I feel like I’ve just been pummeled by a thousand evil jack-o-lanterns. Sitting through 29 songs and 157 minutes — that’s more than 2 1/2 hours — of both vintage and recent Helloween music on the two-disc Treasure Chest set is an exercise in endurance. Not that the German band isn’t worthy of such an exhaustive anthology. Treasure Chest, whose development was overseen by the band, is not only packed with songs culled from the group’s 1985 self-titled debut EP through 2000’s The Dark Ride, but the track listing avoids the chronological-order cliché of most retrospectives — giving longtime fans the chance to hear these songs in alternate contexts and laying out for new listeners most of Helloween’s highlights (as well as a few low ones).
The guys in Helloween — a band that has included three different lead singers — took what they learned from the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, threw in heavier doses of speed and thrash, and helped spawn what’s become known as power metal. Internal setbacks (a suicide, lineup changes and apathetic record companies) prevented Helloween from ever reaching its full potential, even though 1987’s Keeper of the Seven Keys-Part I is considered a landmark metal record in many circles. Treasure Chest features a combined eight tracks from that album and its 1988 successor, Keeper of the Seven Keys-Part II. Also included are the lesser-known “Metal Invaders,” the experimental “Windmill” and the more-recent and catchy “Mr. Torture” — allowing listeners to better determine for themselves which vocalist (Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske or Andi Deris) is most appropriate for Helloween’s brand of witty metal.
Renowned producer Charlie Bauerfeind (Blind Guardian, Angra, Gamma Ray) remixed five of the tracks on Treasure Chest (“Starlight,” “Murderer,” “Ride the Sky,” “Keeper of the Seven Keys” and “Dr. Stein”). This move has prompted some observers to ask why the band didn’t opt to just rerecord all of the older tracks with vocals by current singer Deris, á lá Blast From the Past, the 2000 compilation by Gamma Ray (the band Hansen went on to form after departing Helloween in 1989). But why mess with the originals? Ozzy Osbourne rerecorded the drum and bass tracks for recent reissues of Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman, and fans have practically crucified the man. Still, the absence of bonus tracks or new material on Treasure Chest may make hardcore Helloween-ies want to seek out the limited-edition version of this collection, which includes a third CD packed with a dozen hard-to-find B-sides.