After the hugely successful and influential Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums from 1987 & 1988, the band lost founding member Kai Hansen (who would form the excellent band Gamma Ray) and changed up their style on the experimental albums Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon from 1991 and 1994, which many fans rejected. It cost the band a lot of momentum and many fans lost interest. Then singer Michael Kiske and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg left the band, replaced on this record by Gamma Ray’s Uli Kusch and unexpectedly Andi Deris from Pink Cream 69, who at first glance wouldn’t seem like a perfect fit.
The new line-up revitalized the band and helped them regain momentum. The sound of the album itself however is a bit of a mixture between what the band were just before the line-up change, and what they would become when they found their feet.
The tracks “Sole Survivor,” “Where The Rain Grows,” and “Still We Go” show highlights of what was to come on the band’s next few albums, and the re-establishment of their speedy Melodic Power Metal style.
The tracks “Secret Alibi,” “The Game Is On,” “Perfect Gentleman” and “Take Me Home” are a bit more eclectic and varied, a little silly in parts, with an emphasis on sickly sweet melody and humorous asides… sitting half-way between the Power Metal style and Hard Rock. There’s plenty of space in the music, plenty of charismatic drum fills and pleasant guitar leads, the real feature however is Andi Deris’ vocals which take the spot light. These are enjoyable and fun tracks, and give the album a unique feel, but some fans can find them a bit too outside of their Power Metal comfort zone.
The rest of the record falls into a sort of mid-tempo, Hard Rock world. That would be the tracks “Why?” and the seven-minute “Mr. Ego,” along with the power ballad “In The Middle Of A Heartbeat.” These tracks are solid, however if you were being harsh, they could potentially be described as filler or at least a bit forgettable.
The album is viewed by many as a step in the right direction. It sees the band still finding their sound. The musicianship and production are high quality, and the energy is there, but some songs are overlong for how many ideas they have, and the ratio of Hard Rock to Speed Metal influences hasn’t just clicked over to what most fans want yet. With their next album, Time Of The Oath, Helloween would really nail it and firmly regain their footing.
Overall; Master Of The Rings is a decent album, solid and worth listening to, but not a massive career highlight or a good starting point for new fans. The band had released better albums before this in the 80s and would release better albums directly after it. Master Of The Rings is an entertaining step along the way. It has got a few drawbacks (the aforementioned length to ideas ratio, and Metal to Rock ratio, as well as some pretty cringe-worthy lyrics) but its got a lot of positives going for it too.