Metal Jukebox


Sanctuary Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It seems like I've been hearing a lot of metal bands doing albums of cover tunes recently. The first one that comes to mind is Metallica's Garage Inc., a disc I still have never been able to get through without turning it off in disgust. Not that long ago, I was plowing through Coverkill from Overkill. Now, it's Helloween's turn with their recently-released disc Metal Jukebox.

If you think that these projects are alike, think again. Metal Jukebox is closer to Garage Inc. in that Andi Deris and crew choose to cover groups you wouldn't expect a metal band to recognize, much less like. But for the most part, Helloween make this project sound like a lot of fun - and I count only two misguided choices among some splendid surprises.

Let's get to the miscues first. As admirable as their version of Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath" is (and, I've got to admit, they do perform it well), something is missing without any type of flute work a la Ian Anderson. On its own, it's a decent effort, but there is an emptiness to the song without this one key component.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The only other move I question - and I believe their hearts were in the right place - is the new version of The Beatles's "All My Loving". Somehow, I can't imagine John Lennon and Paul McCartney writing this one with double bass kick drums in mind. The song just doesn't fit the type of music that Helloween plays - but they get a passing grade for trying.

The bulk of Metal Jukebox takes on a good portion of the rock spectrum, from fellow countrymen ("He's A Woman, She's A Man" from the Scorpions), classic rock stalwarts ("Space Oddity" from David Bowie, "White Room" from Cream") - and a few songs you might not be familiar with ("Mexican" from Alan Shacklock). Deris's vocals throughout the album are surprisingly lower-key than one would have expected, but his style fits the mood of this album perfectly.

The real surprises on Metal Jukebox come on the songs you'd never expect to hear this band play. Their cover of "Hocus Pocus" (originally done by Focus) is the best take on this track I've heard since the original. And, let's face it, who would have expected a metal band - even one from Europe - to cover Abba? Still, they're able to raise "Lay All Your Love On Me" to a new level that even the headbangers can truly appreciate.

Other hidden treats include covers from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band ("Faith Healer") and Frank Marino ("Juggernaut"), groups you might not be very familiar with, but will want to explore more thanks to Helloween's bringing them to people's attention. And, in a way, that's what's special about Metal Jukebox. It's one thing to take a better-known group like Faith No More ("From Out Of Nowhere") and put your own spin on their song. It's another to remind people that there are lesser-known, but just as important, groups out there - and Helloween does all these bands justice with their versions of the songs.

Metal Jukebox is not meant to take the place of a studio album from Helloween; instead, think of this one as a way for the band to clear the pipes by having fun with the music that shaped their lives. There's the key word: fun. It's a perfect word to describe this album, and the kind of reaction you'll have when you listen to it.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sanctuary Records, and is used for informational purposes only.