Just one year after Helloween’s successful Keeper of the Seven Keys, Part I, the German power metal band around guitarist Michael Weikath, presented what in my humble opinion can be listed amongst the greatest metal albums of all times. Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. II, produced by Tommy Hansen and released on 29 August 1988, comprises everything the heavy metal heart demands: high-quality musicianship, smart production, clever lyrics, and everything based upon a well-drafted concept.
Even though Keeper I introduced us to such classics as Future World or Halloween, its sequel contributed 10 legendary tracks. I remember being a kid when I first heard the album – back then on cassette. I found the instrumental overture to be the best intro I had ever heard. It inspired selflessness, and the epic orchestra arrangements, infused with heavy guitars, made my proud heavy metal heart shine. And I still get that feeling when I put on Keeper II today. The song Eagle Fly Free then blasted through my headphones and my jaw dropped. I was sold. That’s how I became a Helloween fan.
Eagle Fly Free, track 2, is the perfect song for my definition of the music genre speed metal. And the fact that all instrumentalists in the band get a spot for their solos in the song, makes it an even more obvious contender for top anthem of speed metal.
Track 3, You Always Walk Alone, is the perfect continuation with a rather mid-tempo groove after the epical Eagle Fly Free. It provides a similar mood as the previous song, but is less busy in terms of musicianship. Track 4, Rise and Fall, brings some refreshing, almost cartoonesque humour in regard to melody and lyrics. Here a great line from the song, ‘Romeo loved his Juliet, their parents told them “Stop”. Then it all turned out peculiar, he couldn’t get it up.’
Track 5, Dr. Stein, written by guitarist Michael Weikath, was the first single release off of Keeper II. It peaked at #10 in the German Single Charts and also found its way into the Japanese, UK, Swiss, and Dutch Single Charts. Definitely one of the strongest songs on the album and an obvious single release.
We Got the Right, track 6, is the obliged album ballad. Not as strong a ballad as one might expect from a European metal band, but in the context of the album, perfectly positioned after the album’s first single release and before an emotional power song. Track 7, Save Us, is a fast-paced metal song with loads of harmonised double-guitar riffs/solos in typical Helloween manner. A very good bridge from a ballad to a strong harmonious song. It should be noted that Save Us was track 7 on the original release, but was then moved to the end of the album on the remastered re-release.
Song 8, March of Time, always sounded in my ears like a reprise of Eagle Fly Free or You Always Walk Alone. It just continues in that similar mood and uptempo. Especially the enormously epical chorus makes the song a metal anthem. Singer Michael Kiske definitely sang his lungs out on that one.
And then, my all-time favourite Helloween song enters the picture. Track 9, I Want Out, written by guitarist Kai Hansen, who later left the band to form Gamma Ray, and the second single release off of Keeper II. I dare to tag the song with the term instant heavy metal classic. According to Wikipedia, ‘Kai Hansen said in an interview that it was a hint of him really wanting “out” of the band. Musically, the song is characterised by a recognisable introduction and Michael Kiske’s trademark high pitched singing in the chorus.’
After 9 songs and some 40 minutes of high-quality speed metal, it is time for the long-awaited, 13 minutes and 38 seconds album title track, Keeper of the Seven Keys. The song incorporates every facet of the album and can be considered a musical masterpiece of the band in terms of arrangement and creativity. The song is able to keep the listener’s attention from beginning till the end and leads them through different stages of the story. Its grand lyrics tell a monumental story and the music transports its listener through its different chapters.
The song ends with the lines, ‘An earthquake, squirting fire, bursting ground, Satan’s screaming, and earth swallowing him away … Hide [the seven keys] from demons and rescue mankind or the world we’re all in will soon be sold to the throne of the evil payed with Lucifer’s gold.’ …and the guitar leads us out. Fabulous. If you like 80s melodic heavy metal and have never heard this album, I strongly recommend to take some time off from whatever you’re doing and listen to it in full-length. Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. II will provide you with a journey through one of the most beautiful landscapes in the land of speed metal. Enjoy the trip.
Total grade: 9.75/10