The arrival of autumn here in New England is probably my favorite time of year. As the weather gets cooler and the leaves start to fall, there is always a little magic in the air. That’s because Halloween is just around the corner. Sure, I’m not a kid anymore, but Halloween, and the month or so that lead up to it, still holds a special place in my heart. Whether its eating fistfuls of candy corn, seeing the jack-o-lanterns decorating the front porches, or watching Jamie Lee Curtis being chased around Haddonfield by Michael Myers, there’s plenty to remind me of what it was like to be a kid at Halloween time. And just as the intoxicating smell inside a rubber Halloween mask puts a gleam in my eye, so too does my tradition of busting out Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I each October. One of Helloween’s crowning masterpieces lies waiting for me at the end of this incredible album, a thirteen minute epic called… you guessed it… Halloween. For me, Halloween season isn’t complete without my annual visit to this song, and this amazing album.
German metal masters Helloween stamped their name into heavy metal lore with Keepers Of The Seven Keys Part I. No self-respecting metal collection should be without this album. In the metal sub-genre now called “power metal”, Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I is an unqualified classic. America never really embraced power metal, not in the late eighties when Helloween pretty much invented (or at lease defined) the genre, and not in the present day where power metal is living a second life in Europe thanks to bands such as Blind Guardian, Avantasia, and Hammerfall. So Americans may not appreciate Helloween as heavy metal legends, but in Europe it is another story.
This rather short album consists of only six proper tracks plus an intro and outro. The listener is treated to fast-paced riffing, dual guitar harmonies, plenty of solo trade-offs, double kick drumming, and incredible soaring vocals. Youngster Michael Kiske made his Helloween debut on vocals for Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I. His voice was positively bullet-proof; able to reach the highest of highs and send these glory-bound compositions blasting into the stratosphere. Just an incredible talent in every sense of the word! To say Kiske brought Helloween to another level would be a massive understatement.
Helloween also defied heavy metal convention by writing lyrics that were uplifting, happy, and (especially on Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II) humorous and/or silly. It’s that kind of “Happy Helloween!” ethos that gave Helloween albums a unique charm.
Keepers Of The Seven Keys Part I begins with a stirring intro called Initiation before the blitzkrieg of metal ecstasy begins in earnest with the über-catchy I’m Alive. The series of tracks that follow ooze with metal might and sing-along awesomeness. The aforementioned Halloween serves as the album’s climax. Check out the lyrics to the second verse:
“Someone’s sitting in a field, never giving yield, sitting there with gleaming eyes, waiting for big pumpkin to arise. Bad luck if you get a stone, like the good old Charlie Brown, you think that Linus could be right, the kids will say its just a stupid lie!”
Seriously? Did they actually mention Peanuts and the Great Pumpkin in a heavy metal song? Yes, yes they did. So now we’ve got a combination of three of my favorite things; heavy metal, Halloween, and Charlie Brown in the same place? Talk about a trifecta of kick-ass!
Bottom line: one of my favorite albums of all time right here. As easy an “A+” as there ever was. My score: A+
Note: Keepers Of The Seven Keys Part I was originally released by Noise Records in Germany, and appeared on RCA Records in the United States. There have been many versions of this album released throughout the world over the years. I have put a few token pics in the gallery section below, including the original German-pressed gatefold LP, and the picture LP that came with stickers. But for more details and pics on different versions of Keepers Of The Seven Keys Part I, check out this great website!
Gallery (click to enlarge):