Helloween Albums Ranked

In honour of the release of the Alive United live album, I’m taking a moment out to highlight some of the best moments from the ultimate cheese masters Helloween, ranking their studio albums from best to maybe-don’t-buy-that-one-first.

JOINT NUMBER ONE:

Keeper Of The Seven Keys parts 1 & 2. (1987 & 1988)

I always say ‘’If you only get one Helloween album, get these two!’’

It almost doesn’t need said, but the Keepers are two of the finest metal albums in history. Beyond iconic. Near flawless. Immensely repayable. Instant, but rewarding on repeat listens. The best albums of the Kiske era.  What Reign In Blood and Master If Puppets are to Thrash, the Keepers are to Power Metal. If you want to try Helloween, this is your starting point. If you have any interest in the ‘weenies, this is the must have moment, the pinnacle. Recent studies at the university of metal have shown that it is medically impossible to like Helloween and not like these albums. And hey; If you really only want to buy one album, they do also sell both of these albums together in one package, so that’s almsot like buying one album.

NUMBER TWO:

Time Of The Oath (1996)

After the Keepers, Helloween made a few, questionable decisions. It wasn’t until the album prior to this, Master Of The Rings, that things started getting back on track. When they actually GOT back on track however, is Time Of The Oath. The crown jewel in the Andi Deris era. No, its not just the album art. This is the most straight ahead classic Power Metal album since the Keepers stylistically, but more importantly, the best set of songs they ever concocted outside those peerless two classics. Tracks like the mighty ‘Kings Will Be Kings’ and ‘Steel Tormentor’ are brilliant and the album contains one of the band’s all time best tracks, ‘Power.’

NUMBER THREE:

7 Sinners (2010)

If you thought the band’s best material was confined to the late ‘80s and mid-‘90s, you’d be wrong. 2010’s 7 Sinners album stands tall and proud in the upper echelons of the band’s discography. Stylistically, this one is a deliberate effort to be heavier and more metallic. The guitar tone is thicker and crunchier than usual. The toms are pounding and the kick drums are thunderous. Its such a great mix of catchy, heavy and diverse. The opener ‘Where’s The Sinners Go’ is mid paced and modern, whereas ‘If A Mountain Could Talk’ is classic ‘80s style Helloween and ‘Raise The Noise’ is a melodic gem like ‘Power’ only with a Jethro Tull style flute solo.

JOINT NUMBER FOUR:

Walls Of Jericho and Helloween EP.  (1985 & 1985)

Like the Keepers, these two are similarly linked and the only releases in the Kai Hansen era. Like the Keepers these two are often packaged together too. Stylistically; You can see how they would come to develop into the style they are more known for it, there are touches of it here and there, but they are rawer, thrashier and less melodic than most Helloween albums. My personal favourite track  on ‘Jericho is the catchy as hell ‘’Heavy Metal (Is The Law)’’ and it features other memorable moments like ‘’Ride The Sky’’ and the 7 minute long ‘’How Many Tears.’’

On the EP, tracks like ‘’Starlight’’ and ‘’Victim Of Fate’’ show that these Germans were onto something great from the very start. The only downside is the production and vocals aren’t as smooth as on later albums.

NUMBER FIVE:

Gambling With The Devil (2007)

I wonder what it is about this band and the number 7. Anything with 7 in it turns to gold. 7 Keys. 7 Sinners. ‘’The Bells Of 7 Hells.’’ Aforementioned hell themed track is one of my all time favourite Helloween moments.  

Like the 7 Sinners album, this album sees a diverse yet consistent Helloween with a focus on heaviness, but willingness to diverge. ‘’As Long As I Fall’’ for example starts off as a commercial semi-ballad and ends up as a masterclass in lead guitar. Opener ‘Kill It’ has one of the band’s most savage choruses since the Kai era.

NUMBER 6:

Master Of The Rings (1994)

The first album with Deris in the band. It would be a nicer story to say this one was the stylistic return to form. Well, it was partially. Tracks like ‘’Sole Survivor’’ and ‘’Still We Go’’ give the fans what they want.  However; This album had bigger plans in mind than just getting the old fans back. They’ve got eyes on a whole new audience. Van Halen alike tracks like ‘’Take Me Home’’ see the band diversify. Big commercial pop tinged tracks like ‘’Perfect Gentleman’’ and ‘’Why?’’ helped the band reach a new audience.

NUMBER 7:

Rabbit Don’t Come Easy (2003)

I’ve heard a few people weren’t keen on this one, but aside from the annoying ‘’Never Be A Star’’ that’s too cynical a recreation of ‘’Perfect Gentleman,’’ this album is probably one of the bands most consistent albums from beginning to end. Its chocked to the brim full of happy melodic choruses, relentless double kicks and lead guitar majesty. I think it may be the best set of lead guitars and guitar solos on any of their studio albums yet. Stand out tracks include the single ‘’Just A Little Time’’ (even with its Blink 182 level erection jokes), and the amazing ‘’The Tune’’ and ‘’Hell Was Made In Heaven’’ which both show the band at their melodic best. Also of note is ‘’Liar’’ which has the kind of heaviness introduced on The Dark Ride and perfected later on 7 Sinners.

NUMBER 8:

Straight Out Of Hell (2013)

One of the band’s most eclectic and varied albums since Master Of The Rings, Straight Out Of Hell tries a range of different ideas on for size, and sees the band not content to just repeat themselves over and over, without going the Chameleon route of straying too far from what fans want. This was the first new release from the Pumpkins in my time as a fan and has a special place in my heart for that. At the time there was a big buzz about them going back to sounding happy, after the heavy material, but in hindsight I do prefer 7 Sinners. This one is good, but not 7 Sinners good.

NUMBER 9:

My God Given Right (2015)

The follow up to Straight Out Of Hell. Sort of more of the same. The album is less experimental, but more consistent. It’s a smooth a perfect distillation of modern Helloween, with nothing to complain about. A very solid album. The best songs, like ‘Russian Roulle’ and ‘If God Loves Rock N Roll’ are solid and a good addition to the catalogue, and there’s no weak moments of obvious filler. Only not higher in the list due to lack of a real stand out. Its all good, but its missing anything extra-special.

NUMBER 10:

Better Than Raw (1998)

Terrible album artwork, but decent record. There are few really memorable moments, like the Latin ‘Laudate Dominum’ as well as ‘Push’ and ‘Hey Lord!’  I feel like this album was a moment of maturing and modernisation for the band. For me it wasn’t as good as ‘Time Of The Oath’ and I resented it a bit for that, but upon recent re-evaluation I have found it to be much better than I remembered it. It isn’t their best album, but it is not one to be overlooked either.

NUMBER 11:

The Dark Ride (2000)

In some ways, a continuation of the modernised matured direction of Better Than Raw, but with a big dose of heaviness added in. Its not really what you expect to hear from the band who made the Keepers, and definitely what you expected from the band who made ‘Jericho. But its not without its moments. The title track is pretty great. ‘Escalation 666’ is nice and heavy.  As much as I want Helloween to just write straight Power Metal all the time, you do have to admit that the power ballad ‘If I Could Fly’ is a good tune, even if it isn’t what you want.

NUMBER 12:

Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy (2005)

A lot of Helloween fans dislike this one. Its not without merit, but its not their finest hour either. Its one of those classic ‘’the double album would’ve been better as a single album’’ situations. Its also one of those classic ‘’the sequel isn’t as good as the original situations.’’ I get why they did it, but it also feels like a bit of a step backwards. Definitely don’t start with this one, save it until your already a fan.

NUMBER 13:

Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991)

Well, really this isn’t what anybody wanted as a follow up to two of the finest albums in the history of power metal. I guess it was their attempt at a ‘Black Album’ but it falls short. Its not without merits, in fact I may even get defensive if it gets an out and out bashing, but this should never be anyone’s first Helloween album.

NUMBER 14:

Chameleon (1993)

The only one I don’t like or own. Critically reviled. Stylistically confused. Not at all metal. Not what the fans wanted. Not what their own drummer wanted. A mix of prog, pop and featuring children’s choirs. Pretty much universally agreed as the worst Helloween album. For collectors only.

The Best Rock & Metal Live Albums: Underrated Classics

Chances are, that if you listen to Rock or Metal music, you’ll have come across the idea of the seminal, incendiary live album. An album that just absolutely scorches, and where the versions of the songs are heavier, bigger and more bombastic than their studio counterparts.

After about a year, or two years at the most, nobody needs to be told to check out Live And Dangerous, Live At Leeds, Live Killers, Live After Death, Alive, Alive II, Unleashed In The East, No Sleep Till Hammersmith, Made In Japan, Playing The Fool or 101 Proof Live.

The following is a list of albums that are every bit as good as those, but for whatever reason aren’t just quite as famous. If you like Rock or Metal music at all, of course you should pick up those aforementioned records, but you also should get yourself a copy of these:

Live

1. Jethro Tull – Bursting Out: This album sees Jethro Tull touring Heavy Horses, with a really powerful performance, witty stage banter, and a phenomenal set list. They manage to mix in a few acoustic numbers without killing the energy and have a drum solo that isn’t boring (an absolute miracle as far as live albums go). The songs are so much bigger and heavier than their album counterparts; hear how ‘Sweet Dream’ absolutely comes to life. The version of ‘Thick As A Brick’ on here is indescribably brilliant. This record mixes up tracks from many different Tull eras and makes them sound cohesive and related.Material from Stand Up sits proudly beside material from Songs From The Woods and sounds absolutely natural in so doing, all owing to the fact that the band are absolutely on fire, and deliver the material so well. As far as live albums go, this is hands down one of the best ever to be released. In Fact; Not only is this a brilliant live album, or a brilliant Tull album, its one of the best albums ever released. If you haven’t got it I’d strongly urge you to find out what you’re missing.

Live

2. King Crimson – USA: This is an absolute rager of an album, the performances are out of this world. The setlist pulls together some of the absolute best tracks from the Wetton period, and adds ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ in there too for good measure. If you haven’t explored the band any further than In The Court Of The Crimson King yet, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this. Prepare to have your hair blown back.

Live

3. Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More From The Road: Quite how this album isn’t the most famous Skynyrd release really is beyond me. This album is absolutely fantatic. So much energy. There’s not one song on here that’s better in the studio. This takes every Skynyrd track worth thinking about from the first four albums and makes them faster, heavier and better. There’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ ‘Tuesdays Gone’ and ‘Free Bird’ for the casual fans, and just about every gem going for the rest of you. The version of ‘Travelin Man’ on here is quite possibly the best thing that Skynyrd ever recorded. Instead of buying a greatest hits, buy this.

Live

4. Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed Live: This is a recent addition to the list. I only got into Saxon last April after being a bit skeptical of them. I’ve been listening to the first six studio albums a lot since then, but it took me a while to realize that this live album which I got as part of the same boxset I got all those records in existed, and was worth listening to. Not only is it worth listening to though, its absolutely brilliant. I don’t know why people don’t talk about this more often. It contains absolutely all the best songs from Saxon’s best three albums, performed with power and precision. Long story short, you listen to this and you’ll walk away thinking Saxon are brilliant. If you only buy one Saxon album, it should be this one. The only thing I would say about this album at all is that it doesn’t have the song “Denim And Leather” on it, although I fixed that for myself in iTunes by moving the live bonus track of it from The Crusader over to the end of this. If you ever wonder why Saxon were considered equals to Maiden and Motorhead at one stage, listen to this and you’ll see why. All of their best stuff with none of the filler, great solos, great riffs, an appreciative audience and a killer performance. You can’t beat it.

Live

5. Marilyn Manson – The Last Tour On Earth: I think you’ve gathered the idea of this list by now. Consequently, you’ll probably understand that if its included here, then The Last Tour On Earth is an absolutely cracking live album, that takes the best songs available at the time it was recorded, and makes them even better. John 5 really adds extra style and class to the material. The whole thing just absolutely jumps out of the speakers. No fan should be without this.

Live

6. Foghat – Live: I think I might go so far as to say that this is all you really need from Foghat. They had some great songs but the albums were often a bit hit and miss, you’d get one or two absolute ragers on an album, then the rest would just be “OK.” There’s none of that here though. This takes six of their ever best tracks and delivers them in a really energetic, exciting way. The musicianship is absolutely stellar. If you like guitar solos then this is definitely an album for you. In fact, if you like Classic Rock at all you really should give this album a try.

Live

7. Biohazard – No Holds Barred: Everything that I just said about Saxon’s album; that all goes for this too. No Hold Barred is all of the band’s best songs at the time of recording, played hard and with passion, to an audience that gives a crap. Its one of those albums that makes you feel like you’re at the concert. Anytime you forget how good Biohazard are, or any time that you start to think that the rapping is a bit much, a bit cheesy or whatever… this album shows you just what a serious, creative and powerful band Biohazard are. The recording quality isn’t the best (due to the band’s strict no-overdudbs policy) but the passion and umph more than make up for that.

Live

8. Blackfoot – Highway Song Live: Blackfoot in my opinion are what you would get if you crossed 70s Judas Priest with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and then made it twice as fun. This album captures them at the absolute height of the powers, with a setlist comprised mostly of their best material, absolutely smashing it. Its loud, raucous and its very, very fun.Its hard to hear something like ‘Good Morning’ without breaking out into a giant grin. Every song on here has that effect, Ricky Medlocke really knows how to force you to have a good time. If you like Blackfoot its mandatory listening and if you haven’t tried them yet, you should give this a shot. Its a fine, fine introduction.

Live

9. Machine Head – Hellalvie: This album may have been released as a contractual obligation; there might be a few cover songs that the band played live removed from the album to save money, two of the songs may be taken from a different show and the setlist may contain more music from the controversial Burning Red and Supercharger albums than a few fans might care for, but do you know what? This album is absolute solid gold. There is such a brilliant energy and power to this performance. Tracks like ‘Nothing Left’ and ‘Supercharger’ are a thousand times better live than their studio counterparts, and the songs from the first two albums crush just as hard. Don’t be too proud to give this album a chance or else you’re missing out big time, because its an absolute gem.

Live

10. Led Zeppelin – How The West Was Won: Don’t be put off this because it was released so long after it was recorded. Don’t worry about things like “nostalgia” or “cash in.” Just listen to the version of ‘Immigrant Song’ and ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ and be absolutely decimated by some of the best live performances anyone has ever captured on tape. As a gigantic, triple album taken from different concerts you’d think it might be a bit bloated and bitty, put it really works. I have to admit that if I’m listening to it, I’ll give the gigantic Drum Solo and Guitar solo a miss, but when the songs are being played, this is one of the best records on the market, period.