Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske, and Andi Deris have all been pretty close to each other for years… but not at the same time. Kai and Andi toured together with the Helloween + Gamma Ray Hellish Rock tours, while Kai and Michael were (and supposedly still are) together in Unisonic, where they often perform Helloween songs. A dream team in which all of them came together, however, always seemed impossible. With expectations higher than ever before, Helloween could have been an absolute disaster, a desperate attempt at capitalizing on nostalgia; thankfully, the band rose to the challenge, and made fantastic album.
With Kiske and Deris both simultaneously handling lead vocals, most of the songs are effectively a duet between the two of them. This could have been gimmicky, annoying, or even unnecessary, but the music of Helloween seems built to highlight the different textures that we get from them. This is really evident in songs like “Fear of the Fallen” or the 12-minute epic “Skyfall”, where their voices are layered in a way that allows them to complement each other in a really powerful way.
Of course, what really allows the singers to shine is the great songwriting. Though it’s true that there are a lot of elements from the Keeper, the album is quite varied. On top of the pummeling power and speed metal of songs like “Out for the Glory”, “Down in the Dumps” or “Robot Kings” (which even reminded me of the epic style of Twilight Symphony or Dragonland), there’s even space for 80s metal (reminiscent of what Unisonic did at times) in songs like “Indestructible” and, to a lesser extent, “Best Time”.
This is not to say that the album is perfect. The confidence that comes from such a long and successful career manifests itself in some self-indulgence, with a few songs running longer than they need to (the single edit of “Skyfall” is definitely tighter, and “Out for the Glory” could have been shorter, without the voiceover shoehorned at the end). There’s also at least one song (“Angels”) that, although OK, I probably could have done without.
Nitpicking aside, the fact is that Helloween is a pretty damn good album. At 37, Helloween have clearly demonstrated how they’ve managed to stay at the top for so long.