Helloween’s 1991 album Pink Bubbles Go Ape is a difficult album to judge. It has a strange place in the band’s discography and people have very different views on it.
In one way, it is a superbly produced slick melodic Hard Rock album. It features the absolutely phenomenal vocals and drums of Michael Kiske and Ingo Schwitchenberg, two of the genre’s finest ever musicians, both of whom are full of confidence, charisma and personality. It’s a different style than the fan’s wanted or expected, but made by damn talented guys.
On the other hand, it followed up the much beloved Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums and doesn’t live up to the insanely high standards set by those one-of-a-kind (ironic, since there’s two of ‘em) gems. Its good, but its not extra special good, and how can you call it equal without that extra magic?
Then some people complain about the strange titles like “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” and “Heavy Metal Hamsters.” Or the odd album art. Honestly though, the art is by one of the most loved and recognized artist in music-related history, who’ve worked with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd; and the music of those two songs is pretty damn good. “Heavy Metal Hamsters” in particular is an album highlight, it’s a fun Power Metal tune almost reminiscent of Gamma Ray’s “Rich And Famous.”
With all that going on, its hard to really judge. It’s a good album, but is it the album people wanted? No. It’s a good album but is it anywhere near as good as what came before? No. Its got elements that people find off-putting, even if I don’t care should I recommend it when I know it annoys so many people? Hmmm…
The difficult thing about this album is that I want to love it on an underdog level (I do have a bit of an over-fondness for the albums in the classic run that are the least popular, like Deep Purple’s Who Do We Think We Are? or Black Sabbath’s Technical Ecstasy) so I worry that’s clouding my objectivity. Are the songs good enough or not? The tracks ‘Kids Of The Century’ ‘Back On The Streets’ and ‘Goin Home’ are all fine melodic Metal songs that have great verses. I’ve already stated ‘Heavy Metal Hamsters’ is great even if the word Hamsters annoys some people. ‘The Chance’ has some great parts too (even if its better on their Live album), even if the synths are a bit too much.
On top of that, for me personally, some of the best material from this era are the B-sides. The version of the album with bonus tracks is rewarding, because tracks like the heavier “Run With The Back” and the very summery and melodic “Shit And Lobster” are pretty great. The oddly named, slow, “Le Hamborgious Walkways” is not what you’d expect from the band who wrote “I’m Alive” and “Ride The Sky” but man, it is a seriously impressive guitar exercise. I think if these were on the original album, and if they were sequenced so the most Keepers-esque material was first, then fans and critics would’ve been a lot more forgiving.
Overall; I wouldn’t feel comfortable making a recommendation either way. I think this album has a lot to offer. I don’t know if it offers the right things though. After this, the band would go even further away from the music fans wanted (Chamelon) and then come back with some of the finest albums of their whole career (Time Of The Oath, Straight Out Of Hell), so fan’s fears that the band would go too far were both founded and unfounded. As I say, this is a tough one to judge, did it signal the end of a great era, or was it a necessary transition so we’d have both Time Of The Oath AND Land Of The Free to enjoy?