HELLOWEEN — Chameleon (review)

HELLOWEEN — Chameleon album cover Album · 1993 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
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Originators of the European brand of power metal Helloween have a lot of fans who will tell you any chance they get that Michael Kiske is the true voice of the band, likely giving respect to Kai Hansen along the way for his performance on their earliest material including the debut album Walls of Jericho (1985). They rarely outright deride replacement and now much longer standing vocalist Andi Deris, but it's often implied that he can't hope to match Kiske. Kiske's reputation as part of Helloween though is built entirely upon the Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I (1987) and Part II (1988) albums. What these fans usually forget to mention is that the other two albums Kiske did with the band are about as much loathed as the two Keeper albums are loved, which actually makes his tenure in the band a pretty damn patchy one. While I personally find the humorously named Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991) to be a bit unjustly bashed, I struggle to find much of a defence for what has to be the band's most disliked album, Chameleon (1993). It was Helloween's fifth studio album and was the last to feature Kiske as well as drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, who would commit suicide two years later at the age of 29.

To round off the train of thought about whether or not Kiske is or isn't the true voice of Helloween, I can't really fault his performance on Chameleon. It's the lone thing about the album that never falters in its quality. So maybe the fans who say this do have a point. What Kiske can't do though is save this album from being a complete middling affair from Helloween. Good vocals don't elevate the quality of the writing, the biggest defence of which is the fact that Chameleon is a pretty varied album. More so then the typical power metal release is. That's the start of its problems though: Chameleon isn't a power metal release. Sure, the prior Pink Bubbles Go Ape was debatable on that front as well after the two Keeper of the Seven Keys albums kick-started the Euro style off, but the bigger problem here is that Chamelon isn't only not a power metal album, it's also not a metal album at all. Helloween have removed most traces of their metal sound on this album, favouring hefty amounts of acoustic guitars and abundant pop influences.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that even when it comes to one of metal's catchiest and most commercial genres like power metal (which several other German bands like Blind Guardian, Running Wild and Kai Hansen's own Gamma Ray continued to champion the development of during Helloween's Pink Bubbles Go Ape/Chameleon phase) this isn't something most fans at the time would have wanted to hear. Chameleon often doesn't even deserve the distinction of being a hard rock album given how many soft parts are present, sometimes even hinting at AOR influences. A few metal riffs here and there, such as in the first song First Time, offer up a little hint at the band's roots, which they'd fortunately return to on their next album Master of the Rings (1994), but most of what made Helloween a respected metal band has been stripped away. With an over seventy minute duration Chameleon certainly goes on for too long as well, with several songs coming across as filler, not least among them the single Windmill, which the late Ingo Schwichtenberg was known to refer to as 'Shitmill' and quite justifiably.

Were this the debut album of a different band or simply didn't have the Helloween name on it then maybe Chameleon would have a better reputation today, over twenty years since its release. For all its faults as a Helloween album Chameleon is actually quite listenable for most of the time once you look past what else the band has done both before or since. To my ears it could never be considered a great album but it's not as bad as its often made out to be. If its Helloween you're interested in though, then there are currently fourteen other studio albums that you should get before this one.
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Unitron wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Yeah, we're on the same page here. I think Pink Bubbles is a pretty decent album, but this one is just hard to listen to.
Vim Fuego wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Pink Bubbles... has a certain off the wall charm to it, but falls flat for trying too hard to be wacky and whimsical. This one falls flat because it's just boring, and not really Helloween at all.

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