Being in a band with other people can often resemble a messy relationship – a passionate love turned bad, the good memories soiled by the desire to never see the other person again. This certainly fits what has happened to German power metal veterans Helloween – their history is ridden with members leaving on bad terms and vowing to never speak to each other again, but relations warmed over time and old members would occasionally re-join for the odd song at a festival. The healing process culminated when the band announced a massive world tour entitled Pumpkins Reunited, which came to London’s Brixton Academy for a night of unapologetic metal nostalgia.
The re-union tour sees Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske – guitarist and vocalist from the band’s classic late-80s era – join the five members of the current line-up. Seven musicians on stage may sound excessive, yet it proved anything but, as the familiar tunes were enriched by triple guitar solos and multilayered vocal harmonies. What’s more, returning members Kiske and Hansen showed equal dedication in playing songs that their bandmates wrote years after the two had left, as they did with the hits from their own time. It appeared that the conflicts of the past are water under the bridge – the men showed genuine warmth for each other, exchanging hugs and jokes, and one could see their obvious enjoyment from playing together.
The setlist had an understandable emphasis on Helloween’s two best-known albums – ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 1 & 2’ – but that doesn’t mean that their catalogue without Hansen and Kiske was brushed off. We heard songs from all eras of the band, with Andi Deris and Michael Kiske alternating between sharing vocal duties and letting one another enjoy the spotlight for entire songs. The two vocalists were on sensational form and hit all the heights that they first reached decades ago.
The vocal duo took a backseat at one point, however, as guitarist Kai Hansen reprised his vocal duties from the band’s debut album ‘Walls of Jericho’. Hansen’s voice, while lacking the range and richness of Kiske and Deris, still has all the raspy attack you can desire for these speed metal anthems.
Past and present continued to intertwine during a touching tribute to the band’s original drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg who tragically took his life in 1995, after struggling with schizophrenia and substance abuse. Current drummer Daniel Löble played along with audio and video footage of a drum solo by Ingo, the two exchanging thunderous drum patterns or tearing the skins in unison. It was a beautiful nod to an absent friend.
After two encores, Helloween closed with their most famous song ‘I Want Out’. Originally written by Kai Hansen out of frustration with the band’s direction, the negative sentiment was nowhere to be seen or felt, completely overpowered by the sense of celebration for the music. The last chords sounded a few minutes after the 11pm curfew – just under three hours after the start – and the band bowed triumphantly under thunderous applause. Tonight, in the most perfect way imaginable, Helloween paid respect to their history – all thirty-three years of it – and to the fans who stuck around for the ride.
If I Could Fly
Are You Metal?
Kids of the Century
Waiting for the Thunder
Starlight / Ride the Sky / Judas
Heavy Metal (Is the Law)
Forever and One (Neverland)
A Tale That Wasn’t Right
Livin’ Ain’t No Crime
A Little Time
How Many Tears
Eagle Fly Free
Keeper of the Seven Keys
I Want Out