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Helloween: Ride The Sky – The Very Best Of 1985-1998

Tapping into the NWOBHM traditions but bringing their own German metal ethos, Helloween burst on to the scene in the mid-80s, a galloping guitar sound leaving some accusing them of being little more than Iron Maiden clones. However with a strong hint of the riff laden attack of their fellow countrymen Accept in evidence, the truth was that this band had more than enough about them to make their own long lasting mark. Through their predilection for maximum velocity metal, twin lead forays and boundless energy Helloween stood tall and proud, the band attracting the attention of Europe's hottest independent metal label of the time, Noise. Now with Napalm reviving the label, they are looking back over the time bands such as Kamelot, Kreator and of course, Helloween spent in their stable.

Ride The Sky – The Very Best Of 1985-1998 celebrates arguably Helloween's most prolific and successful period, taking in their self titled debut EP, the Walls Of Jericho breakthrough album and utterly indispensable concept pairing of The Keeper Of The Seven Keys Parts I and II. From there the band went off the rails ever so slightly through Pink Bubbles Go Ape (yes, I'm sure they still regret that album title and the song "Heavy Metal Hamsters") and Chameleon, before re-finding their feet via Master Of The Rings, The Time Of The Oath and Better Than Raw – all of which are covered here.

Initially a four piece, the band recorded their debut, self titled EP, after a track on a compilation album caught the critics' imaginations, and here with "Murderer" it's easy to hear why, the buzzsaw riff and avalanche of drums finding the band hitting hard with an Accept meets Judas Priest attack. However it was the Walls Of Jericho album that brought international recognition, that album's crowning glory, "Ride The Sky", still a stunning mix of blazing riffs, soaring vocals and a chant-along chorus. Although it was the removing of Kai Hansen from his vocal duties to guitar alone, alongside Michael Weikath and introduction of singer supreme Michael Kiske that really took the band over the top and into the big leagues. Completed by bassist Markus Grosskopf and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, the two Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums expanded the band's sound and matured their attack both in terms of variety and arrangements. Unsurprisingly those albums are represented by three cuts apiece, the slightly stronger of the two (Part I) giving us the superb "I'm Alive" (now that's how you introduce a new singer!), "Future World" and brooding "Halloween" (the version here admittedly being a slightly cack-handed 'video edit' that cuts the track's initial thirteen minutes down to five). Part II is represented by the controlled aggression of "Eagle Fly Free", infectiously good fun of "Dr Stein" and the most memorable chorus on this whole collection, "I Want Out" (which I remember was my mental companion during many a youthful school day…).

Soon after, the metal world was shocked, Hansen announcing his departure to form the remarkably Helloween-like Gamma Ray, his place being taken by Roland Grapow for the aforementioned Pink Bubbles Go Ape, an album hindered by a comedy name and particularly off the wall Storm Thorgerson cover art. However with "Kids Of The Century" combining an early Rainbow like pomp to the Helloween blueprint, it wasn't all bad.

By this stage the press had turned and it's telling that not one track from Kiske's last album with the band, Chameleon, features here – even if it's album art is on the cover (although two tracks do make the two disc expanded version of this best of). For many at the time the singer's departure was the final straw, the band retreating to their European heartland for success as they brought in Pink Cream69 frontman Andi Deris to fill Kiske's rather large shoes and Uli Kusch on drums (Schwichteneberg had been suffering from mental illness for some time and tragically took his own life in 1995). The resultant album, Master Of The Rings, was a serious return to form, Deris's meatier vocal attack heralding in a more heavy rock meets power metal approach that suited Helloween to a tee and is expertly illustrated by "Why?", the excellent "Steel Tormentor" and Time Of The Oath track "Power". The band's final original studio album (Heavy Metal Jukebox was a questionable covers effort) for Noise arrived in the shape of the even more refined Better Than Raw, the track "I Can" a scintillating illustration of the honed sound the band now (and continues to) employed; Deris sounding absolutely at home fronting the band.

Some would argue that to sample the best of Helloween, all you really need is their first three studio albums. However as this excellent compilation, which features an in-depth essay including the band's own thoughts on their early career, more than illustrates, there's much more Helloween than initially meets the eye. Ride The Sky – The Very Best Of 1985-1998 is a superb way to be reminded of that fact.

Track Listing
1. Murderer 
2. Ride the Sky 
3. I'm Alive 
4. Future World 
5. Halloween 
6. Eagle Fly Free 
7. Dr. Stein 
8. I Want Out
9. Kids of the Century 
10. Why?
11. Steel Tormentor
12. Power
13. I Can

Added: December 18th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Helloween online
Hits: 1572
Language: english

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