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Helloween – Unarmed – Best of 25th Anniversary: Review

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Germany’s power metal pioneers, Helloween, have existed for a whole 25 years, despite the numerous lineup changes. Though Unarmed – Best of 25th Anniversary was released in the Asia region on Dec 23, the rest of the world can expect it on Jan 29. As a celebration of their lengthy existence, the band decided to release a sort of thank you album for the fans. However, if you are a fan, do not expect to feel thanked. The album barely qualifies as a metal album, if at all. The deviation from the band’s standard style will be welcomed warmly by few, but scorned with contempt by many more.

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The Music (rating: B-)

  1. Dr. Stein (Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 2)
  2. Future World (Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 1)
  3. If I Could Fly (The Dark Ride)
  4. Where the Rain Grows (Master of the Rings)
  5. The Keeper’s Trilogy
  6. Eagle Fly Free (Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 2)
  7. Perfect Gentleman (Master of the Rings)
  8. Forever and One (Never) (The Time of the Oath)
  9. I Want Out (Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 2)
  10. Fallen to Pieces (Gambling with the Devil)
  11. A Tale That Wasn’t Right (Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 1)

As you can see, Unarmed consists of no new songs. They are all re-recordings of what the band considers to be their best. However, they share very few similarities with their predecessors. With the exception of “The Keeper’s Trilogy,” they are light rock (possibly even pop) as opposed to metal. The vocals are much lower, the double bass drumming is virtually non-existent, and the guitar solos are acoustic non-shredding. Many orchestral instruments are included in this album (especially in “The Keeper’s Trilogy”). If guitar is evident, it is usually acoustic or with a light crunch. The drumming is light and the bass is noticeably groovier and more melodic. So if you expect vintage Helloween, you will get the opposite.

Hate is most probably the dominant sentiment towards this album. Most will immediately be turned off just by the fact that it is not very metal; I almost was. Due to my love for Helloween, I forced myself around the initial shock and listened to the album in full. Honestly, it’s not that bad. Despite the absolute reversal in atmosphere and genre, the overall base and form of every song remains mostly unchanged. So basically, the band didn’t go too far out of their way as to ruin the classics (for the most part). Such songs as “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” and “Dr. Stein” even have an appropriate spin to them, while others like “I Want Out” are poorly executed. There are a a couple hits and a couple misses which balance out to a marginally mediocre album.

I could be wrong and this album could actually be really good. My judgment could be clouded by my overwhelming expectations from these metal masterpieces. However, the fact remains that none of these songs will come close standing their ground to the original recordings. For example, how can “Eagle Fly Free” compare to the 1988 version with more than a minute cut out; the section with the bass, guitar, and drum solos? And how can “Future World” be better without the chorus’ ear-pleasing E5 vocals? Such musical aspects are what fueled these songs, and the re-recordings are running on empty. Now I must ask: what reason do I have to purchase this album?

Overall (rating: C)

Even if you think the music is good, there are better options. If I said the originals greatly surpass the new versions, only one in a million would argue against me. So why not just buy the originals? More than half of the album is comprised of the Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, and those are must-haves in any metalhead’s collection. I honestly have not heard any other Helloween albums, but I’ve heard praise towards them. Instead of buying this album, why not buy the others? Despite your opinion of the quality of this album, the truth is that there is little incentive, if any, to buy this album.

Basically, I think it is an okay album. But given what Helloween has already brought to the table, this album has nothing profound to offer, not even a good reason to purchase it (other than a pretty cover). Being a fan, I appreciate this thank you gift, but I’ll have to say “thanks, but no thanks”. I haven’t given up on these guys, and I’m looking forward to their next “real” album, whenever that may be. Good luck in the future, boys!

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