|Review: Helloween - Master Of The Rings|
|Master Of The Rings|
Label: Sanctuary Records Group
Year released: 1994
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: September 4, 2010
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
for:Master Of The Rings
Well, here we have it, the album that brought German legends Helloween back from the dead. After the departure of Michael Kiske and the death of poor Ingo, it seemed it was now or never for Weikath and chums, and so finding replacements in Gamma Ray's Uli Kusch and Pink Cream 69's Andi Deris, the band produced one of their finest albums to date, the awesome Master Of The Rings. And although it isn't my favorite record of theirs (that would have to fall to Time Of The Oath or Better Than Raw), it is a nigh-on perfect album of melodic and catchy Euro Power Metal that is a must for everyone interested in the genre.
Now, Deris might not have been the most obvious choice to replace Kiske, as his raspy, hard rock-stylings were a far cry from the glass-shattering wail of his predecessor. But in time people would come to prefer Helloween with Deris at the helm (myself included), as it gave their sound more originality and character. Bands rarely get the opportunity to reinvent themselves successfully, and Helloween are the perfect example of this uncommon feat. Deris has such an idiosyncratic tone, he is practically unmistakable, and while his delivery is quirky and more than a little mad, he can hit all the notes Kiske could, and actually chill the bones while he's at it. His performance on this album is one of his best, and his voice is a genuine highlight here. As a rule, this album saw the band going back to their roots, playing full on Power Metal and nothing else for the first time since their Keepers period, though the songs here are modern and fully formed, sounding almost like a new band. Deris also got a chance to write for the band, and his style fits the band perfectly (he would go on to write the majority of their material, as it happens).
Classic after classic is shed out here, from the harmonic drive of "Soul Survivor", the Power Metal eloquence of "Where The Rain Grows", the silly but oh so catchy "Secret Alibi" (which features one of the genre's best intro riffs), to the mid-paced "Why?" and the metallic closer "Still We Go", the band fire on all cylinders, with Roland Grapow and Michael Weikath trading harmonies and solos with fresh vigor, Kusch hammering the kit into the stratosphere, and the great Markus Grosskopf laying down some of his best bass lines. As usual, there is a smattering of humour on Master Of The Rings, with "Perfect Gentlemen" and "Mr. Ego" being more than bearable additions to their comedic cannon, though the only weak link here is "Take Me Home", a track which while fast and heavy, has never pushed my buttons.
Master Of The Rings, with its cool production and excellent songs, set the blueprint in some ways for what was to come. Helloween have always been innovators, but this was the album to push the restart switch on their career, and without it, I doubt they'd still exist. All fans of Power Metal should own this record. If you like your metal catchy, melodic, and spellbinding, this is an essential blind purchase.
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