United Alive In Madrid
(Nuclear Blast Records)
When Teutonic Power Metal pioneers Helloween ousted vocalist Michael Kiske circa 1993, I initially found myself less-than-enthused. Although the drastic stylistic changes and subsequent poor commercial performance of Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991) and Chameleon (1993) undoubtedly left the group with few options, the 'death' of their once revolutionary tonality left me disillusioned. Even the inescapable presence of the mighty Unisonic (their sophomore effort Light Of Dawn, 2014 is a modern day Power Metal classic) failed to entirely pique the interest of certain die-hard fans. Accordingly, when the group announced their arguably long-overdue intention to reunite with both Kiske and co-founding guitarist Kai Hansen in 2016, they quickly found themselves at the epicenter of intense, re-newed interest. Now, less than a year after the completion of the The Pumpkins United World Tour, the newly-minted septet has unleashed their stunning in-concert documents United Alive In Madrid.
On the brilliant United Alive In Madrid (2019), an expertly assembled twenty-four song collection of Power Metal, each track, beginning with the relentlessly pummeling tome “Halloween” the Frankenstein 'tribute' “Dr. Stein” and the hook-laden “Waiting For The Thunder” (taken from the Charlie Bauerfeind-Produced Straight Out Of Hell, 2013), immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Chronicling the group's much-celebrated The Pumpkins United World Tour, the newly-rejuvenated group wastes little--if any--time engulfing would-be listeners within a seamless, multi-dimensional blend of soaring and/or dueling vocals, blistering fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms. Boldly flexing their more-than-considerable creative muscles early and often, the group effortlessly distances themselves from their few remaining contemporaries without, believe it or not, overtly-focusing on any one portion of the legacy.
Continuing with the triumphant, delightfully over-the-top fan favorite “Perfect Gentleman” the criminally-overlooked quasi-'Power Ballad' “A Tale That Wasn't Right” and the razor-sharp “Living Ain't No Crime”/“A Little Time” medley, the newly-rejuvenated combination of lead vocalists Andi Deris (Kymera, No Mercy, Pink Cream 69) and Michael Kiske (Avantasia, Vanden Plas, Unisonic), guitarists Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray, Iron Savior, Unisonic), Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner, bassist Markus Grosskopf and drummer Daniel 'Dani' Löble (ex-Blaze Bayley, Element 58, Höllenhunde) steamrolls ahead with a truly sickening ease. With the once unthinkable combination of Kiske and Deris delivering a commanding, sweat-soaked performances reminiscent of their respective glory days, the group fires on all cylinders. Deftly reminding everyone of their compositional ingenuities, the group offers what can only be described as an ideal variation of vintage materials from each era.
Easily surpassing both the woefully-underrated I Want Out: Live EP (1989) and the Deris-fueled High Live (1996), other standouts, including the emotionally-overwrought “How Many Tears” the maddeningly infectious “Future World” and the obligatory--yet highly-effective--closer “I Want Out” only further re-enforce the group's well-deserved reputation as a bona fide creative and commercial force not to be ignored. Fortified throughout via extensive background materials, a movie compilation, cartoon clips (!) and a thirty minute band interview focusing on their past, present and, more importantly, their future, United Alive In Madrid ultimately succeeds by painstakingly documenting the group's sprawling history. Available in a variety of formats (including Blu-Ray, CD and DVD digipaks as well as limited edition five LP black and orange box sets), the relatively low MSRP ($13.49 for MP3 and $19.59 for CD) is seemingly guaranteed to appease their notably rabid constituents.
An absolute must-have for any genuine and sincere Helloween enthusiast (particularly those with a fondness for both the Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part II and Master Of The Rings eras), the majority--if not all--of the adrenaline-laden wares contained herein wares contained herein are nothing short of extraordinary and deserve to be treated accordingly. Easily the most highly-anticipated Old School release of the rapidly waning year, even if you somehow still find yourself less than enthralled with the group's re-vamped 'configuration', one must, at the very least, sincerely admire the energy and enthusiasm undoubtedly necessary for such an undertaking. As a result, if you've once again found yourself in search of a refreshingly fist-pumping, mosh-inducing alternative to the puréed, Pop and Hip Hop-addled excrement that is so often force fed en mass via the proverbial mainstream, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane salve for what ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
United Alive In Madrid (Blu-Ray/CD/DVD) (2019)
My God-Given Right (2015)
Straight Out Of Hell (2013)
7 Sinners (2010)
Gambling With The Devil (2007)
Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy (2005)
Rabbit Don't Come Easy (2003)
The Dark Ride (2000)
Metal Jukebox (1999)
Better Than Raw (1998)
High Live (1996)
The Time Of The Oath (1996)
Master Of The Rings (1994)
The Best, The Rest, The Rare (1991)
Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991)
I Want Out: Live (EP) (1989)
Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part II (1988)
Keeper Of The Seven Keys: Part I (1987)
Walls Of Jericho (1985)
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