Classic Album Dual Review – Helloween “Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts 1 & 2” 1987/1988

  The tale of Keeper of the Seven Keys is one filled with contradictions. Firstly, the two records share a name but are not really concept albums – other than the big, epic penultimate tracks on each there is little conceptual continuity (a long journey with magical objects to be thrown into various abysses; might have read something like that somewhere before). The pair are also separated by songwriting and tone, with Part I (being the serious sibling) penned mostly by future Gamma Ray wizard Kai Hansen and Part II’s looser, bluesy feel due to the influence of second axeman Michael Weikath.

The Keepers are also at war with themselves, perhaps a natural consequence of heavy metal’s evolution at the time – there are parts of Seven Keys which are as hard and fast as period Anthrax, and parts which sound like Jem and the Holograms. Both records are as relentlessly upbeat as they are bombastic, laying the foundation of what we now know as Power Metal and embodying all the contradictions inherent in that genre. Complicated arrangements of unsubtle emotional triggers are the order of the day – a bag of tricks that will sound familiar to any post-reunion Iron Maiden fan. Michael Kiske’s soaring vocals and Hansen’s masterful guitar fireworks recount irony-free legends of rainbows and dragons, although Part II has a bit of Weikath’s levity thrown in to undercut the pompousness via boobs and beer* references in songs like “Rise and Fall” and “Dr. Stein”. These goofy experiments in no way detract from the onslaught of speedy mayhem; they simply act as a bonus to Part II’s ability to match its progenitor song for song, even upping the ante by incorporating the sing-along  feel of crowd-pleaser “A Little Time” into addictive head-banger “I Want Out”.

  It all seems a bit silly now on the surface, but track after track the discs defy any attempts at skipping, with the occasional bits of cheese turned into a full meal by the beef of superior musicianship and crisp production. No matter your opinions on the current state of Power Metal, the twin towers of Helloween’s youth contain too many hits to be ignored. Part I: 8 out of 10, Part II: 8.5 out of 10

*They are Germans, after all.

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