Helloween's 1993 release Chameleon remains to this day one of the most controversial album's in the band's back catalog, alongside 1991's Pink Bubbles Go Ape. Instead of following the speedy power metal sounds of the Keeper of the Seven Keys releases, the band chose to dive into more straightforward as well as proggy territory by injecting a healthy dose of pop, progressive, and orchestral styles into their music. This upset many of the fans and critics, who ultimately ignored the albums for the most part. Eventually singer Michael Kiske left the band after Chameleon, and with the addition of Andy Deris, Helloween returned once again to heavier power metal territory.
That's not to say that Chameleon doesn't contain some strong material, which it certainly does. "First Time" is your typical Helloween metal thumper with speedy double bass drums, soaring vocals, and plenty of dual lead guitar work. The first sign that something's afoot comes on "When the Sinner", a catchy rocker with a great hook but featuring a horn section. Horn section, on a Helloween album? Believe it. While I personally don't mind it at all, back in 1993 the reaction was not overly positive. Horns again rear their head on the glossy rocker "Crazy Cat", and Kiske shows his tender side on the melodic ballad "I Don't Wanna Cry No More". The grinding rocker "Giants" is one of the heavier pieces on the album, complete with crunchy guitar riffs and nimble bass lines from Marcus Grosskopf. The use of symphonic keyboards as well as the multitude of guitar parts from Michael Weikath and Roland Grapow add a real progressive rock flair to this dramatic piece. "Windmill" is a acoustic based pop song that lets Kiske shine, but really doesn't belong on a Helloween album, and the band goes for a 70's hard rock vibe on the 8-minute "Revolution Now", a groove laden blues-boogie number that will remind the listener of bands like Mountain, Humble Pie, UFO, and Rainbow, with a slight touch of early Queensryche for good measure. This one has one of the best guitar riffs on the album, and a real heavy feel to it. "In the Night" is another acoustic pop number, a nice song but out of place. Horns and keyboards permeate the dramatic mini-epic "Music", another prog-rocker on the album that really works, and "Step Out of Hell" is a real catchy commercial metal piece with a great vocal from Kiske and killer guitar work.
The band goes for another metallic and progressive epic on the 9+ minute "I Believe", complete with symphonic and atmospheric keyboards and plenty of roaring guitar solos, and finishes the album off with the lush acoustic track "Longing", perhaps the best pick of all the album's mellower pieces with it's graceful vocal, tender guitars, and orchestral keyboards. The second disc contains b-sides that didn't make it to the final album, and there's a bunch of them. Most have a similar feel to the regular songs from Chameleon, and I'm wondering if the band wouldn't have been better off putting out a double album initially. Of these songs, the highlights are the scorching instrumental "Oriental Journey", featuring amazing guitar battles between Weikath and Grapow, the bump and grind metal of "Cut in the Middle", the mix of Sweet and KISS flavored rock of "Get Me Out of Here", and the rambling Hendrix inspired instrumental "Red Socks and the Smell of the Trees". Overall, Chameleon comes across as more adventurous and ultimately more fullfilling than Pink Bubbles Go Ape, with its mix of heavy metal, prog, and pop styles. It may not be a traditional Helloween album by any means, but give them credit for trying something different. This expanded edition contains a great sounding remaster job, full lyrics, interview with Michael Weikath, and plenty of photos.
1. First Time
2. When The Sinner
3. I Don't Wanna Cry No More
4. Crazy Cat
7. Revolution Now
8. In The Night
10. Step Out Of Hell
11. I Believe
1. I Don't Care You Don't Care (single b-side)
2. Oriental Journey (single b-side prev. Japan only)
3. Cut In The Middle (single b-side)
4. Introduction (single b-side)
5. Get Me Out of Here (single b-side)
6. Red Socks and the Smell of the Trees (single b-side)
7. Ain't Got Nothin' Better (single b-side)
8. Windmill (previously unreleased demo version)