In 2005; 18 years after they changed the world of Power Metal forever by releasing their landmark album Keeper Of The Seven Keys Prt 1, the legendary German band Helloween released Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy… a lengthy double album which pays homage to that classic and its 1988 follow up.
It’s a bit of a strange move however. When people think of Keeper Of The Seven Keys 1 & 2, they usually (rightly or wrongly) think of the unique guitar work of Kai Hansen, the thunderous and unique drumming of Ingo Schwichenberg, and the unique (sensing a theme here?) vocal talents of Michael Kiske. Something about the strange alchemy of the mix of those people’s talents and their coming of age resulted in two of the genre’s most memorable ever releases.
It would make sense, sort of, that after some media people and grumpy long term fans accused the band of losing their way with the down tuned The Dark Ride and the very diverse Rabbit Don’t Come Easy albums, which weren’t to everyone’s taste no matter how good they actually were, that the band might want to recapture that magic and channel something that harkens back to those early albums which everyone enjoys. However; first of all, three fifths of the line-up were out of the picture (arguably the most memorable three members, rightly or wrongly), and secondly the band had done well finding their own sound and style ever since Andi Deris joined the band and reinvigorated them after a short identity crisis. Surely the band hadn’t spent the last decade proving themselves, and making themselves modern and credible as more than just a nostalgia act, to all of a sudden remind everyone of the Keepr era and invite more comparisons, ignite more reunion demands, and generally play down all the good work they’d been doing since Master Of The Rings?
Well; that’s the choice that the band made. So the band, with Andi Deris on vocals, Sascha Gerstner of guitars and now debuting new drummer Daniel Loeb for the first time, attempted to make Keepers music in a new millennium with a new line-up. But wait, weren’t there two Keepers albums? No problem, make it a double album. Oh, wasn’t there a lengthy semi-epic on both those albums? No problem, put one on both discs of this new double album. Wasn’t it not actually a concept album and so difficult to make a sequel to? Well… make a lyrical sequel to the title-track then…and make a the album artwork look like a sequel and its close enough.
Yes, you can see how it looks like a sequel to those records and therefore why it would make fans who’ve been ignoring the band since those glory days check them out once more. I think this was a mistake though. All you’re going to do is make people who think modern Helloween is rubbish come out of the woodwork to say “Modern Helloween is Rubbish! And this isn’t as good as the Keepers albums.” Here’s why: You can do all you want to make it look like a sequel, but it doesn’t actually sound like a sequel. Why not let those people who already jumped ship just stay away, and instead concentrate on all the people who appreciate what you’re doing now and have the album be judged on its own musical merits instead of how it feels compared to an almost two decade old masterpiece made by mostly different people?
You see the frustrating thing about it all is that the worst thing about this album is that very fact. This album is a poor sequel to the Keepers. Its not a Keepers album. Gamma Ray’s Land Of The Free album is about the closest thing anyone has done to the Keepers since (incidentally it was written by Kai Hansesn and had guest vocals from Michael Kiske), and even that was a one-off. It might be unfair to overlook the contributions of Markus Grosskofp and Michael Weikath on the origionals but realistically, it was always the other three guys people talked about the most (again I’ll say, “rightly or wrongly”).
The main reason you’ll read so many negative reviews about this album is down to that fact… it more or less says it is Keepers 3, and it doesn’t sound like Keepers 3, so automatically people will say it has failed, and will more than likely say they don’t like it too.
The thing of it is though…. Keeper Of The Seven Keys The Legacy is a damn good album. It’s a damn good modern Power Metal album with Progressive Metal leanings (like fellow Power Metal heroes Blind Guardian and Stratovarius were already doing at the time). It’s a damn fine Deris era Helloween album. It may not be a good follow-up to Keeper 1 & 2 but it is an excellent follow up to Master Of The Rings and Time Of The Oath.
The album sees the band mixing their happy, pleasant, commercial Power Metal stylings of the recent decade with pianos/choirs/strings/Theremin sounds (all made by a keyboard though), as well as samples, and guest female vocals from Candice Night.
Both discs open up with an ambitious multipart track that’s length runs past 10 minutes, and the rest of the songs are a mixture of everything the band have been doing in the last decade mixed together. You’ll find some riffs that would be at home on Better Than Raw, some solos that sound straight off Master Of The Rings, song structures reminiscent of Rabbit Don’t Come Easy and even the odd beefy mid paced bit here and there that wouldn’t be too out of place on The Dark Ride. This album is really more of a culmination of everything good about the first decade with Deris in the band, rather than a throwback to the 1980s.
Its long, dense, complex and not all that easily digestible on first listen. It might take a bit of persistence to “get” but it is a really rewarding “grower” of an album that rewards repeat listens and has plenty of variety to keep your interest going. Its an album that sounds better a month after you bought it. It sounds better six months after that.
Highlights include the bright and breezy ‘Get It Up,’ the sing-along fun of ‘Silent Rain,’ as well as the fine balance of Prog and straight ahead Melodic Power Metal that is ‘The Invisible Man.’ ‘King For 1000 Years’ is probably the biggest, most interesting and most memorable moment of the record, its chocked full of excellent parts and tells a great little story lyrically.
Overall; if you come to this album expecting anything that sounds like Keeper Of The Seven Keys then prepare to be disappointed, and really, it was a bit of a daft idea for the band to set themselves up in that situation. However, in its own right, on its own merits, judged for what it is and who made it rather than against a peerless classic, ‘The Legacy is a fine collection of catchy, memorable, well-written modern songs that grow on you more with each listen. Basically the only flaws it has are to do with the length making it difficult to get into at first, and the aforementioned sonic difference between it and the Keepers being needlessly highlighted at a point of their career where it should no longer have been an issue.
If you like Deris era Helloween, pick up a copy. If you don’t, stay away. If you are new to the band and have a fresh copy of Keepers part 1 and 2 in your hands and don’t know where to go next… in all honesty I’d say avoid this for at least a year and pick up either Walls Of Jericho, Time Of The Oath or Gamma Ray’s Land Of The Free instead.