Keeper Of The Seven Keys - Part I
RCA Records, 1987
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/14/1999
I remember when I was in high school that a lot of my friends who were also into heavy metal were singing the praises of a German group called Helloween. At that time, their "opus", Keeper Of The Seven Keys - Part I, was already out, and everybody who was in on this band couldn't wait for the second part of the story to come out. I, however, was a bit apprehensive about this group, and even though I heard songs like "I'm Alive" on the metal show (on the brokered radio station), I was reluctant to spend my money on them.
As I got older - and as I discovered the joy of used records, tapes and CDs - I finally became willing to open up my mind and give this band a chance. I also was given the opportunity of hearing their last studio effort, Better Than Raw, which sparked in me the interest of hearing some of their earlier music.
Keeper Of The Seven Keys - Part I, their 1987 release, is an album that shows off more of a melodic band than a balls-to-the-wall thrash band. Michael Kiske and crew knew how to turn the speed up and rock fast, but the song seemed to be more important than speed - something that is a refreshing change of pace. I don't know why I was so reluctant to try this album 12 years ago; now I wish I had been part of the group who were "in the know".
The band - vocalist Kiske (who makes his debut as Helloween's singer), guitarists Kai Hansen (who handled lead vocals on the band's first album Walls Of Jericho) & Michael Weikath, bassist Markus Grobkopf and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg seemingly embrace a classical approach to their music on the instrumental opener "Initiation", but they quickly get the testosterone boiling with "I'm Alive," a song that throws all the switches to the "open" position and sends you on a collision course with some powerful hard rock. The guitar work of Hansen and Weikath seems to bring out the best of each player, as they push each other to new limits.
The real magic of Helloween comes on two tracks. The first, "A Little Time," dares to show a slightly poppier side of the band that you might not have expected coming out of "I'm Alive". But don't think for a minute that Helloween goes soft on this track; it still has a spine made of solid rock. The other track, "Halloween," is a 13-minute opus that shows the skills of this band, as well as a few progressive bends as well. Kiske's vocals are at their peak on this one, as is Hansen's six-string work.
This isn't meant to slight tracks like "Twilight Of The Gods" or "A Tale That Wasn't Right"; Keeper Of The Seven Keys - Part I is a solid album throughout. If anything, this album seems a bit short from time to time. I remember the first time I listened to the whole album. When the outro "Follow The Sign" faded to nothing, I sat in my car and asked out loud, "Is that all?" (Of course, it wasn't; the saga would continue on Keeper Of The Seven Keys - Part II... but that's another review for another day.)
Keeper Of The Seven Keys - Part I was the album that got a lot of my high school buddies into Helloween - and even today, it's a great place to start your education in this band.