“Unarmed: Best Of 25th Anniversary” by Helloween

Artist: Helloween
Title: “Unarmed: Best Of 25th Anniversary”
Label: The End Records
Release Date: 3/30/2010
Genre: Power Metal
Rating: 2.5/5

Wow, where do I even begin with this one? OK – to make a long story short, Helloween is celebrating their 25th Anniversary and this new album “Unarmed” is their “gift to fans” for all the years of support. It features twelve of their greatest numbers and delivers them in what can best be described as an “un-Metal” fashion. Yes you are reading that correctly for the band too these classics and reworked and stripped down the songs and as result appeared to remove every ounce of the Power Metal “oomph” that made them classics to us in the first place. I was shocked because while I consider myself to be one of the more open minded fans of this genre, as each track passed me by I was left with a sense of surprise and awe and not in a good way. I know the band wanted to give us something that we would never forget and I think that there will be no problem in this since they included a saxophone, pianos, a large orchestra and Gregorian singers. How different is this album? Well, I am glad you asked and here are some of its high and low points.

It starts off with “Dr. Stein” that has a big band Big Band Jazz vibe to it with a slightly danceable beat and continues with “Future World” that has far too much acoustic guitar in it and almost sounds like a too sweet Pop song now. I guess we have given Miley Cyrus a version of her own with this one. A tip of the cap to Linkin Park who sound like they wrote “If I Could Fly” with this version leads us into just how “Where The Rain Grows” if Poison’s “Something To Believe In” was used as its model. If Folkie female-vocal accompaniment is your thing just wait until you hear the new version of the normally thundering “Eagle Fly Free”. Sadly I don’t even know how to describe the reworked version of “I Want Out”. For me there were more low points than the high ones and while I applaud the amount of work that went into the epic “The Keeper’s Trilogy”, I felt that this was an ill-conceived project for the most part. This particular tune covers the three “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” songs and finds the band with a 70 piece orchestra and choir and while different is likely the albums best offering. The hard part for me with this album is how I have been a Helloween fan since I first saw them very late at night on this new program called “The Headbanger’s Ball” so very long ago. Our relationship between band and fan has been tested at times over the years based on certain releases not impressing me and yet I always found that they were a trusted Metal friend for the long haul and one I could generally count on when the chips were down across the scene. The Power Metal faithful is not always a tolerant breed and one that will shift gears at the mere change of a guitar player in some cases and I am hard pressed to believe that the bands most devout followers will embrace this release.

The band is joined by some guests on the album such as Supercharge’s saxophonist Albie Donnelly, Hellsongs’s vocalist Harriet Ohlsson, pianist Matthias Ulmer, and the 70-piece Prague Symphonic Orchestra with its choirs of Gregorian singers and when capped off by the usual suspects of Helloween make this a massive undertaking in terms of performers. Though I am trying not to be too closed minded to musical expression I wondered what made the band feel that this was a good idea after observing their fan base for so long and being the kind of band that generally meets with their supporters after shows. Reworking your own songs is not an uncommon thing these days as numerous bands are doing it (such as Uriah Heep, KISS, and Journey) but to recompose them in such a fashion that they lose their razor sharp Metal edge is not something I think was wise to have done. I am not sure that I will be listening to this one all that much in the future and I cannot safely recommend this to the Helloween purists either because they are a lot that wants the band to throttle them with tune after tune. Helloween was on a fantastic rise again with “Gambling With The Devil” a couple of years ago and I feel that for the most part “Unarmed” will be one of those releases that is viewed as an avenue that should have never been turned onto and instead bypassed as the band sped into the Metal glory of the future. Personally I want Helloween to remind me of how much ass they kick and not how “modern” they can be. Approach this one with EXTREME caution.

Track Listing:
1. Dr. Stein
2. Future World
3. If I Could Fly
4. Where The Rain Grows
5. The Keeper’s Trilogy
6. Eagle Fly Free
7. Perfect Gentleman
8. Forever And One
9. I Want Out
10. Fallen To Pieces
11. A Tale That Wasn’t Right
12. Why

Official Website: http://www.helloween.org

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