German power metal band Helloween were formed in Hamburg in 1984 by guitarist / singer Kai Hansen, guitarist Michael Weikath, bassist Markus Grosskopf and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. The fledgling group’s first studio album “Walls Of Jericho” appeared on the Noise label the following year.
Singer Michael Kiske was then recruited to take over lead vocal duties from Hansen, and it was this expanded line-up that produced the classic “Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I” and “Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II” albums in 1987/88.
Following Hansen’s decision to quit the band in 1989, guitarist Roland Grapow joined the band as replacement. Grapow appeared on six studio albums from “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” in 1991 to 2000’s “The Dark Ride”.
Drummer Schwichtenberg, who suffered from drug and alcohol related issues and mental problems (the latter of which led to his suicide two years later) was fired during the “Chameleon” tour of 1993.
Internal conflict led to the sacking of Kiske following two poorly received records – “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” and 1993’s “Chameleon” – to be replaced in 1994 by former Pink Cream 69 singer Andi Deris who remains lead vocalist to this day.
Lead guitarist Sascha Gerstner, previously a member of Freedom Call, replaced Grapow in 2002 and also remains in the band today.
Following a succession of session and full-time drummers since Schwichtenberg’s departure, Daniel Löble joined the band in 2005. The current, and longest-serving line-up, consists of Löble, Gestner, Deris along with founder members Grosskopf and Weikath.
This incarnation of Helloween have produced a string of successful releases, starting with 2005’s “Keeper Of The Seven Keys : The Legacy” and including “Gambling With The Devil” (2007), “7 Sinners” (2010) and “Straight Out Of Hell” (2013).
In addition there was “Unarmed”, an album of re-recorded back catalogue tracks performed in acoustic style with added accompaniment from the Prague Symphony Orchestra, which was recorded to commemorate the band’s 25th anniversary in 2009 (although there were suggestions that this was something required by the record company rather than an artistic statement from the group itself).
The band have just released their fifteenth studio album “My God-Given Right”, their first for label Nuclear Blast.
The album kicks off with “Heroes”, a song described as being about everyday heroes, which has an infectious melody and chorus along with some nice guitar work and double bass drum patterns. Indeed the drumming and guitar playing are top-notch throughout this record, with some very nice guitar solos on display.
“Battle’s Won” again displays the band’s knack for adding an accessibly melodic layer to their unique brand of heavy metal.
“Like Everybody Else” apparently has its origins in the sessions for the “Straight Out Of Hell” album and is the most ballad-like track here. The band’s well-known humour shines through with “If God Loves Rock ‘N’ Roll”.
Title track “My God-Given Right” continues the musical style, before a shift in gears when “Stay Crazy” arrives. “Russian Roulé” has a more serious edge to it, and the excellent “The Swing Of A Fallen World” is one of my favourites on this record.
The sound on this album is big, clean and powerful – you can clearly hear everything that’s going on. Musically it’s classic late ’80s metal really, and for me that’s no bad thing since that was a superb era for this genre of music. The melodies are well written and catchy and there’s really nothing to not like here. It may not have the originality of the band’s early work perhaps, but this is still a high quality power metal release and one that is warmly recommended for your listening pleasure…
1. Heroes / 2. Battle’s Won / 3. My God-Given Right / 4. Stay Crazy / 5. Lost In America / 6. Russian Roulé / 7. The Swing Of A Fallen World / 8. Like Everybody Else / 9. Creatures In Heaven / 10. If God Loves Rock ‘N’ Roll / 11. Living On The Edge / 12. Claws / 13. You, Still Of War