Helloween – Helloween listening session + Q&A

Last month, I got the chance to listen the 17th and self-titled album from Helloween. Since the album is only going to be released on June 18 2021, I was very excited to attend this pre-listen together with some members of the band. Joining were guitarists Sascha Gerstner and Michael Weikath, bass player Markus Grosskopf and singer Andi Deris. I was thinking they would only join to answer questions after we got to listen to the album, but no. They joined the Zoom call and listened together with the journalists to their brand new album being shared for the first time. Since this was the first time for them to reach out for press, they must have been excited too to see the reaction on our faces. On the other side of the screen, we were obviously very excited too. Let’s get into this album.

The album starts off with the song ‘Out for the Glory’. It has a mysterious background vocal, pinching your attention. After about one minute, everything kicks in. With lyrics saying ‘Out for the glory, fist held high’. This is the first note of the lyrics having a very positive vibe. It also has a touch of what would happen when you’re out for too much glory, with a voice saying: ‘I’d rather stay here’. Followed by a more digital sounding voice saying: ‘Come now, not a moment to waste’. It’s giving the vibe that somebody ruined something, yet they don’t want to leave cause it feels like it’s where they belong.

Markus Grosskopf added to this that Helloween has always been writing positive lyrics. Something that’s not always so typical for the metal genre. Helloween doesn’t need a pandemic to write positive lyrics, he says. 80% of this album was already written before the whole Corona thing started. Some of it was already written years ago. Meaning that song ideas were born, and later structured by all of the members that are now, at this moment, Helloween

Next song ‘Fear of the Fallen’ starts off with a clean guitar. On top, the voice of Andi. And then, then it starts. A very catchy riff enters the battle. The song is definitely telling you to make up your mind and decide if what you are doing is the right path to go. With lyrics saying: ‘Is this the road you’ve taken, is this the life you are chasing’. ‘Listen to your heart’. ‘Decide’. The word decide is coming back multiple times, actually making you reflect on whether the decisions you made, or rather, are going to make in life are the best ones. You can’t change what’s in the past. You can however, change what’s in the future. 

Best Time’ is my personal favorite of the album. It goes all in form the start, and has great harmonics between the guitars. The lyrics say: ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery’. A song about living your life to the fullest everyday. I checked with Sascha Gerstner if my feelings about the song were right. He confirmed. It was a song that was mostly his idea, and he loves the message that you have to live your life to the fullest. You shouldn’t wait with doing things you want to do. Because waiting can cause you to not be able to do the things you want anymore. Life is short, you should enjoy it. Don’t regret anything, embrace it.
So yeah, now I’m stuck with a song in my head that doesn’t exist yet… I am very happy that I got a chance to already hear it, and I’m definitely looking forward to the release of this self-titled album. 

Mass Pollution’ has the sound of electric guitars being plugged in. Then the bass gets going and after that bass part, we get another killer riff. It’s a very catchy song where the chorus just gets stuck in your head right away.

‘We just love it loud
Bang and shout it out
Raise your hands up now
Till the final bow’.

The ending has somebody scream ‘Make some noise!’, followed by people screaming and cheering in the background. This connects the end to the beginning by both simulating the song being played live. 

Angels’ is definitely a song where Michael Kiske is singing on. We really get to hear the high notes on this one’. Later Andi Deris added that he was happy that all the lines to sing got divided between the three singers (Andi Deris, Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen). Andi says he can’t possibly sing it all by himself. Neither of them can. Because, 1) they all have different vocal ranges and they can all do different things with their voices. 2) because they would need an oxygen machine to help them if this album was only sung by one singer. Andi says that right now, everybody is working together. There are 3 singers and 3 guitarist, and nobody is fighting who is going to do which part. It just comes naturally. Sascha adds that in the beginning of the band, everybody had a lot of ego and that caused some irritations between the band members. Right now, he says:

‘’there is still some ego left to give the band power, but a lot of ego has dropped so people are working together better’’. 

Sascha Gerstner

‘Rise without Chains’ is another song that warns you about not getting too high on yourself. You have to keep your feet on the ground as they say. They lyrics say it: ‘Fly not to high’. With one strum on the guitar, this song has come to an end.

Words to describe ‘Indestructible’ are definitely powerful and catchy. On top of that, it has a killer guitar solo. A song that is about living as one, don’t hate each other, but live together. ‘We are indestructible, cause we are one’. Michael Weikath added that this song was actually a guitar sound test. One that sounded very good and fitted the message of the song perfectly.

Robot King’ has a flanger effect to the guitar sound at the beginning. Very high pitched vocals define the verses of the song. The song tells you about what could be the future. A guy that finds himself to be a robot and becomes their leader. That’s the story I get in my head when I listen to the song. And oh yes, this one again has those delicious vocal harmonies. 

Cyanide’ has these heavy riffs with a lead guitar on top in the middle of the song. With the lyrics saying: ‘This is my life’, it is another song on the album that wants to be clear about that you should be living the life that you want to. We get those beloved harmonies again and the classic Helloween riffing on top. Absolutely amazing. Later the band adds that this song is about how the world is fucked up. The band gives an example:

‘’It’s like when you need an operation, it doesn’t matter if you actually need one. They care bout the money, not really about whether you need it or not. It’s hard to find out what’s real and what’s not real’’.

Down in the Dumps’ has all these mysterious sounds in the intro. It’s almost like a 3D feeling in the audio. It’s hard to describe the sound in words. Later in the song, it sounds a bit like the words have an echo to it, like an extra dimension. A very special way of recording and mixing. A new listening experience.

Wow, the intro from ‘Orbit’ really sounds amazing. Again, I’m trying to describe it, but I don’t know quite the words for it. It’s a guitar that plays low notes, later, a guitar that plays higher notes joins and plays note by note this peaceful, calming melody on top of it. ‘Orbit’ is the intro to what is going to be the first single of the album: ‘Skyfall’, released on April 2nd, 2021. Their label Nuclear Blast sells a lot of different colored vinyls of this single on their website.

Skyfall’ is definitely the pearl of the album. Helloween saved the best for last. This 12 minute long song screams epicness. It’s a song to dream away with. A song that makes you forget about time. It consumes you completely and takes you to another world. It sounds like there’s even some David Bowie influences in this song. Michael Weikath confirmed. He stated that they chose ‘Skyfall’ as a single for the album, because it’s the best mix of all of Helloween together. It’s written by Kai Hansen, and it’s the most honest song on the album.  

Wow… Now that we have been blown away by this album, let’s take a look at the album cover. A lot is going on. But the thing that caught my eye were the 7 keys floating away form this mysterious dark figure on the right of the cover. I though it was a reference to ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’, but the band stated that those 7 keys are meant to represent the members of the current line up. The current line-up of Helloween consist of Andi Deris, Michael Kiske, Kai Hansen, Markus Grosskopf, Michael Weikath, Sascha Gerstner and Daniel Löble.

‘Helloween’ counts 12 songs in total, but knowing Helloween, there will probably be bonus tracks on the album. The band said that they would possibly add 3 to 4 bonus tracks. Most likely some ballads that they thought that wouldn’t fit the album, but would fit as a bonus track. One of the ballads would be named ‘Into the Sun’. Another one would be ‘Good Times’ adds Sascha. Helloween also shared that they were already working on a new album with the same line up. So we can expect something big form them. This album is already amazing, so let’s first enjoy ‘Helloween’ before starting to think of the next one already. The band wants to tell us that they too enjoy the current line up, and that they are not planning to change it anytime soon. This also answers the question why this specific album is self-titled: because it felt right. It felt like the best version of Helloween.

Helloween had planned the ‘United & Alive Tour’ in June 2021. It’s already clear that this is not going to happen because of Covid 19. They postponed the tour until spring 2022. Markus Grosskopf is positive. Covid is of course ruining live music, but he is convinced that it will go away eventually. So we should all do our best to stay sane and survive, so we can all enjoy live music together again soon. When I asked if Helloween would do an online show, Andi Deris said that it would just not be the same experience. Not for the crowd, and not for them. He likes the interaction with the crowd a lot. He thinks that when you are listening to live music, you should hear the excitement, feel the music. Something you can’t do with an online show. I agree, although I can’t deny that digital shows are a nice way to support bands in these hard times. It’s true that it is totally different, but when you can’t come together, it’s, well, it’s not a solution, but it’s something to work with in the meantime. 

Let’s stay positive together, and patiently wait for this masterpiece to be released.

Release date: June 18, 2021
Label: Nuclear Blast
Tracklist:

  1. Out For the Glory
  2. Fear of the Fallen
  3. Best Time
  4. Mass Pollution
  5. Angels
  6. Rise Without Chains
  7. Indestructible
  8. Robot King
  9. Cyanide
  10. Down in the Dumps
  11. Orbit
  12. Skyfall
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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] If you want to check out more details and background information about the album, check out the listening session / interview that I did with Andi Deris, Sascha Gerstner, Michael Weikath and Markus Grosskopf here.  […]

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