The second of the classic-era Helloween albums, Keeper part Deus is a fifty minute fanfare of melodic power metal that leaves no tooth unrotted. Until Helloween, power metal’s approach was “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Afterwards, it was “a spoonful of sugar helps the sugar go down”.
It’s a little less earnest in its sweetness than Keeper 1, and a little more self-parodic. You can see vague reflections of the internet conflict that would eventually break up the band. Imagine the creepy forced-happy vibe of “Future World” spread over an entire album. At times, Keeper 2 sounds like fiddlers playing as the ship sinks.
It’s not as good as the first one, mostly because Michael Weikath has stepped into the role of primary songwriter here – the album’s absolutely infested with his tracks, and other than the opener “Eagle Fly Free” he doesn’t do anything truly great here. “Dr Stein” and “Rise and Fall” are midpaced, and quickly let the excitement ebb away. The closing epic just doesn’t have enough songwriting-fu to stay interesting for 13 minutes.
Michael Kiske’s contributions are likewise forgettable: he has a spectacular voice, and not much else. It was once joked that Jayne Mansfield’s acting abilities consisted of filling out a sweater. In Kiske’s case, his one redeeming attribute is located a few inches further up on his sternum.
But suddenly, the goods get develivered. Kai Hansen’s lonely three songs run back to back to back in the album’s middle, and they’re arguably the best three song run in Helloween’s history.
“Save Us” is fast and savage, upping the ante on “Twilight of the Gods.” “March of Time” is another golden Helloween standard that delivers everything you could want from this band. “I Want Out” is genius that years of overplay only slightly diminishes, featuring a jagged dual-guitar melody and lots of great vocal acrobatics. The lyrics pretty much state Kai’s frame of mind at the time. It’s good that he only wanted out from Helloween, not out from power metal.
Pablo Picasso years trying desperately to do something new, something unique. He moved from style to style, mastering and then rejecting methods…and then he paid a visit to the newly discovered Lascaux cave paintings. As the story goes, seeing these 16,000 year old works of art almost broke him. “We have invented nothing!”
Helloween’s Keeper albums might provoke a similar reaction to fans of modern Nuclear Blast-style metal. Other than the thunderous orchestras (which Helloween couldn’t afford in the era before software symphonies), there’s really nothing around today that wasn’t either invented or perfected here. Bits and pieces of power metal have always existed, from Iommi’s overdubbed guitar tracks to “Highway Star’s” duelling solos to Meat Loaf’s shamelessness. Helloween took those elements and made a style out of it. It’s naive, inconsistent, and sometimes irritating. It’s also the bedrock of a good amount of what’s considered cool today.
Which is ironic, because this album is weapon-grade uncool.