When you think of power metal, maybe you think of the modern trappings of Gloryhammer or perhaps Dragonforce — or maybe you dig deeper and find bands like Jag Panzer, Crimson Glory or Omen. Digging deeper, we find our way back to Europe with Blind Guardian, Primal Fear or Gamma Ray. But ultimately, a trip to the genre's origins will undoubtedly bring you to Helloween.

Helloween have changed vocalists a few times over their long career, ever since original vocalist and guitarist Kai Hansen left to make his own impression on the genre with Gamma Ray. The next lead vocalist Michael Kiske left the band after two classics (The Keeper of the Keys albums) and then two poorly received albums, Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon; he was also considered as a possible Bruce Dickinson replacement in Iron Maiden prior to The X Factor. Ever since that point, Helloween has been helmed by the legendary Andi Deris who has quite a few great albums to his credit with the band. Some favorites include The Time of the Oath, Better Than Raw, The Dark Ride and more recently Gambling With The Devil.

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It has been a bit of a mixed bag since that latter release, resulting in some of the most uneven albums of Deris’ tenure and now their longest gap between albums yet: their new self-titled album is their first album since 2015’s My God Given Right. Back in 2017 with the single "Pumpkins United", the band managed to bring both Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen back into the fold and still keep Andi Deris. The concept of having three of the band’s vocalists together was an interesting proposition... but would it work? What ended up happening was the vocalists all joined in harmonious unison: the best of Helloween and Gamma Ray all in one place and on one single with retrospective love for the origins of the band. Though it seemed like a one off, more was soon to follow.

Helloween’s self-titled and 16th album proper is the first full length album with the "Pumpkins United" lineup, and they pick up from where they left off four years ago. Right from the opening riffs of “Out for the Glory” it’s immediately obvious the power that these keepers of the seven keys and masters of the rings can still wield. Seamlessly blending traditional heavy metal with the general grandiosity of power metal, enter the fortified vocal section and these pumpkins find new life. There is a fine balance achieved between the traditional power metal vocal style and the shrill vocals declaiming "vile insurgents", but Helloween maintain it extremely well; certainly up there with some of the very best openers in Helloween’s back catalogue.

"Indestructible" hits hard with heavy metal thunder, exactly the kind of song that you should expect from these metallic torchbearers this far into their career. This song feels very much like it could have come off of Judas Priest’s most recent album Firepower both in feel as well as being from an album that feels like more of a classic return to form. Everything falls into place, fury throughout without relent for the listener; taking in all this melodic bliss is well worth the price of admission on its own.

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Helloween gives us over an hour of new material, yet four of the tracks take up nearly half of the album with the aforementioned opener, followed later by "Robot King," "Down In The Dumps," and the two part closer "Orbit/Skyfall" giving off a slightly more epic feel than some of the more bite-sized portions scattered throughout the album. It is a master class in balance, providing meat to chew on without the tracks feeling too bogged down or stretched out for no reason. The three-headed guitar section is fully fleshed out, giving ample space for Michael Weikath, Kai Hansen, and Sascha Gerstner to get their sound across. Remember, three guitars worked for Iron Maiden, unless you forgot about Brave New World.

When all is said and done, Helloween will be remembered not simply as yet another installment in the band’s long storied career, but as a turning point for the good, a new era of revitalization. This lineup is as potent as ever, evidenced by this entire LP—one of the most complete heavy metal entries 2021 has yet to offer. It should be consumed by the heavy metal masses at large, not just power metal purists.

—Thomas Campagna

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Helloween released on June 16th, 2021 via Nuclear Blast.