Germany's Helloween have gone from sequel to trilogy with this installment in the Keeper
series. The Legacy
is a much heralded return to form for these masters of melodic metal.
The Legacy's thirteen epic-length tracks mix technical prowess and uncanny tempo changes with the band's upbeat speed metal. Unlike today's crop of crusty metalcore outfits, Helloween are purveyors of power metal: there are plenty of solos and grand changes, and vocalist Andi Deris's high register singing will remind you of Judas Priest's Rob Halford or Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson. This is traditional metal, untainted by hardcore or punk influences.
Disc One's blistering opener, "The King For a 1000 Years", clocks in at almost 14 minutes. It's early-era Helloween at its finest, and includes all of the band's best trademark moments. Deris's high-pitched wails will pierce your eardrums as the band steams through a well-executed stew of tasty riffs and polished solos. "Silent Rain" and "The Invisible Man" follow suit, with some especially notable guitar work on the former. However, it's the curious "Mrs. God" that stands out -- and not necessarily in a good way. The song is catchy, with a hummable melody and memorable chorus, but its peculiar lyrics (which suggest that even God isn't immune to feminine wiles) and sing-song chorus don't mesh well with the album's otherwise-serious subject matter. The funky bass breakdown that arrives mid-song needlessly fractures the song, completely interrupting the flow.
"Occasion Avenue", which opens the second disc, follows the same basic formula as "The King For a 1000 Years", moving from a spoken-word introduction to the album's most thrash-intensive tune. It's dark, brooding tune, with dissonant chords that plaster an evil smirk across the band's normally upbeat power metal. Sadly, Deris's voice isn't at its best here -- he warbles on the high notes and has trouble with the song's cadence, effectively robbing it of much of its impact. Charged, potent cuts like "Get It Up" and "Come Alive" are more in line with expectations, and help to put the album back on a stronger musical trajectory.
It's hit or miss, but The Legacy is Helloween's best offering in more than a decade, because it returns to the approach that works: melodic speed metal with a positive message. The only question is why they felt the need to dump this much music on us. There are some great tunes on these two discs, but why release a filler-packed double disc when you can trim the fat and produce a classic?