
5. Tale That Wasn't Right
6. Future World
7. Halloween
8. Follow the Sign

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