To all power metal fans, Helloween must be one of the most influential bands ever. Helloween combines all the best qualities of power metal: High vocals, skillful guitar work, speedy drums and well-written lyrics.

Early history
It all began in 1979 with two guitarists, Kai Hansen and Piet Sielck, playing in a band named Gentry. The band had several line-up changes but it ended up with the name Ironfist, Hansen doing the vocal work, Sielck playing guitar, Markus Grosskopf on bass and Ingo Schwichtenberg beating the drums. Some time later Sielck left the group, Michael Weikath (guitar) came in and the band was renamed Helloween. The first record by the group was their mini-LP "Helloween" in 1985.
First albums
The first album Walls of Jericho was released in 1985. In the following year the vocalist Kai Hansen was replaced by 18-year old Michael Kiske (Hansen still remained in the band as a guitarist). The next album Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I (1987) was technically much better than the earlier one, and rose to the charts in US, Europe and Japan, giving the band worldwide success. A year later the band released Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II which received even more success than Part I. Featuring great songwriting by Weikath and an improved overall performance by the whole band, the Part II must be their biggest selling piece ever.
Times of Change
In 1988 Kai Hansen left Helloween to form a band of his own, Gamma Ray, and the former guitarist of Rampage Roland Grapow took his place. The reason for Hansen's leaving was his growing dispute with other band members. The next album after this incident was a collection of live material recorded on the 1988 Pumpkin Fly Free tour. The album was called "Live in the UK" in the UK, "I Want Out Live" in the US and "Keepers Live" in Japan. In 1990 the band decided to go for a bigger record label and switched to EMI. The former record company Noise Records did not like this, stating that the band had violated their contract with them. This caused some legal problems and the band was not able to release any new material outside of Germany, the U.K. and Japan for a while.

In 1991 band released Pink Bubbles Go Ape. At this time tension began to develop between some of the members and there were many rumors about the band breaking up. Also, the Pink Bubbles album was a bit of a disappointment for many Helloween fans, propably due to its more experimental sound compared to the Keeper albums.

The next album, released in 1993, may be seen as a breaking point for the band. The musical style had changed quite much, only a few songs were of the "original Helloween style" and this was not appreciated by most of the loyal fans. Ingo was kicked out of the band because of his growing drug problem and Kiske left to lead a solo career with the musical style of his own.
Helloween, the Next Generation
In 1994 the band was signed to Castle Communications and got a new vocalist, Andi Deris from Pink Cream 69. The drums were taken up by Uli Kusch, formerly of Gamma Ray. The new line-up soon released Master of the Rings, receiving great reviews. The musical style was turned back in the direction of the Keeper albums and while many fans had some trouble getting used to the voice of Andi Deris, it actually sold pretty well.

The next album, entitled The Time Of The Oath, came out in 1996. The good old Helloween style was back, along with some new fresh aspects like the "Metallica-style" use of rhythm guitar in a few songs. The album did well throughout the world and sold in excess of a million copies. 1996 was also a year of tragedy as Ingo Schwichtenberg committed suicide. The Time Of The Oath was dedicated to the memory of this great drummer. In pace requiescat, Ingo. The Time Of The Oath Tour material was used to record the next live album, High Live. It is a 2-CD bunch of new songs with some of the old favourites thrown in.

A boxed set called the The Pumpkin Box was released in 1998. The compilation contained the best material from years 1985-1993, a 70 page book and a disc featuring interviews with past and present members of the band. The next Helloween record with original content, Better Than Raw, also came out in 1998. The album includes really agressive pieces like Push but also more mellow pieces like Hey Lord! and Time and even one song in Latin. It has received very good reviews and most fans like the album very much. This is no surprise; strong song-writing skills, fiercely potent musicianship, while returning to that brasher attitude the band used to have make it another great piece of Helloween history. Another release this year was a weird one: Karaoke Remix vol. 1 and vol. 2. Intended mostly for the Japanese market, these discs include karaoke versions of Helloween songs. The volume one consists of older songs while the vol. 2 covers the albums from Master of the Rings to Better Than Raw.

1999 saw the release of Metal Jukebox album, which contains cover tracks done in the Helloween fashion. The album is not a typical metal cover album with 70's and 80's metal and punk songs, some of the songs are written well before metal music was around. For example Space Oddity (David Bowie), Lay All Your Love On Me (Abba), He's a Woman She's a Man (Scorpions) are included, with 9 other songs.

The Dark Ride was released in October 2000 and it was special. The album combines modern elements with the old Helloween style. Most of the lyrics have a somewhat dark element to them with a lot of depth and meaning. The album is said to be the best produced Helloween album ever. If you are into melodic metal, you should definitely give it a go!

The album Rabbit Don't Come Easy (2003) brought more changes to the band's line-up. Long-time guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch left to form a new band called Masterplan and were replaced by Sascha Gerstner (guitar, ex-Freedom Call member) and Stefan Schwarzmann (drums, ex-Running Wild, U.D.O., Accept). Many songs on the album share the sinister tones of The Dark Ride but the ones written by Sascha Gerstner bring back some of the old "happy Helloween" atmosphere. The lighter side was present on The Dark Ride too but on this album is seems to be gaining even more momentum.

The Albums
Walls of Jericho (1985)
Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I (1987)
Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part II (1988)
Live In The UK / I Want Out Live (1989)
Pumpkin Tracks (1989)
The Best, The Rest, The Rare (1991)
Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991)
Chameleon (1993)
Master Of The Rings (1994)
The Time Of The Oath (1996)
High Live (1996)
The Pumpkin Box (1998)
Better Than Raw (1998)
Karaoke Remix Vol 1. and Karaoke Remix Vol. 2 (1998) (Japan only)
Metal Jukebox (1999)
The Dark Ride (2000)
Rabbit Don't Come Easy (2003)
Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy (2005)

AMZ Helloween Feature,

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