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

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Album Review – Helloween / My God-Given Right (2015)

It’s our God-given right to keep banging our heads to the music by the happiest and most awesome Power Metal band in the world.

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My God-Given RightEvery single time Power Metal heroes Helloween release a new album, my metal heart is filled with joy. No other band beats those German metallers when the subject is fast and solid metal music charged with massive amounts of happiness and electricity. And when our beloved war dog guitarist Michael Weikath said My God-Given Right, the fifteenth studio album in their distinguished career, would be “just good old classic Heavy Metal the way it’s supposed to be”, I couldn’t get more excited to have it in my hands. What Mr. Weikath says, Mr. Weikath does, right?

After listening to My God-Given Right for the hundredth time let’s say he was absolutely spot on with his words, for the total delight of millions of Helloween maniacs all over the world, including myself. It’s beautiful and unswerving Heavy Metal, a metallic lecture to any musician on how to focus your energy and skills into crafting first-class music, and more important than that, it’s pure Helloween. In addition, guitarist Sascha Gerstner and drummer Daniel Löble seem to be getting more and more in sync with the rest of the band with each album, becoming an intrinsic part of the music by Helloween now, which of course brings only benefits to the band as a whole.

Thus, it’s when “Happy Happy Helloween” come ripping that you better get ready for an insane Rock N’ Roll party. Mixing elements from all of their albums, including even their iconic debut album Walls of Jericho, the opening track Heroes punches you right in the face with its powerful instrumental and beyond exciting rhythm and chorus (“Everyone can be a hero / We are, we are / Sometimes up then down to zero / We are, we are / Heroes, heroes”), followed by Battle’s Won, which reminds me a little of “Burning Sun” from their previous album, the also excellent Straight Out of Hell. It is Power Metal to the second power with Daniel leading the sonic attack, the type no other band in the world can create, with highlights to the balance between the lead vocals by Andi Deris and the efficient backing vocals. Then we have the title-track, My God-Given Right, which transpires Helloween from the Andi Deris-era, and I can’t wait to hear this tune live. Besides, you’ll be humming its beautiful riffs for weeks in a row, and it’s impossible not to love its “Star Wars meets Helloween” official video.

Right after that Power Metal trinity, why not hitting the dance floor with the entire band in the amazing Hard Rock/Heavy Metal tune Stay Crazy, one of the best tracks to be added to their setlist in my opinion? Those awesome riffs keep coming nonstop from the guitar duo comprised by Michael and Sascha, with kudos to Andi for an outstanding performance yet again. And sounding like a hybrid between “I Want Out” and “I Can”, the also excellent Lost in America is old school Helloween with the fresh touch of their latest works, with highlights to its fun lyrics and an amazing job done on guitars once again, especially in regards to the solos. Concluding this second trinity, the awesomeness goes on and on in Russian Roulé, a song that represents what I would call “badass Rock N’ Helloween”. Not only it has the heaviest riffs of the whole album, but Andi and Daniel are also thrilled while playing this song, with only one single question left to be answered: are you going to come out and play with the band?

Helloween 2015The Swing of a Fallen World is the weakest of all tracks, not actually fitting in with the rest of the album. Despite a desire for it to be epic, it ends up falling flat due to its very basic and repetitive instrumental, with no outstanding moments at all. Fortunatelly, the album quickly regains momentum with the relaxing ballad Like Everybody Else, a good option for soulmates to enjoy together. We know they’ve created better ballads through the years, but this is still a nice song, and of course the most interesting part are Andi’s vocals as they always work pretty well in slow songs. Then we have the superb Creatures in Heaven, a high-end Power Metal feast where Helloween prove why they’re the masters of this type of metal music: it’s exciting from start to finish, where they pay a tribute to themselves traveling back in time and back to the present and future of the band, with the riffs and solos by Michael and Sascha truly touching our hearts so amazing they are.

No one else could have written If God Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll but Mr. Andi Deris, as it’s pure Hard Rock with the entire band on fire delivering divine rock music to us mere mortals, enhanced by its witty lyrics (“Leather suits you better / Got to let your hair grow / Take the black and enjoy the new show / Welcome to an army spreading over the world / Wild and proud brothers / Haven’t you heard?”). And following the same rockin’ pattern, Living on the Edge is highly recommended to be part of your soundtrack for a road trip, where Michael, Sascha and one of my favorite bassists of all time, Mr. Markus Grosskopf, give us a lesson on how to flawlessly tame their strings.

Are you tired already? There’s no way you can get bored with Helloween, with more Power Metal at its finest to you in the form of Claws, a good complement to an amazing album, as well as You, Still of War, the longest of all tracks, which has an inner beauty that will turn it into a fan favorite without any doubt. It’s a lot more progressive than usual, showcasing those unique guitar duos we learned to love in their music, closing the regular version of the album the best possible way. And if you grab one of the special editions of My God-Given Right, there are different bonus songs, all pretty good, with Free World being my favorite due to its riffs.

However, as Helloween is not an ordinary band, My God-Given Right comes with the whole package. The artwork, once again created by German international photographer Martin Häusler, comes available as a 3D lenticular print (visible without 3D glasses), and you can also be totally entertained by the Helloween family providing their words of wisdom about each track of the album HERE, HERE and HERE.  Because, in the end, what really matters is that it’s our God-given right to stay crazy and keep banging our heads to the music by the happiest and most awesome Power Metal band in the world.

Best moments of the album: My God-Given Right, Stay Crazy, Russian Roulé, Creatures in Heaven and If God Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Worst moments of the album: The Swing of a Fallen World.

Released in 2015 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Heroes 3:51
2. Battle’s Won 4:53
3. My God-Given Right 3:30
4. Stay Crazy 4:05
5. Lost in America 3:35
6. Russian Roulé 3:53
7. The Swing of a Fallen World 4:53
8. Like Everybody Else 4:04
9. Creatures in Heaven 6:36
10. If God Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll 3:21
11. Living on the Edge 5:19
12. Claws 5:52
13. You, Still of War 7:21

Digital/Limited/Earbook Edition bonus tracks
14. I Wish I Were There 4:12
15. Wicked Game 3:56
16. Free World* 3:34
17. Nightmare** 4:43
18. More Than a Lifetime** 3:58

*Limited Edition Bonus track only
**Earbook Edition Bonus track only

Band members
Andi Deris – lead vocals
Michael Weikath – lead and rhythm guitars
Sascha Gerstner – lead and rhythm guitars
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Daniel Löble – drums

Album Review – Helloween / Walls of Jericho (1985)

Happy, Happy Helloween” revolutionize music with the first Power Metal album of all time.

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walls-of-jerichoMany Heavy Metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest already had pretty solid careers when Helloween started back in the 80’s, yet they became heavy music pioneers too when they released Walls of Jericho, the first Power/Melodic Metal album in the history of music. By the way, they have also made a lot of people confused ever since about the spelling of “Halloween” (with “A”) vs. the name of the band (with “E”).

Although Walls of Jericho was originally launched in 1985, this review also includes the extra songs added to the 1988 CD Edition from the 1985 EP/mini-LP Helloween and from the 1986 EP Judas for a very simple reason: they’re too good to be left out. Those extra songs are Starlight, Murderer, Warrior, Victim of Fate, Cry for Freedom and Judas, all very fast and heavy songs that at the time they were launched were a synonym for innovation in music. My favorite ones are Starlight and Victim of Fate, especially the first one with its unique intro and amazing riffs.

The intro to Starlight was taken from the movie Halloween III, and because it was so cool it became some kind of anthem sung by the Helloween fans before, during or after their live performances.

“Happy, Happy Helloween, Helloween, Helloween!
Happy, Happy Helloween, Silver Shamrocks!
Happy, Happy Helloween, Helloween, Helloween!
Happy, Happy Helloween, Silver Shamrocks!” 

Of course, the “Silver Shamrocks” part is usually substituted by some generic “oh oh oh oh” by the crowd, but that doesn’t make the song less cool. Due to its great success, the same rhythm was used to generate the intro Walls of Jericho (with no lyrics, though), which opens all Helloween concerts until today.

Then comes one of the top moments of the entire album: Ride the Sky is powerful, it has some crazy riffs and solos, and the lyrics are excellent to sing especially live. The following tracks are not marvelous, but are very consistent and add a lot of value to the album, like Metal Invaders (despite its stupid name). And finally we have what I consider the best songs from the album: Heavy Metal (Is the Law) has those Manowar-ish lyrics, chorus and attitude, while How Many Tears is the most perfect Power Metal song I’ve ever heard in my whole life.

helloween01All band members were amazing in Walls of Jericho, mainly the amazing guitar, singer and composer Kai Hansen and the drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg (R.I.P.). Unfortunately they’re no longer with the band, but at least Helloween still has Michael Weikath and Markus Grosskopf to keep alive the flame of the most influential Power Metal band in the world. And let’s not forget that we also have another great band now, Gamma Ray, which is pretty much Kai Hansen playing the same type of music from Walls of Jericho since his departure from Helloween.

In summary, Walls of Jericho is a revolutionary album that has never been mainstream, nor will ever be, but that is mandatory for all music fans that enjoy fast riffs and solos, superb guitar duos, and songs with a lot of energy. Moreover, if you’re a metalhead and you don’t know if the correct spelling is “Halloween” or “Helloween”, follow my advice and always write it with “E” even when you’re talking about the celebration. It’s a lot more badass this way.

Best moments of the album: Starlight, Ride the Sky, Heavy Metal (Is the Law) and How Many Tears.

Worst moments of the album: Reptile and Gorgar.

Released in 1985 Noise Records

Track listing
1. Starlight* 5:17
2. Murderer* 4:26
3. Warrior* 4:00
4. Victim of Fate* 6:37
5. Cry for Freedom* 6:02
6. Walls of Jericho / Ride the Sky 6:45
7. Reptile 3:45
8. Guardians 4:19
9. Phantoms of Death 6:33
10. Metal Invaders 4:10
11. Gorgar 3:57
12. Heavy Metal (Is the Law) 4:00
13. How Many Tears 7:15
14. Judas** 4:43

* Originally released in the 1985 EP/mini-LP Helloween
** Originally released in the 1986 EP Judas

Band members
Kai Hansen – vocals, guitar
Michael Weikath – guitar
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Ingo Schwichtenberg – drums

Concert Review – Helloween (The Opera House,Toronto, ON, 09/28/2013)

Helloween teaches a lesson in Power Metal at a venue too small for the importance of the band in the world of music.

OPENING ACTS: Battlesoul and Coldsteel

When I arrived at the Opera House, the band Battlesoul was already playing for a while, but from what I could see they did not inspire me to go after their songs when I got home. It’s just plain Folk Metal with nothing new added to their music, and the fact they were wearing kilts on stage didn’t help at all. Maybe in the future they can generate something more interesting, or at least improve their vocals because that was really annoying.

Then came Coldsteel with their Thrash Metal similar to what Anthrax used to do in the 80’s, which seems to be a pretty cool idea, but when the band hits the stage it’s not that cool. I didn’t know the band was created back in 1986 and that they got back to life in 2012 after a 20-year hiatus, but anyway they sounded like an amateur band to me. It was almost impossible to hear what the singer was saying between songs, and even worse to understand the lyrics due to the quality of the sound and music. The band had a lot of energy on stage, though, and as their setlist was not too long I didn’t feel bothered at all with their concert.

HELLOWEEN

IMG_0934Honestly, I’ll never understand why Helloween is so underrated in North America. They are so big in Brazil, Europe and Japan, that was hard for me to believe they were playing in such a small venue as the Opera House for less than 800 people. The band that invented Power/Melodic Metal should be playing for over 5,000 people in Canada and the USA, just like it happens in the rest of the world, but it seems North America is more into Thrash and Death Metal, and that no one here really cares about non-American bands.

However, one excellent thing about that is the fact that I had never been able to be so close to the band as during the Toronto gig. I’ve seen Helloween many times in Brazil and one in Russia, but always in huge sold-out venues with at least 3,000 people smashing each other to get closer to the stage. Being able to see in details every riff and solo from Michael Weikath, one of the best Power Metal guitarists of all time, and all the technique from Markus Grosskopf with his bass guitar, was totally awesome!

IMG_0925But the most important member of the band nowadays is Andi Deris. He’s been with Helloween for 20 years now, he’s an awesome frontman, he makes the fans go crazy, and although many “old school” fans keep complaining about his voice and that Michael Kiske should return to the band and blah blah blah, Andi has recorded so many amazing albums (Master of the Rings, The Time of the Oath, The Dark Ride, 7 Sinners and their most recent album, Straight Out of Hell) that I wouldn’t mind at all going to see Helloween playing only songs from the Deris-era. Besides, who wants to listen to anything from the horrible Pink Bubbles Go Ape or Chameleon live?

Back to the concert, the setlist was amazing and the crowd was insane! I’ve never seen so many mosh pits at a Helloween concert. In fact, I’ve NEVER seen ANY mosh pits at a Helloween concert! I guess that happened for a few reasons: as it was a small venue, there were only true Helloween fans there celebrating the band together; when huge bands play at smaller venues, they feel so happy to be back to their origins that they play faster, louder and heavier; North American headbangers love mosh pits more than they love their families; and besides two (beautiful) ballads, Helloween played only the most pure and fast Power Metal music a fan can ask for.

The entire concert was unforgettable, except for that useless drum solo that could have been substituted by another song like Burning Sun (which they’re also playing in some of their concerts instead of Steel Tormentor), and if I need to pick a few songs as the highlights of the night I would say Straight Out of Hell, Waiting for the Thunder and Live Now!, where Andi made that “stupid game” of left and right work even with less than a thousand people there. You sing Live Now! And you… shut the FUCK up!”

IMG_0936Of course people went crazy with classics such as Eagle Fly Free and I’m Alive, but the fact that the best songs of the night were brand new ones just proved Helloween is still very relevant not only to heavy music, but to everybody that enjoys GOOD music. and I really hope next time they come to Toronto they play at a better venue, even if that means I won’t be able to stay so close to my Power Metal heroes and get one of their guitar picks again.

Setlist
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (AC/DC tape)
Walls of Jericho (tape/intro)
Eagle Fly Free
Nabataea
Straight Out of Hell
Where the Sinners Go
Waiting for the Thunder
Steel Tormentor
Drum Solo
I’m Alive
Live Now!
Hold Me in Your Arms
If I Could Fly
Hell Was Made in Heaven
Power

Encore:
Are You Metal?
Dr. Stein

Encore II:
Future World
I Want Out
A Tale That Wasn’t Right (tape/outro)

Band members
Andi Deris – lead vocals
Michael Weikath – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Markus Grosskopf – bass, backing vocals
Sascha Gerstner – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Daniel Löble – drums