German metal outfit Helloween were formed in Hamburg in 1984, evolving out of Iron Fist and Second Hell, two local bands doing the rounds at the time. The initial line-up included Ingo Schwichenburg on drums, Michael Weikath on guitar, Kai Hansen on guitar and vocals and Markus Grosskopf on bass. After releasing two tracks on the Noise label's "Death Metal" compilation in 1984, the band r eleased their self-titled debut mini album through the label the following y ear. They soon gained a strong following with their unique blend of classy p ower metal aided by the addition of new vocalist Michael Kiske. Their "Keeper of the Seven Keys Part One" album, released in 1987, showed the band adopting a more melodic approach and they embarked on a successful European tour that year. They appeared at 1988's Donnington Monsters of Rock Festival and were very well received. Hansen left in 1989 to form his own outfit, Gamma Ray, and was replaced by the very competent Roland Grapow. In 1990, they moved over to EMI Records and released their fairly good "Pink Bubbles Go Ape", although it was generally felt that the band were a shadow of their former selves and appeared to be missing Hansen and his songwriting skills. Kiske was the next to leave the band, followed by Schwichenburg, and their respective replacements were ex-Pink Cream 69 vocalist Andi Deris and Ulli Kusch. Helloween continued to record well into the nineties, releasing a number of very good live and studio albums, with the above line-up proving to be fairly stable (they appear on our featured album, which is essentially an album of covers by classic bands such as Babe Ruth, Abba, Jethro Tull and, in the case of our featured track, Cream). A new album, "The Dark Ride", released on Nuclear Blast Records in 2000, still features the above line-up, and demonstrates a band that still have a lot to offer. Other "off-shoots" to Helloween, apart from Hansen's Gamma Ray, are a few solo albums by Kiske, Deris and Grapow. A tribute to Helloween album, "The Keepers of Jericho", featuring bands such as Metalium, Heaven's Gate, Labyrinth, Luca Turilli and others, was also released

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Biography by Ed Rivadavia
Alongside Switzerland's Celtic Frost and Sweden's Bathory, Germany's Helloween were possibly the most influential heavy metal band to come out of Europe during the 1980s. By taking the hard riffing and minor key melodies handed down from metal masters like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, then infusing them with the speed and energy introduced by the burgeoning thrash metal movement, Helloween crystallized the sonic ingredients of what is now known as power metal. Sadly, just as they were on the verge of breaking to a wider audience — even flirting with American success — the band's meteoric rise was rudely interrupted by internal strife and a string of bad business decisions. These blunders kept them from ever regaining their original momentum, but Helloween took their hard-knock lessons in stride and continued to prosper in the international metal arena on their own terms. More importantly, they remained the benchmark by which most every power metal band is still measured.

Helloween were formed in Hamburg, Germany, by guitarists Kai Hansen and Michael Weikath, bassist Markus Grosskopf, and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. Originally named Second Hell then Iron Fist before morphing into Helloween in 1982, they signed with Germany's own fledgling Noise International two years later. With Hansen also handling vocals and the bulk of songwriting duties, the quartet recorded its self-titled debut mini-album in early 1985. The full-length Walls of Jericho and the Judas maxi-single followed the year after, and the media was soon buzzing over the band's thrash-fueled interpretation of classic heavy metal. Countless fans across continental Europe were also fast converting to the band's cause, but Hansen remained dissatisfied with his singing ability, and felt Helloween needed a proper frontman in order to achieve their full potential. Enter teenage vocalist Michael Kiske, whose high-pitched delivery followed in the footsteps of previous heavy metal banshees like Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson.

The new chemistry proved as explosive on-stage as it did in the studio, and with their classic lineup now intact, Helloween were ready for the big time. Returning to the studio in early 1987, the band emerged in May with Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 1, a landmark recording that remains arguably the single most influential power metal album to date. Its volatile combination of power and melody would inspire an entire generation of metal bands, and transformed Helloween into bona fide superstars all over Europe and the U.K., even making tentative inroads into America at the time. The band toured relentlessly for the rest of the year and into 1988 (including a lengthy opening stint with Iron Maiden), but despite this manic work schedule, they still found time to record the aptly titled Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 2. Released in September 1988, the record was another blockbuster that crashed the U.K. Top 30, but its uneven songwriting (especially from longtime leader Kai Hansen) revealed the beginnings of a major band crisis.

Helloween's watershed performance at that year's Donington Monsters of Rock Festival proved to be their crowning glory, but for Hansen, his dream come true also represented the culmination of his ambitions for the group. Shockingly, the guitarist soon announced his departure from the band he had helmed to the top, claiming that Helloween were now too big a beast for him to control. (He would soon make a fresh start with a new outfit called Gamma Ray, which, to no one's surprise, sounded remarkably like Helloween.) But the remaining members of Helloween weren't about to let their shot at stardom slip away, and after drafting former Rampage guitarist Roland Grapow, they got right back to work with a sold-out tour of the U.K. Impressed by the band's momentum, giant EMI stepped in and offered to sign them away from the ever troubled Noise Records, but in doing so, wound up igniting a legal dispute that would sideline Helloween for nearly two years. Several live albums (Live in the U.K. for Europe, Keepers Live for Japan, and I Want Out: Live for the U.S.) were released to distract the fans during this hiatus, and the band obtained added support from the mighty Sanctuary management team (Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., etc.) to boot.

Confident that they'd accumulated little, if any rust from their extended layoff, Helloween finally returned to action with the oddly titled Pink Bubbles Go Ape in 1991. But no amount of EMI or Sanctuary muscle could compensate for the scattered, unfocused songwriting that dominated the album. Furthermore, the band's quirky attempts at humor had grown so forced that fans weren't sure what to make of furious metal anthems with names like the title track and "Heavy Metal Hamsters." The record bombed in no uncertain terms, as did its even more schizophrenic follow-up, Chameleon. Recorded in 1993 by an obviously shell-shocked band, its poor showing only exacerbated growing internal dissension, which culminated with the ousting of both Kiske (off to launch a solo career) and Schwichtenberg due to drug-related physical and mental health issues. Fair-weather friends EMI and Sanctuary also decided to cut their losses at this time, leaving the shattered remnants of Helloween to fend for themselves. Attempting to regroup as fast as possible, Helloween brought in new singer Andi Deris and drummer Uli Kusch to record 1994's Master of the Rings, a small but determined step in the right direction. Then tragedy struck, when former drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg — a diagnosed manic depressive whose worsening condition had been partly to blame for his dismissal — took his own life, throwing himself in front of a train near his native Hamburg.

Shaken to the core, but as driven as ever, Helloween dedicated 1996's The Time of the Oath to their fallen friend, and, coincidentally, the album turned out to be the strongest since their glory years, doing much to resurrect their career. The ensuing tour spawned the double-disc set High Live and confirmed the band's return to form as major players in the international metal arena (in Europe and Japan, they were arguably bigger than ever). Helloween continued to prosper with 1998's Better Than Raw, 1999's celebratory Metal Jukebox covers album, and 2000's The Dark Ride, and not even the departure of longtime members Grapow and Kusch could slow them for long. Now regarded as elder statesmen of Euro-metal, Helloween celebrated their achievements with 2002's Treasure Chest greatest-hits set. This was followed by 2003's Rabbit Don't Come Easy, which introduced new guitarist Sascha Gerstner and featured Motörhead's Mikkey Dee guesting on drums until a permanent replacement could be found in Stefan Schwarzmann (ex-U.D.O., Running Wild and many more). 

 

Markus Grosskopf
Kai Hansen
Michael Kiske
Ingo Schwichtenberg
Michael Weikath
Andi Deris
Roland Grapow
Uli Kusch

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Coroner
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Annihilator
Tankard
Slayer
Sacred Reich
Sabbat
Metallica
Corrosion of Conformity
Anthrax

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Helloween - 1986 - Walls of Jericho - 3/5

Helloween - 1987 - Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 1 - 4.5/5

Helloween - 1988 - Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 2 - 3/5

Helloween - 1989 - I Want Out, Live - 1.5/5

Helloween - 1989 - Live in the UK - 1.5/5

Helloween - 1991 - Pink Bubbles Go Ape - 2/5

Helloween - 1994 - Chameleon - 2/5

Helloween - 1994 - Master of the Rings - 3/5

Helloween - 1996 - High Live - 4/5

Helloween - 1996 - The Time of the Oath - 3/5

Helloween - 1998 - Better Than Raw - 4/5

Helloween - 1999 - Metal Jukebox - 3/5

Helloween - 2000 - Mr. Torture - 2.5/5

Helloween - 2000 - The Dark Ride - 4/5

Helloween - 2003 - Rabbit Don't Come Easy - 4/5

Helloween - 2005 - Keeper of the Seven Keys, The Legacy - 3.5/5

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