Helloween - Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II
Noise Records
Melodic Power / Speed Metal
12 songs (54:49)
Release year: 1988
Helloween, Noise Records
Reviewed by Marty
Untitled Document

Very rarely does any one album define a particular genre of music. This release by Helloween is one of those albums. Blending a wild mixture of speed riffing, fast double bass drumming, melody and awesome vocals, they helped create a new type of Power Metal music which would serve to be an enormous influence on such bands as Blind Guardian, Angra, Edguy and countless others. This album, their fourth release, was the follow up to Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I, and was only the second album to feature the vocals of Michael Kiske, who was recruited to allow guitarist/vocalist Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray) to give his full attention to his guitar playing. At a time when Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden and Metallica ruled the hard rock and heavy metal world, I remember reading in a music magazine that this album was in fact, outselling Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son by Iron Maiden in certain parts of Europe. I had seen their albums in the stores (the first E.P. Helloween, Walls Of Jericho and Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I), but they always had these "Speed Metal" labels put on them by the store. I'd always associated the term "Speed Metal" with bands like Hellhammer,Slayer and Venom and what I'd heard from those bands, really wasn't my type of metal music. Shortly after, I saw the video for I Want Out and was very, very impressed by the guitar sound, the melody and especially the vocals. It had some cool guitar harmonies, a great chorus and a killer energetic sound. I immediately bought this album (vinyl no doubt!!!) and proceeded to play it constantly for about a month. I had never heard anything before with the type of sound, energy level and melody that this release has!

The opening, Invitation, is an orchestrated and march-like instrumental with Queen style guitar harmonies, and sets the stage for one of the best metal tracks I've ever heard, Eagle Fly Free, which is still a Helloween classic to this day. I listened to this track 3 times in a row before playing anything else off this release. This is a song of contrasts as, during the verses, the guitars and drums are double-timed (i.e 2 times faster) than the vocals. For the chorus, the guitars switch to the same pace as the vocals but the drums keep up the double-timed attack. This was a very unique approach to metal music as it blended the different tempos of the guitars, vocals and drums, to produce one solid coherent sound unlike anything anyone had ever done before.... ..Melodic Power/Speed Metal was born!! The slower tempo of the vocal lines seemed to soften the song a bit and take away the aggressiveness that other bands who played at this speed had (i.e. Venom, Slayer). Michael Kiske delivers what I think is one of his best vocal performances ever on this track and lets go a stunning scream at the climax of the song that just cuts right through you......awesome, simply awesome!!! You Always Walk Alone begins with some Iron Maiden style guitar harmonies before ripping into a speedy guitar riff which abruptly changes the whole pace of the track. The guitar riffs are very busy with lots of extra fills that keep the energy level high throughout the entire track. This track also features some awesome screams and killer lead guitar. Rise And Fall is a sort of fun, novelty type of song complete with elf-like backing vocals and propelled once again by the double-bass drum and guitar attack that is found in most of the tracks on this album. Dr. Stein, another novelty-type track, is a twisted version of the classic Frankenstein tale and features a cool chunky main riff along with some great lead breaks. A harpsichord passage in the middle of the track adds atmosphere and the chorus features choirs of voices and doubled up vocal tracks all done by Michael. We Got The Right is a very spirited and gospel-like song and uses some Thin Lizzy style guitar harmonies and scale runs to give this track an almost anthemic quality. One of the faster tracks, Save Us starts off with a ripping guitar riff and once everybody else jumps in, it just kills from beginning to end!! Michael's voice is amazingly strong here and the chorus also features some very speedy palm-muted guitar riffs. Truly another highlight of this album. A very slow, anthemic beginning to March Of Time gives way to another lightning fast double-bass/guitar riff which propels yet another killer track. The chorus is very spirited on this song and again features lots of layering and backup vocals. A nice acoustic guitar riff accompanies Michael during the intro to the mega-epic title track Keeper Of The Seven Keys. The song features many different passages and tempo changes and was a major influence on the more Epic Metal acts around today (i.e. Rhapsody, Blind Guardian). The lyrics are pure epic fantasy and the track has the overall feeling of being a finale and a conclusion to the Keeper Of The Seven Keys saga begun on the previous album. Lots of guitar riffs and harmony leads just rip through this track and there's a cool, quiet almost Pink Floyd like passage mid song. The song builds to a climax with an awesome and very memorable chorus. An amazing epic track that really brings the album and the whole concept to a stunning and powerful conclusion.

Helloween's releases prior to this album were also very good and had the same sort of trademark sound, but the production and songwriting lacked the polish and power that this release has. The guitar playing of both Michael Weikath and Kai Hansen is simply amazing throughout this release and I still think it has the best guitar sound they've ever recorded. It has a more aggressive and metallic edge to it that was never really heard again on any of the releases after this one. The bass playing of Markus Grosskopf and the awesome drum attack of Ingo Schwichtenberg (R.I.P.) drives each and every track. Michael Kiske is regarded as one of the premier and most influential heavy metal vocalists of our time largely due to his performance on this album. They were really starting to mature as a band and as songwriters and everything just seemed to come together for this album. Unfortunately after the release of their awesome I Want Out Live (also called Live In The U.K.), internal problems developed leading to the departure of Kai Hansen (a founding member of the band), to form Gamma Ray. Bringing in Roland Grapow to fill the guitar vacancy, they released 2 more albums before the departure of Michael Kiske. Helloween rebounded triumphantly in 1994 with the release of Master Of The Rings, featuring ex Pink Cream 69 vocalist Andi Deris, and have enjoyed great success even to this day. Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II still sounds as good today as it did when I first listened to it back in 1988 and will go down as a defining moment in history for Helloween and for the heavy metal scene. The full impact of this album can be seen in the last few years as a lot of the newer Power Metal bands to come out starting in the mid 90's and even more recently, have cited this particular album as a major influence and many have adopted elements of the Helloween sound, whether it be the speedy riffs, very fast double-bass drumming or the vocal delivery style of Michael Kiske. A whole new style of metal music was created by Helloween and perfected on this release. It's legacy still lives on today..........

Killing Songs :
All of them....but especially Eagle Fly Free, Save Us, March Of Time, I Want Out, Keeper Of The Seven Keys
Marty quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Helloween that we have reviewed:
Helloween - Straight out of Hell reviewed by Chris and quoted 92 / 100
Helloween - Walls of Jericho reviewed by Olivier and quoted CLASSIC
Helloween - 7 Sinners reviewed by Kyle and quoted 87 / 100
Helloween - Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I reviewed by Storm and quoted CLASSIC
Helloween - Gambling With The Devil reviewed by Marty and quoted 90 / 100
To see all 19 reviews click here
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