Thursday, February 11, 2010

As the Palaces Burned: Helloween - The Dark Ride

On September 24, 1991 Nirvana released Nevermind. Nine years later, a reunited Iron Maiden played Madison Square Garden. The time in between was one of metal's bleaker periods, where the genre's mainstream face all but disappeared and it retreated not just underground, but underwater. To celebrate the rare gems of this dark time - and remember our fortune now that metal has ceased to be such a dirty word - we've launched As the Palaces Burned, a weekly series published every Wednesday covers metal albums of note released between 1991 and 2000.

This is the sixth installment of As the Palaces Burned. Of the six releases I have focused on this is the third record produced by Roy Z. I wonder if history will show him to have single handedly kept Metal alive during this bleak period. The man got Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford to make Metal again, is an amazing guitarist in his own right, and produced Helloween’s masterpiece from 2000 The Dark Ride. This is enough to forget for a moment that he gets pretty awful drum sounds and the big fail that was Judas Priest’s Angel of Retribution.

Oh Helloween, the band no one in America understands. Most people tuned out after Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 2. Helloween are cheeky and inconsistent and don’t fit into an easily digestible mold. How does an album or even a *title* like Pink Bubbles Go Ape get promoted to America? Who do they think they are, the German Weird Al? Most Americans don’t even understand the genius of Weird Al’s original material.

So you have this bizarre band with a weird name and a weird logo that always seems to get the shaft over here. And it is a damned awful shame. If the work I am doing on this blog turns just one person on to how amazing Helloween really is, I will have done my job as a rambling retro-reviewer.

Helloween is an awesome band. It is true they have virtually no original members anymore. The lineup that recorded The Dark Ride only has a tenuous link to Helloween’s past. Get over it. Think of them like a German Power-Metal version of Menudo. Helloween is a spirit and the lineup led by the fantastic vocals of Andi Deris lives up to their spirit perfectly.

The Dark Ride is the album in my fantasy Glee universe where Iron Maiden and Queen can be mashed up perfectly. For those like me who think Blind Guardian is too cheesy or Dragonforce don’t have strong enough songs, Helloween is the perfect band. After a brief keyboard intro the album kicks off strong with “Mr. Torture,” an incredibly nonsensical ode to a male dominatrix (dominator?). The first half of the album follows with incredibly strong traditional Power Metal.

Then the second half is where things start going bonkos. Notably the pseudo gothic new-wave of “The Departed (Sun is Going Down)” and the hilarious “I Live for your Pain.” This band is definitely not tied down to any formulas. “Immortal” is a keyboard driven pseudo-ballad that even the boys can get behind. What is a better way to express love than “I reigned as God/I'm monumental/Soon I will arise/With you by my side/And we will radiate the skies?”

So in summary, you need to start getting really into Helloween. This is a perfect introduction. Once you love this lineup check out Master of the Rings and Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 3.

The Departed (Sun is Going Down)

I Live for your Pain

Mr. Torture

1 comment:

Eric said...

Today, with the use of the word "bonkos," this blog reached its apotheosis.

I think it might be time for me to give Helloween another try.