Judas Priest – Priest… Live! Review

Posted: November 30, 2019 by kingcrimsonprog in Uncategorized
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Judas Priest’s first live album, Unleashed In The East, is considered an unquestionable classic by all and sundry. It is one of the premiere live albums in the whole genre. Less well regarded however, is their next live album 1987’s Priest… Live!

The first live album covered their ‘70s material. However; some of the band’s most memorable albums like British Steel and Screaming For Vengeance were made after Unleashed In The East and thus could not be represented on it. Priest fans then needed a live album for the ‘80s too. Hey, Kiss had Alive and Alive II. It should be possible to have another utterly classic live album. Somehow however the history books haven’t been too kind on this one. Alive II it ‘aint. You don’t find this in every list of best ever live albums.

For me; I both think that’s a shame. But I also get it. There are some things working against it. For example, the running order. They open the album up with a track that is not fast, not a classic and not very Priest sounding. ‘Out In The Cold’ is a mid-paced, non-single from the band’s unpopular Turbo album.  Think of all the great live albums. How many of them open up with a mid paced non-single from the band’s unpopular album? Not many. Next up is even the fact that it is from the tour for Turbo, which may put some people off. I’m sure if they had released a live album touring a more well received album like Screaming For Vengeance or Painkiller, then more people would have given it a chance. (And to be fair, its only three tracks from Turbo, two of which are buried among popular classics and both of which are great live anyway). Finally; a little petty, but there’s also the artwork. Unleashed In The East has an iconic and exciting live shot bursting with energy. Priest… Live! Has a janky drawing of some hands on a mud coloured background. It just doesn’t look like a classic.

That being said, there’s a lot of good to be found here. Tracks from three tracks from British Steel and two from Screaming For Vengeance. Four from Defenders of the Faith. (More if you get the remastered version).Good stage banter from Halford. A decent production job. No repetition from their previous live album’s track list. Good guitar and vocal performances.  Highlights include the evergreen ‘Electric Eye’ and ‘Breaking The Law’ as a better-than-the-album version of ‘Heading Out To The Highway.’ The bonus tracks from the remaster also help boost the record. A bit of ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ never did anyone any harm. Overall; Not the band’s most famous live album. Still worth owning. (Also, a personal tip… the record flows better if you swap ‘Out In The Cold’ and ‘Electric Eye’ in the running order).

Annihilator – Refresh The Demon Review

Posted: November 24, 2019 by kingcrimsonprog in Uncategorized
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If Canada’s Annihilator are an underrated band, and their albums after the classic first debut and sophomore releases, (such as albums three & four; Set The World On Fire and King Of The Kill) are underrated by the media, then the albums after that are a triple-threat of underrated, being underrated by even their fanbase.

The best among those for me, is the Refresh The Demon album. The 1996 follow up to King Of The Kill, was the second album in a row where after a period of line-up instability, guitarist Jeff Waters took on vocal duties as well. This makes it the first studio album in their career to have the same singer as the previous album.

Stylistically; the album is very much a sequel to King Of The Kill. There are even some direct analogues, such as both having brief guitar based instrumentals, both having ballads, both having a few groove metal tracks that raise eye brows among the older fans, both having a ‘Knight Jumps Queen’/’Brain Dead’ style song with an in/out guitar line and rhythmic vocals, and a couple of true blue classic thrashers that raise horns with older fans.

This is a brilliant album, better than a Thrash album from 1996 is likely to be for most bands. Its arguably an even tighter, well rounded version of King Of The Kill and if you that album, this one is a must own. You can consider them a pair. They’re the two albums with Jeff singing but a live drummer and no drum machine (unlike the next album, 1997’s Remains).

Highlights include the speedy title track, its pure Waters-Thrash, the kind of thing that could have fit on the first two albums, ‘Pastor Of Disaster’ which is the aforementioned ‘Brain Dead’-style fun one, and ‘City Of Ice’ which is like a blend of ‘80s Judas Priest and ‘70s Van Halen.

If you are a big Thrash fan, there’s a lot of albums released in the ‘90s that are disappointing. Refresh The Demon ‘aint one of ‘em.  Not by a long shot.

I Went To See Ghost Live In Cardiff Motorpoint Arena Last Night on Sunday 17.11.19

Posted: November 18, 2019 by kingcrimsonprog in Uncategorized

Succinct Ghost review:

  • I was not really in the mood for going as my wife and baby were sick and I had been looking after them all week, but luckily my wife was better in time for the concert, so I didn’t feel too dodgy going.
  • The headliner was Ghost, who I came to late, having dipped my toes in when Infestisimaum was new, but not committed to until Meliora was old and Popestar was out. They play a very unique blend of retro hard rock and heavy metal but with lots of 70s/80s pop influence and ’70s prog instrumentation without being proggy. Their singer dresses as a skeletal pope most of the time (except for this album cycle which is thematically a prequel and now he is a living cardinal) and the rest of the band are unknown and were masks to hide their identity and are referred to only as nameless ghouls. The band are known to be great live due to the spectacle, but also musically. Their live album is audio only, and is superb.  
  • I got there late and missed the first warm up band except for the last 1-2 mins. The second warm up band, All Them Witches, weren’t my cup of tea even though I usually enjoy Stoner and Psychedelic music. Luckily, as they weren’t too big a draw for this typ of crowd, I got very close to the front without even trying.
Cardinal Copia up close
  • After a long build up with big curtains obscuring everything and creepy choral music playing, Ghost came on, had a really nice stage, back drops and marble effect ramp lay out.
Ghouls on Marble
Full band
  • The performance was great live. The songs are so much heavier and crunchier. The guitar tone is twice as metallic live and the drummer slams it out so much harder. There is room for ghoul improve at times. It just felt bigger and more energetic and livelier.
Guitar Ghoul and light show
  • The setlist covered every studio album and had some non-album tracks from the better known singles/EPs, but was weighted really heavily on the two newest studio albums Meliora and Prequelle. They played a number of instrumentals and had a guitar battle with the ghouls to give the singer time for multiple costume changes.
  • The showmanship and stage banter was really amusing, campy, fun and silly. The cardinal would mince around the stage in an old fashioned way and made lots of dirty jokes. He rode a tricycle around at one point. His gesturing, body language and general stagey theatrics would be off putting for the ultra-serious metal head in me, but the fun factor is undeniable. If Alice Cooper can get away with it, Ghost are his amusing disciples.
Costume change
  • There was smoke cannons, confetti cannons and some sparing pyro. There was a very good light show. It was all really well balanced and paced. They created some really cool images (which I didn’t get on camera) in which the cardinal was inside the smoke or inside the confetti storm.
Smoke Cannons
Confetti
  • Highlights included: Papa Nihil coming out and playing a saxophone solo, a very heavy rendition of ‘Mummy Dust’ with an amusing dust confetti ending, lots of pyro and a great live production on ‘Year Zero,’ the cardinal saying ‘‘we wouldn’t end the show without a goodnight kiss’’ then slamming into an absolutely momentous rendition of new tune ‘Kiss The Go Goat’ and of course, the band ending with their best song ‘Square Hammer. ’
Skeletal Pope playing Saxapohne
  • This is a gig I will never forget. It was so much better than I’m describing it, but I’ve been typing all day at work and also short on time. I recommend seeing them live so much, (especially now they have the Prequelle and Satanic Panic songs to mix into the set).
Unforgettable

Annihilator – King Of The Kill Review

Posted: October 20, 2019 by kingcrimsonprog in Uncategorized
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Annihilator have to be for my money, one of the absolute best Thrash Metal bands. Their greatest hits album calls the band ‘The Canadian Metallica’ and their virtuosos guitarist Jeff Waters ‘Canada’s answer to Eddie Van Halen.’ In terms of fame and size, this may be way off, but in terms of quality it is dead on. Their debut and sophomore albums, Alice In Hell and Never Neverland are near peerless masterpieces of the genre, full of concert classics. The blistering and incendiary lead guitar is some of the most impressive on any classic Thrash album.

Annihilator are a bit like Death, Nine Inch Nails or Megadeth in terms of having one key member and a revolving door cast of contributors. Their fourth album is their fourth in a row to feature a different singer. This time, lead guitarist Jeff Waters pulls the full Mustaine and becomes the singer. He may not be the most technically accomplished singer the band have ever had but he really suits the material. In fact; he pulls the full Schuldiner and is the bassist and rhythm guitarist too. The only other member on the album here is drummer Randy Black (Later of W.A.S.P, Primal Fear and Destruction).

As with many Thrash bands, they fell off the radar a bit in the ‘90s when Grunge and Alternative ruled the world. The extra interview tracks on the remasters of their ‘90s albums explain how their manager convinced them not to even put out their albums in North America during this time.

That’s a shame. Most fans only know the band for their first 2-3 albums. Less famous however, is the 1994 King Of The Kill album. For a Thrash band in the ‘90s this is a damn fine album and it’s a shame it isn’t better known. It remarkably well produced and clear without losing any bit. The lead guitar work is just as good if not better than before. There are some really memorable songs.

Fans of the band’s earlier thrashier material will fan in love with the concert favourite title track. Its tight riffing and punchy double kicks are everything that’s right with Thrash Metal. (About big cats. Jeff later comments it should have been ‘Queen of the Kill’ instead, as the female big cats actually do the hunting).  ‘Second To None’ is equally hammering and would fit well on either of the band’s first two albums.

If you enjoyed the ballad from their third album you’ve got ‘In The Blood’ which is a more tasteful ballad with some nice classical guitar lines, or you enjoyed the slow quiet sections from the loud/quiet tracks on Never Neverland, then ‘Hell Is A War’ uses the same sort of style and tones but combines it with some mid-paced Pantera grooves and some Thrash. In the ‘90s some Thrash fans took umbridge with Thrash bands incorporating any Groove, but Annihilator do it right here.

There are admittedly a few other Groove moments that don’t work so well, like ‘The Box’ and ‘Annihilator’ which may be a bit too slow and repetitive for fans of the band’s technical, speedy, 200-ideas-per-song approach of yesteryear, but which add a bit of diversity to proceedings in all fairness. (The band made a mistake using ‘The Box’ as the opening track when the album was first issued, but future versions remedied this by making the title track first, which flows much better).

Speaking of diversity; fans of the band’s more eclectic and varied third album Set The World On Fire, will also find lots to love here. ‘21’ for example combines the Exodus’ ‘Brain Dead’-esque Thrash fun of ‘Knight Jumps Queen’ with the Van Halen worship of ‘Snake In The Grass’ and ‘Sounds Good To Me.’  You’ve also got the on-the-nose ‘Speed’ which lets Jeff show his guitar chops off further and ‘Fiasco’ is almost like a Thrash Metal version of something like ‘Romeo Delight’ or ‘Unchained.’ You can see how the band would come to cover aforementioned party-anthem later on their self-titled album.

I am a Thrash guy first and foremost. I got into the band for tracks like ‘Welcome To Your Death’ and ‘Wicked Mystic,’ fast, hard, aggressive and intense. That being said, one of the surprising album highlights here is the pure hard rock, cheeseball headbanger ‘Bad Child.’ It taps into the same AC/DC loving hard rock vein that the band would later drill on ‘Shallow Grave’ a few albums down the line. If you want pure catchy fun, this is the track for you.

There are also two very fine instrumentals in ‘Bliss’ and ‘Catch The Wind’ for the guitar aficionado.  Jeff has a very unique and distinct musical vision and you can tell if he has written something right away.

Overall; King Of The Kill is another excellent album from Annihilator, and fans of Jeff’s Thrashier and more Hard Rock styles will both find a lot to like here. There’s also a few experiments but enough of what the fans want remains. It certainly retains the same quality the band are known for, even if you may not see it on quite so many Best Thrash Albums Ever lists as others. It may not be their most pure-Thrash album, but just in terms of being a good album, this is a must have.  

Helloween Albums Ranked

Posted: October 19, 2019 by kingcrimsonprog in Uncategorized
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In honour of the release of the Alive United live album, I’m taking a moment out to highlight some of the best moments from the ultimate cheese masters Helloween, ranking their studio albums from best to maybe-don’t-buy-that-one-first.

JOINT NUMBER ONE:

Keeper Of The Seven Keys parts 1 & 2. (1987 & 1988)

I always say ‘’If you only get one Helloween album, get these two!’’

It almost doesn’t need said, but the Keepers are two of the finest metal albums in history. Beyond iconic. Near flawless. Immensely repayable. Instant, but rewarding on repeat listens. The best albums of the Kiske era.  What Reign In Blood and Master If Puppets are to Thrash, the Keepers are to Power Metal. If you want to try Helloween, this is your starting point. If you have any interest in the ‘weenies, this is the must have moment, the pinnacle. Recent studies at the university of metal have shown that it is medically impossible to like Helloween and not like these albums. And hey; If you really only want to buy one album, they do also sell both of these albums together in one package, so that’s almsot like buying one album.

NUMBER TWO:

Time Of The Oath (1996)

After the Keepers, Helloween made a few, questionable decisions. It wasn’t until the album prior to this, Master Of The Rings, that things started getting back on track. When they actually GOT back on track however, is Time Of The Oath. The crown jewel in the Andi Deris era. No, its not just the album art. This is the most straight ahead classic Power Metal album since the Keepers stylistically, but more importantly, the best set of songs they ever concocted outside those peerless two classics. Tracks like the mighty ‘Kings Will Be Kings’ and ‘Steel Tormentor’ are brilliant and the album contains one of the band’s all time best tracks, ‘Power.’

NUMBER THREE:

7 Sinners (2010)

If you thought the band’s best material was confined to the late ‘80s and mid-‘90s, you’d be wrong. 2010’s 7 Sinners album stands tall and proud in the upper echelons of the band’s discography. Stylistically, this one is a deliberate effort to be heavier and more metallic. The guitar tone is thicker and crunchier than usual. The toms are pounding and the kick drums are thunderous. Its such a great mix of catchy, heavy and diverse. The opener ‘Where’s The Sinners Go’ is mid paced and modern, whereas ‘If A Mountain Could Talk’ is classic ‘80s style Helloween and ‘Raise The Noise’ is a melodic gem like ‘Power’ only with a Jethro Tull style flute solo.

JOINT NUMBER FOUR:

Walls Of Jericho and Helloween EP.  (1985 & 1985)

Like the Keepers, these two are similarly linked and the only releases in the Kai Hansen era. Like the Keepers these two are often packaged together too. Stylistically; You can see how they would come to develop into the style they are more known for it, there are touches of it here and there, but they are rawer, thrashier and less melodic than most Helloween albums. My personal favourite track  on ‘Jericho is the catchy as hell ‘’Heavy Metal (Is The Law)’’ and it features other memorable moments like ‘’Ride The Sky’’ and the 7 minute long ‘’How Many Tears.’’

On the EP, tracks like ‘’Starlight’’ and ‘’Victim Of Fate’’ show that these Germans were onto something great from the very start. The only downside is the production and vocals aren’t as smooth as on later albums.

NUMBER FIVE:

Gambling With The Devil (2007)

I wonder what it is about this band and the number 7. Anything with 7 in it turns to gold. 7 Keys. 7 Sinners. ‘’The Bells Of 7 Hells.’’ Aforementioned hell themed track is one of my all time favourite Helloween moments.  

Like the 7 Sinners album, this album sees a diverse yet consistent Helloween with a focus on heaviness, but willingness to diverge. ‘’As Long As I Fall’’ for example starts off as a commercial semi-ballad and ends up as a masterclass in lead guitar. Opener ‘Kill It’ has one of the band’s most savage choruses since the Kai era.

NUMBER 6:

Master Of The Rings (1994)

The first album with Deris in the band. It would be a nicer story to say this one was the stylistic return to form. Well, it was partially. Tracks like ‘’Sole Survivor’’ and ‘’Still We Go’’ give the fans what they want.  However; This album had bigger plans in mind than just getting the old fans back. They’ve got eyes on a whole new audience. Van Halen alike tracks like ‘’Take Me Home’’ see the band diversify. Big commercial pop tinged tracks like ‘’Perfect Gentleman’’ and ‘’Why?’’ helped the band reach a new audience.

NUMBER 7:

Rabbit Don’t Come Easy (2003)

I’ve heard a few people weren’t keen on this one, but aside from the annoying ‘’Never Be A Star’’ that’s too cynical a recreation of ‘’Perfect Gentleman,’’ this album is probably one of the bands most consistent albums from beginning to end. Its chocked to the brim full of happy melodic choruses, relentless double kicks and lead guitar majesty. I think it may be the best set of lead guitars and guitar solos on any of their studio albums yet. Stand out tracks include the single ‘’Just A Little Time’’ (even with its Blink 182 level erection jokes), and the amazing ‘’The Tune’’ and ‘’Hell Was Made In Heaven’’ which both show the band at their melodic best. Also of note is ‘’Liar’’ which has the kind of heaviness introduced on The Dark Ride and perfected later on 7 Sinners.

NUMBER 8:

Straight Out Of Hell (2013)

One of the band’s most eclectic and varied albums since Master Of The Rings, Straight Out Of Hell tries a range of different ideas on for size, and sees the band not content to just repeat themselves over and over, without going the Chameleon route of straying too far from what fans want. This was the first new release from the Pumpkins in my time as a fan and has a special place in my heart for that. At the time there was a big buzz about them going back to sounding happy, after the heavy material, but in hindsight I do prefer 7 Sinners. This one is good, but not 7 Sinners good.

NUMBER 9:

My God Given Right (2015)

The follow up to Straight Out Of Hell. Sort of more of the same. The album is less experimental, but more consistent. It’s a smooth a perfect distillation of modern Helloween, with nothing to complain about. A very solid album. The best songs, like ‘Russian Roulle’ and ‘If God Loves Rock N Roll’ are solid and a good addition to the catalogue, and there’s no weak moments of obvious filler. Only not higher in the list due to lack of a real stand out. Its all good, but its missing anything extra-special.

NUMBER 10:

Better Than Raw (1998)

Terrible album artwork, but decent record. There are few really memorable moments, like the Latin ‘Laudate Dominum’ as well as ‘Push’ and ‘Hey Lord!’  I feel like this album was a moment of maturing and modernisation for the band. For me it wasn’t as good as ‘Time Of The Oath’ and I resented it a bit for that, but upon recent re-evaluation I have found it to be much better than I remembered it. It isn’t their best album, but it is not one to be overlooked either.

NUMBER 11:

The Dark Ride (2000)

In some ways, a continuation of the modernised matured direction of Better Than Raw, but with a big dose of heaviness added in. Its not really what you expect to hear from the band who made the Keepers, and definitely what you expected from the band who made ‘Jericho. But its not without its moments. The title track is pretty great. ‘Escalation 666’ is nice and heavy.  As much as I want Helloween to just write straight Power Metal all the time, you do have to admit that the power ballad ‘If I Could Fly’ is a good tune, even if it isn’t what you want.

NUMBER 12:

Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy (2005)

A lot of Helloween fans dislike this one. Its not without merit, but its not their finest hour either. Its one of those classic ‘’the double album would’ve been better as a single album’’ situations. Its also one of those classic ‘’the sequel isn’t as good as the original situations.’’ I get why they did it, but it also feels like a bit of a step backwards. Definitely don’t start with this one, save it until your already a fan.

NUMBER 13:

Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991)

Well, really this isn’t what anybody wanted as a follow up to two of the finest albums in the history of power metal. I guess it was their attempt at a ‘Black Album’ but it falls short. Its not without merits, in fact I may even get defensive if it gets an out and out bashing, but this should never be anyone’s first Helloween album.

NUMBER 14:

Chameleon (1993)

The only one I don’t like or own. Critically reviled. Stylistically confused. Not at all metal. Not what the fans wanted. Not what their own drummer wanted. A mix of prog, pop and featuring children’s choirs. Pretty much universally agreed as the worst Helloween album. For collectors only.

I went to go see Alice Cooper live at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night on Saturday 12th October 2019. I had balcony seats, which isn’t usually my thing (I’ve only seen 4 concerts sitting down ever; this one last night, The Rolling Stones in Dublin with my parents when I was a child, Tool in Glasgow when I was a teenager and Avenged Sevenfold in Manchester a few years ago) but considering what a show Alice puts on, you wouldn’t to miss it being at the wrong angle or having some tall guy in front of you.

The first of the support acts was MC5 (or MC50 now, as they’ve been around for so long). I’m not a huge fan, but I respect them, and like seeing Wayne in documentaries. I have Kick Out The Jams but that’s as far as I know them, and even then I only like about 2-3 songs from it anyway, so I wasn’t super excited to see them, but it was still a good start to the evening. Interestingly though, Billy Gould from Faith No More and Kim Thayil from Soundgarden were in the band tonight, so that was a very welcome surprise. Especially as I’ve spent the last month or so enjoying reading Everybody Loves Our Town (a book about Grunge with lots of Kim quotes) and watching Live From The Artist’s Den (the new Soundgarden concert video). Wayne Kramer seemed very grateful and excited and was quite entertaining. (He and Kim also came out at the end of Alice’s show for some bonus guitar and taking a bow).

MC50, that’s Thayil in the beanie, stage left.

Next up was The Stranglers who I was not really aware of. When they started playing I recognised quite a few of their songs, such as ‘Get A Grip On Yourself’ which Prong cover. They also played ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘No More Heroes’ as well as a song about walking on the beaches looking at the peaches which I recognised from various TV shows over the years. They were a weird mix of punky bass, ‘80s arty pop vocals and yet jaunty Yes style keyboards. It was a bizarre combination. I haven’t researched them but can’t even figure out what genre they were. New Wave? Post Punk? I really wasn’t sure. Kind of fun though. They had some amusing stage banter about grey hair in the audience and them being twats while Alice was a nice bloke.

The Stranglers

After that it was time for Frank Sinatra. Oh sorry, I read the poster wrong, it wasn’t Ol’ Blue Eyes, it was Ol’ Black Eyes and his nightmare castle. I almost don’t know what to talk about first. The music, the set list, the stage antics, the sound or the band?

Nightmare Castle

I think I’ll go with set list. I was very satisfied. Lots of material from Welcome To My Nightmare and Billion Dollar Babies, which are the two Cooper albums I’m most familiar with. Also mega perennial hits like ‘I’m 18,’ ‘School’s Out’ and ‘Poison.’ One newer song from Paranormal (‘Fallen In Love’) and a few of the more energetic ‘80s moments like ‘Roses On White Lace,’ ‘He’s Back, The Man Behind The Mask’ and ‘Bed Of Nails.’ The show opened with my favourite Alice Cooper song, ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ which essentially got me into the man/band due to its Wayne’s World and Motley Crue connections. Also early on they played ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ which I was into via the Megadeth cover for years before I heard the original. (Actually, same goes for ‘I’m 18’ which I loved for years prior to be ing a Cooper fan due to Anthrax covering it).

In terms of the sound it was brilliant, very crunchy and metallic. The drums and bass were very clear and you could hear every cymbal and bass line clearly and separately.  The vocals were  crystal clear. I was really satisfied with the sound. I’ve seen some arena shows where you can’t hear the vocals, or the bass, or everything is just a big reverby mess. This however was brilliant.

Cooper

The band were great. Nina Strausse lives up to all the hype, with stage moves halfway between prime era Slash and Zack Wylde and playing that would make Eddie Van Halen slightly nervous. I really assumed all the blabbermouth hype was just hype, but colour me wrong. She was definitely captivating and beyond impressive.

Strausse Up Top

Also; have you ever seen the famous youtube video ‘’This Drummer Is At The Wrong Gig’’ ? The one with all the stick tricks and showmanship. Drummer Glen Sobel was like that, sticks on the wrong side of the kit, sticks upside down, sticks constantly 30ft up in the air.  The drum solo was even entertaining. Most live drum solos I have seen have bored me, and I’m a drummer so they must bore the average fan even more, but this was mad fun. He got such an applause. Since becoming a Cooper fan recently, I have always enjoyed ‘The Black Widow’ and its great how heavy it sounds like, in the weird medley with ‘Black Juju’ and ‘Devils Food’ and unexpectedly for me at least, ‘My Stars’ off of Schools Out.

I never really liked the School’s Out album. I got it a good few years before I became a Cooper fan and it put me off him for a few years. It wasn’t until I got Hey Stoopid and Billion Dollar Babies that I really clicked with Alice Cooper. But as the band make everything so heavy live, ‘My Stars’ really popped live.  I guess I will have to revisit Schools Out a bit more often now thanks to tonight. I guess it is more than just an amazing title track and a bunch of weird broadway music, which was my opinion of it up ’til now.

Guillotine

Anyway, back to the show. In terms of showmanship, Alice himself, or Vince or whatever, is the ultimate professional. Every wiggle of the hips, tilt of the cane, costume change, mock kiss and swish of the sword perfectly placed. His body language and stage presence all mastered over years and years of practice. Then there are the actors, running around, getting knifed, putting Alice in straight Jackets, wearing wedding dresses, pushing prams. Its all very pantomime but I loved it. Alice got guillotined, which I knew would happen but which was still very entertaining. What I didn’t expect was the Iron Maiden style Frankenstein puppet running around during ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ and giant baby puppet during ‘Dead Babies.’

Big Baby Puppets

Interestingly, even though I was singing along to every other song all evening, even the ones I was less familiar with like ‘Fallen In Love,’ …I was surprisingly unable to sing along to ‘Dead Babies’ for some weird psychological reason due to recently having had my own baby son. Weird. Still a classic song though.

At the end, Alice came out in the top hat and tails, launching balloons and glitter and confetti all over the place and adding in a bit of Another Brick In The Wall’s lyrics into arguably his best known song in the UK, ‘School’s Out.’  They then got all the bands and actors out from the whole evening and everyone took a bow while a big cannon shot golden streamers into the audience (like the cannons they had already shot fake money with, during ‘Billon Dollar Babies’ earlier on ).

I don’t care if it was cheesy, it was a truck load of fun. (Several truckloads actually, as I was walking home, all the taxi ranks around the arena were full of trucks, presumably here to carry his castle and all the cannons and guillotines etc).

Taking A Bow

Someone once said every rock and metal fan has to see Alice Cooper live at least once. I completely agree. I had an absolute whale of time. Great sound, great set, great vocals, great onstage nonsense.

Imagine a Judas Priest show with both Tim Ripper Owens and Rob Halford singing together. No wait… Imagine a Sepultura show with both Max Cavelera and Derick Green singing. No wait, that’s not even it. I’ve got it… Imagine an Iron Maiden show with Paul Dianno, Bruce Dickinson and Blaze Bailey all singing. Well, maybe, if Dickinson had left after four albums and Blaze had been there ever since. Ok, Now swap out the zombie mascot for some comedy pumpkins and you’re approaching the situation here. Helloween, one of Germany’s biggest and most important bands, one of the most iconic Power Metal bands in history, with one of the most impressive family trees (Gamma Ray, Masterplan, Freedom Call, Unisonic, Iron Savior etc) make one of the most anticipated decisions in the history of the genre.

Who is your favourite Helloween singer? Is it Kai Hansen, the heaviest singer and the original? Is it Michael Kiske, the most technically accomplished and the one from their most iconic record? Or is it Andi Deris, their best frontman and the singer on the most albums? – Turns out, now you don’t have to choose. United Alive, the live video from the Pumpkins United tour sees all three join the stage together, cracking out a career spanning mixture of material from the earliest thrashiest material to the modern gems, with all the iconic genre defining masterpieces from the peerless Keepers’ era sprinkled in too. 

There are over 20 tracks here (some are intros and solos, and some are medleys/combinations, but still…) that’s a lot of Helloween. All three singers take it turns to sing. Sometimes not even a song each, but rather dividing it up section by section inside each song, or all at once. It is very welcome to hear them back on some of their own tracks like ‘Heavy Metal Is The Law’ after not hearing it on the other live videos, or ‘Dr. Stein’ after having heard only Deri’s take on it previously. Conversely it is very interesting to see Kai or Kiske sing on some of the big commercial ‘90s/’00s hits like ‘Perfect Gentleman’ or ‘If I Could Fly.’

There are often 7 members on stage at the one time (or 8 if you count the keyboardist, Eddy Wrapiprou). There’s Weikath and Grosskopft on guitar and bass as always. Sascha Gerstner and Daniel Löble on guitar and drums like the last several albums. And the three aforementioned singers (with Kai also playing guitar).

There’s a mix of footage, ranging from headline shows in Madrid, Spain to festival appearances at Wacken and in Brazil.  Sort of like they did already on their previous ‘Legacy World Tour 2005/2006 DVD.

Normally I really prefer a concert DVD to come from one single show, rather than complied from a series of different dates in different places with different lighting, sound and camera work, but given that the band itself is now a compilation of past and present members and some of the songs included are medleys, I don’t know why but it just works here.

The band put on a great show. There’s a lot going on. There’s video screens, a big pumpkin stage set piece around the drum kit (which has 4 kickdrums for some reason, just to add to the over-the-top feel of it all), a light show, and a few cheesy moments like members coming out dressed in a top hat and cane, or raining pumpkin balloons.

Deris, ever the consummate front man is great at revving up the crowd, and then the different members get spotlights for certain tunes and join up on others, there’s prolonged solo segments, a tribute to late drummer Ingo Schichtenberg, its all very diverse and entertaining. They even do a stripped-down bare bones version of the ballad ‘Forever And One’ straight after a super heavy Walls Of Jericho/EP medley, which pretty much shows both polar opposites of the band’s varied discography.

There’s multiple different ways you can buy it. DVD, Blu Ray, combinations thereof. Versions with CDs. The version I got it two Blu Rays. One with the concert and one with a load of extra footage. There’s a few extra songs (Including the underrated ‘Kids Of The Century’ from the oft maligned Pink Bubbles Go Ape album). There’s a bunch of behind the scenes footage looking at various aspects of the tour and production. It comes in a nice shiny digi-book with some brief liner notes and a glossy photo booklet. You know, just as if it wasn’t value for money enough already with an almost three-hour concert of a Helloween fan’s wildest fantasy line-up.

As a concept you really have to hand it to them; its quite a clever move to reuinite with past members without losing current members as some fans never got over Kiske leaving the band or only ever even tried the Keepers albums. Some fans really love the Kai era and you never get to see Helloween play much material from it anymore (you only really get the chance if he chucks one in to a Gamma Ray show some time). Its a great idea to reel them back in and show them how great the Deris era can be too. Come for ‘Halloween’ and ‘Future World’ but stay for ‘Sole Survivor’ and ‘Power’ then learn to love the Deris era if you don’t already.

Thankfully though, its not just the concept that’s good. The whole package is good. The sound, footage, editing and bonus material. Most importantly though, the performance. It doesn’t come across as a novelty cash grab, it really feels like a jubilant celebration. As they say in the opening track ‘Halloween’ ”There’s magic in the air.” This may be cheesy to say (but hey, if you like Helloween, you better be used to cheesy) but it really is a heavy metal dream come true. Buy it!