It's been nearly 20 years since German power metal pioneers Helloween released the first part of their infamous Keeper of the Seven Keys classics (well, 18 years to be exact), and now, with a completely different line-up and many years later the band is revisiting the theme once again for Keeper of the Seven Keys-The Legacy. The feel of the bands latest opus is similar in scope to the original Keys albums, with speedy guitars and symphonic arrangements, and the vocals of Andi Deris are in place instead of Michael Kiske (Deris has actually been in the band for quite a few years now). So, while folks like Kiske and Kai Hansen are no longer a part of the band, original members Michael Weikath and Markus Gropkopf, along with the rest of Helloween, have kept the spirit of the Keys alive, as this solid 2CD set more than holds its own next to the first two parts of what has now become a trilogy. it might not be the instant classic that either of those albums are, but it's damn good.
Each disc on the set kicks off with a brilliant epic. CD 1 starts off with the 14-minute masterpiece 'The King for a 1000 Years", a song that is just as much heavy symphonic progressive rock as it is metal, with plenty of orchestrations, strong lead and backing vocals, keyboards, and grinding power metal guitars and rhythms. Deris puts in one of his best vocal performances ever for Helloween on this one, and the twin guitar attack of Weikath and Sascha Gerstner weaves tasty lead lines through the mix. Other highlights of the first part of the set include the speedy yet catchy metal of 'The Invisible Man", the raging & mean "Silent Rain", and the huge hooks and intricate guitars of "Pleasure Dome". As with much of Helloween's material, the band does a great job of mixing shorter, punchy songs with longer epics that veer into the power and prog metal territory. Of the shorter songs on the album, "Mrs. God" was chosen as the single, and it's easy to hear why, with its memorable chorus and pop melodies. Fans of Edguy's "Superheroes" will certainly dig this song.
Kicking off CD2 is the albums other epic "Occasion Avenue", a song with blistering rhythms and heavy guitar work. Reminiscent of the song "Halloween" off of the first Keys album in terms of the songs pacing and building of drama, this one has effective use of keyboards but most importantly some real crunchy and slower riffs that you don't always hear from the band. But in fine Helloween tradition, they throw in some tasty guitar solos, and Deris is again in fine form with a varied vocal performance. Candice Night of Blackmore's Night does a guest vocal with Deris on the charming and symphonic rocker "Light the Universe", one of the most sophisticated numbers the band has ever done. "Do You Know What You Are Fighting For" is a ball-to-the-wall heavy rocker, with Andy's venomous vocals leading the way, as is the Deep Purple inspired "The Shade in the Shadow", complete with raging organ, chugging guitars, and high-pitched vocals from Deris.
One of the things that this version of the band has gotten much better at over the years, and something that can be compared to the earlier years of Helloween, is their ability to build a melodic wall of sound of backing vocals, which they do so well on Keeper of the Seven Keys-The Legacy. The instrumentation is top notch here, the songs memorable, and the abundance of variety between the progressive pieces, heavy power metal numbers, and ballads, keeps things very well balanced overall. Many might not have thought a revisit to the land of the Keys was initially a wise move, but the band has pulled it off. Good work mates!
01. The King For A 1000 Years
02. The Invisible Man
03. Born On Judgment Day
04. Pleasure Drone
05. Mrs. God
06. Silent Rain
01. Occasion Avenue
02. Light The Universe (w/Blackmore's Night's Candice Night)
03. Do You Know What You're Fighting4?
04. Come Alive
05. Shade In The Shadow
06. Get It Up
07. My Life For One More Day