Album Review – Helloween / Helloween (2021)

A dream come true for all generations of “Happy, Happy Helloween” fans from all over the world.

5.0rating

helloween-helloween-2021The first album to feature vocalist and guitarist Kai Hansen since the 1988 all-time classic Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part II and the first one with vocalist Michael Kiske since 1993’s Chameleon, the self-titled sixteenth album by German Power Metal legends Helloween has everything a diehard fan of the band could have asked for (and more). Produced by Charlie Bauerfeind, co-produced by Dennis Ward, mixed by Ronald Prent, mastered by Sascha “Busy” Bühren, and displaying a classy, old school artwork by Eliran Kantor, Helloween marks the longest gap between two albums from the band, released six years after My God-Given Right, but the wait was absolutely worth it. Featuring for the first time ever Hansen, Kiske and Andi Deris sharing lead vocal duties, in addition to Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner on the guitars, Markus Grosskopf on bass and Dani Löble on drums, their new album is a dream come true after the critically-acclaimed Pumpkins United World Tour, a precise time travel through all phases of the band’s history going back to the roots but at the same time at the speed of light towards the future, therefore offering a complete metal universe within its 12 incendiary songs and opening a new chapter after 35 years of a beyond glorious career.

Ominous sounds kick off the beautiful Out for the Glory, a lesson in classic, fast-paced and extremely melodic Heavy and Power Metal that Helloween shaped up in the 80’s, and therefore an ass-kicking start to the album. Furthermore, it’s impressive how Mr. Kiske still has that hypnotizing voice from decades ago, followed by Fear of the Fallen, showcasing a vibrant singalong chorus (“Here come The Fear Of The Fallen / We rise when you’re calling / A light in the night / We are the flame in the fire / The voice in the choir / We’re always nearby”) while Kai, Weikath and Sascha slash their axes majestically. Then get ready for a Hard Rock and Heavy Metal extravaganza entitled Best Time, where Andi, Kiske and Kai will put you to dance and sing with them while Markus and Dani are simply flawless with their rumbling bass jabs and headbanging beats. And more of Markus’ metallic bass is offered to us all in the powerful Mass Pollution, an ode to all things metal where Andi takes the lead with his high-pitched screams accompanied by the stylish solos by the band’s guitar triumvirate, keeping the level of adrenaline in the album absurdly high.

helloween-helloween-vinyl-boxset

Helloween Helloween Limited Vinyl Boxset

More modern sounds permeate the air in Angels, with Kiske taking the lead with his operatic vocals from start to finish. It’s a good Helloween song with all of their trademark elements, albeit not as powerful as the rest of the album, whereas Markus makes the earth shake with his bass attack in the fast and melodic Rise Without Chains, leaning towards the band’s more recent creations with Andi on vocals, resulting in great option for hitting the road with your loved ones. Then an upbeat vibe brings joy to our hearts in the dancing tune Indestructible, where the band’s guitar trio keeps embellishing the airwaves with their riffs and solos while Andi and Kiske are beautifully supported by Kai’s unparalleled backing vocals; followed by Robot King, another contemporary Helloween tune with Andi and Dani dictating the pace with their respective screams and beats, while the guitar lines by Weikath, Sascha and Kai will bring fire to your ears.

The last part of the album begins with another solid composition titled Cyanide, with Andi showcasing all his vocal potency accompanied by the groovy and melodious riffage, bass jabs and beats by his bandmates, and get ready for a journey back to the 80’s with the mesmerizing voice of Mr. Kiske in Down in the Dumps, once again presenting the pounding beast by Dani intertwined with a classic riff lesson by Helloween’s undisputed axe masters. Lastly, the instrumental interlude Orbit will heighten our senses for the absolutely stunning 12-minute aria Skyfall, an instant classic offering us fans another one of Helloween’s fantastic and memorable choruses (“I fell from the sky, so don’t ask me why I’m feeling so down / attacked, shot down and wrecked, / there’s no turning back to find my way home”). Moreover, the music itself is superb, full of breaks and variations and with all band members kicking some serious ass nonstop, or in other words, a lecture in German Heavy and Power Metal that I can’t wait to see them playing live. What a brilliant vocal performance by Andi and Kiske, I must say, not to mention the epicness flowing from the band’s breathtaking riffs and solos until the song’s climatic ending.

helloween-2021In case you’re from another planet like the little alien from Skyfall and haven’t listened to their unparalleled new album yet, you can enjoy it in its entirety on Spotify, but if I were you I would definitely purchase a copy of it by clicking HERE or HERE, in special the limited vinyl boxset including an earbook with the album on CD, a three-track bonus CD (with of course Pumpkins United being by far my favorite one) and a black double vinyl including two bonus tracks, plus a clock, an album cover print, six pins, a necklace, a patch and a certificate, which you can buy from Nuclear Blast’s webstores in Europe or in North America. And of course, don’t forget to stay updated with all things Helloween on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube. The one and only Mr. Michael Weikath characterizes the band’s new lineup and the album in his own way, saying that “it is the incomprehensible encounter of seven musicians who are working as friends and even family and created something that no one would have thought it could be possible. It is like awaking from a sleep but still being in an incredible dream.” Well, we must all agree with him as it’s indeed a dream come true for all of us fans, as I already mentioned, and may Helloween stay united and delivering first-class metal music to us all like what’s in their sensational new album for decades to come.

Best moments of the album: Out for the Glory, Best Time, Mass Pollution, Indestructible and Skyfall.

Worst moments of the album: Angels.

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing  
1. Out for the Glory 7:18
2. Fear of the Fallen 5:38
3. Best Time 3:35
4. Mass Pollution 4:14
5. Angels 4:42
6. Rise Without Chains 4:56
7. Indestructible 4:42
8. Robot King 7:07
9. Cyanide 3:29
10. Down in the Dumps 6:01
11. Orbit 1:04
12. Skyfall 12:11

Earbook/Japanese Limited Edition Disc 2 bonus tracks
13. Golden Times 4:48
14. Save My Hide 3:11
15. Pumpkins United 6:21

Japanese Limited Edition Disc 2 bonus track
16. We Are Real 4:24

Band members
Michael Kiske – vocals
Andi Deris – vocals
Kai Hansen – guitars, vocals
Michael Weikath – guitars
Sascha Gerstner – guitars
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Dani Löble – drums

Guest musicians
Jens Johansson – keyboards on “Skyfall”
Matthias Ulmer – keyboards
Xavier Russell – narration on “Out for the Glory”

Concert Review – Helloween (Espaço das Américas, São Paulo, Brazil, 10/29/2017)

What we once thought was unlikely to happen became reality and, my friends, it was one HELL of a night!

Have you ever imagined seeing Michael Kiske, Kai Hansen and Andi Deris together on the same stage? Yes, I know, we have seen Kiske and Hansen together with Unisonic before, we have seen Kiske singing HELLOWEEN classics beautifully, we have seen Hansen as a special guest on Helloween concerts, but the three pieces together feel so right that it is hard to think how it hasn’t happened before. The Pumpkins United World Tour is real now, it’s a huge celebration to the band’s legacy and I am not afraid to say that this is one of the most amazing tours of this year!

This tour was announced a year ago and the first date confirmed was in São Paulo (although the tour actually started in Mexico). I have got to say Brazilians love Helloween, tickets were sold out in a blink of an eye and the band announced a second date – again sold out. We were also informed that these two concerts were going to be recorded to a near future release in DVD, so we couldn’t be more excited. Unfortunately, guitarist Roland Grapow wasn’t invited to join the band on this historical moment (according to himself), which is really a shame.

Without an opening act, Helloween went straight to the point and got the party started at 7:30pm at the Espaço das Américas venue with the iconic Halloween, with Deris and Kiske singing together. This was enough to make 8,000 grown adults sing loud, smile, cry, jump, put their hands in the air, fall on their knees and thank for being there (I am not exaggerating, Brazilian fans are really this passionate and intense). After the song, both vocalists thanked all the fans and Deris remembered that 10 years ago they recorded a live album and DVD in São Paulo (Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy World Tour 2005/2006) because Brazilian fans were the loudest in the world, so they wanted to do it again. The duo also introduced us to their two friends, Doc and Seth, the funny animated pumpkins on the screen who were responsible for “choosing” the night’s setlist, focusing on classics but also giving a space to songs released after the 2000s.

Photos by Leandro Anhelli – http://www.anhelli.com.br/

It was incredible to see Kiske and Deris singing side by side but the night wasn’t only about them. Kai Hansen, Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner were playing heavier and louder than ever, and in perfect harmony. Weikath was in his usual “low profile mode” on his corner of the stage, but as technical and impressive as always, while Hansen and Gerstner were moving all the time along the stage and interacting with the fans in the front row. Markus Grosskopf smiled all the time and alongside Dani Löble didn’t miss one beat at all. The whole team was clearly happy and connected.

When it was time for Hansen to take over the microphone on a medley of Starlight, Ride the Sky, Judas and Heavy Metal (Is the Law), the PA system died not once, but twice. On the first time, the musicians took some minutes to notice as the crowd kept singing in support as if nothing wrong was happening, until a sound technician came in to the stage and asked them to stop. They left and after some minutes Hansen apologized and said they were going to start over. When the sound failed for the second time, they left the stage for a little longer, 20 minutes or so, which made us think of a worst case scenario like a cancellation or something. Luckily, the team managed to fix everything and the band could hit the stage for Kai’s moment to shine.

Photos by Leandro Anhelli – http://www.anhelli.com.br/

Right after that, Deris and Kiske returned to the stage. Kiske joked that in all these years they have seen many things on the road, but never a PA that failed twice. Then, they gave the fans a moment to calm down a bit. Deris said it was a moment for a ballad, especially for the girls (he said the same thing before when they played If I Could Fly) and they made a beautiful duo singing Forever and One (Neverland); however, Kiske mentioned guys also love ballads, and all the fans shouted a loud “YEAAAH” in response.

There is no such thing as an ordinary concert for Helloween and they even know how to make a drum solo an emotional moment. Lights out on stage, Dani started with some beats and then images of a happy and precise Ingo Schwichtenberg – the original drummer, dead in 1995 at the age of 29 – were projected on the screen. Dani started to follow Ingo’s beats as if they both were on a very technical drums battle. It ended up with Ingo “playing alone” and many of us crying, clapping and shouting his name in a very loving tribute. It’s worth to mention that on the previous night the screen didn’t work for some time and unfortunately the fans couldn’t see such beautiful moment.

Power, How Many Tears, Eagle Fly Free, Keeper of the Seven Keys, Future World and I Want Out made a killer final sequence, with KOT7K being the highlight of the show undoubtedly. After 3 amazing hours the show was over, but we had energy left for more. Some great songs were left out of the setlist, including the recently released single Pumpkins United, but well, that’s okay. And despite the technical difficulties, I did not see one single person complaining; quite the contrary, everybody went back home with a big smile on their faces, and that feeling of being part of something really awesome and unique. To finish this review, if I can leave a piece of advice for you all, my metalhead friends, I’d say: please go see this concert if Helloween come to your town/country on this very special tour! You will remember this amazing night forever with a smile on your face and possibly tears of joy in your eyes.

Setlist
Intro: Let Me Entertain You (Robbie Williams song)
Halloween (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Dr. Stein (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
I’m Alive (with Michael Kiske)
If I Could Fly (with Andi Deris)
Are You Metal? (with Andi Deris)
Rise and Fall (with Michael Kiske)
Waiting for the Thunder (with Andi Deris)
Perfect Gentleman (with Andi Deris)
Starlight / Ride the Sky / Judas / Heavy Metal (Is the Law) (with Kai Hansen)
Forever and One (Neverland) (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
A Tale That Wasn’t Right (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
I Can (with Andi Deris)
Drums Solo (Dani Löble & Ingo Schwichtenberg ‘battle’) – Ingo Tribute
Livin’ Ain’t No Crime / A Little Time (with Michael Kiske)
Why? (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Sole Survivor (with Andi Deris)
Power (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
How Many Tears (with Andi Deris, Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen)
Eagle Fly Free (with Michael Kiske)
Keeper of the Seven Keys (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Future World (with Michael Kiske)
I Want Out (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)

Band members
Andi Deris – vocals
Michael Kiske – vocals
Kai Hansen – vocals, guitars
Michael Weikath – guitars
Sascha Gerstner – guitars
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Dani Löble – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Daísa Munhoz

daisa01

How dare you look at me in the eye?

Time to fly back to South America, more specifically to the municipality of Bariri, São Paulo, Brazil, located about 300km from the city of São Paulo (and about 700km from the city of Rio de Janeiro), to talk about another Brazilian Heavy Metal diva, Daísa Munhoz, the beautiful and talented frontwoman of Brazilian Progressive Metal band Vandroya. If you’re simply fanatic for traditional Heavy Metal, I would say she might be the girl of your dreams.

Owner of a very powerful and melodic voice, Daísa started singing when she was only 9 years old, and at the age of fourteen she was already part of a “travelling band”. Our diva said that although she never actually took any singing lessons, she grew up surrounded by every kind of musicians, rehearsals and jam sessions every single day, as her parents are musicians too. That helped her a lot in terms of getting used to how the world of music works, and she learned a lot from every musician that was close to her, especially her mother. She also plays the piano, but “in a mediocre way” in her own words, mainly because she ends up using it more like a guide during her writing and composing process, or sometimes just as a distraction or to relax a little.  Daísa said she never really had any interest in specializing herself in the piano, nor the patience or discipline to do so.

It was when our Heavy Metal bombshell was around 18 or 19 years old that she founded Vandroya, having recorded so far with the band a 2-track demo entitled Within Shadows, in 2005, and more recently their first full-length album, One, in 2012 via Spiritual Beast Records and in 2013 via Inner Wound Recordings. And stay tuned, because the compositions for the next Vandroya album are 100% finished and the recording process will start really soon. By the way, Daísa explained the word “Vandroya” means nothing specifically: it was just a suggestion from a friend back in their early years, based on a character in Avantasia who is called Vandroy. The band just loved the way it sounded.

In addition, you can also see our diva in action in many other different bands and projects. She has been performing for years, including her one time all female band called Inlakesh, as well as a Led Zeppelin tribute band named Black Dog. Not only that, she recorded the vocals on track Song of Deliverance, from the 2013 album Exodus by Slovakian Progressive Power Metal band Signum Regis, as well as the vocals as “Judith” or “Judith, The Princess” in three different albums by Brazilian Melodic Power Metal band Soulspell (a Metal Opera project created by Brazilian drummer Heleno Vale): A Legacy of Honor (2008), The Labyrinth of Truths (2010) and Hollow’s Gathering (2012), winning the Best Female Vocalist award from Whiplash.net in 2010 for her work with Soulspell.

There are so many awesome songs with Daísa on vocals on YouTube you can spend hours and hours just listening and watching to our diva kicking ass, so in order for you to get a delicious taste of her unique voice and the mighty metal music played by Vandroya, my recommendations are the beautiful ballad Why Should We Say Goodbye, the Helloween-ish Power Metal tune The Last Free Land (which I’m pretty sure will inspire you so much you’ll buy Vandroya’s debut album after the first listen), the smooth acoustic version of No Oblivion For Eternity, a live performance of one of their first songs, Within Shadows, as well as their recent cover version for the song Heaven, by Canadian icon Bryan Adams.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In regards to her main music influences, it’s important to say that Robert Plant is her biggest idol of all time, with the way he sings and moves having a huge impact on her onstage performance, which by the way is beyond superb. However, there are so many awesome artists and bands that it’s hard to name just a few. Sacred names such as Dio, Freddy Mercury, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Russel Allen, Robert Plant, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, Doro and Ann Wilson are among her biggest idols, being also highly influenced by Iron Maiden, of course, and many German metal bands, especially Helloween, with the unique voice of Michael Kiske leading her into the world of heavy music. Vandroya playing one of my top Helloween songs of all time, the classic March Of Time, is truly outstanding and an amazing tribute from Daísa and her band to the best Teutonic metal band of all time.

In one of her interviews, Daísa stated she has so many idols it’s very hard to choose just a few for a “dream tour”, but that she would truly love to be part of a festival only formed by female-fronted metal bands. It’s about time someone from the Metal Female Voices Fest invites her and the other members of Vandroya to be part of any future editions of the festival, don’t you think?

Lastly, although Daísa grew up listening to a lot of classic rock and hard rock bands, always being completely fanatic for Led Zeppelin, when asked about the top 5 Heavy Metal albums that changed her life, she listed the following ones: Pink Bubbles Go Ape (Helloween), Cowboys from Hell (Pantera), …And Justice for All (Metallica), The Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden) and Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath), I guess not necessarily in this order. Take a good look at this list and answer me if this is not enough awesomeness to consider Daísa a true badass metalhead!

Daísa Munhoz’s Official Facebook page
Vandroya’s Official Facebook page

“…I actually started to search for more female singers and I discovered a lot of amazing and brave warriors that faced this male-dominated market and won it. You know what? I just realized I know so many female singers I could write a book about their careers!” – Daísa Munhoz