Helloween

Unarmed: Best of 25th Anniversary

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Leave it to Helloween to create a best-of that both is and isn’t. Released to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary, Unarmed features tracks from throughout their career rearranged, re-recorded, and re-visioned entirely from the originals. To say that this is unlike any other Helloween album is a radical understatement. What does remain, however, is the band’s trademark sense of humor and its musicianship. Go no further than this new version of “Dr. Stein,” originally on 1988’s Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 2. The original was pure '80s German metal. This new one could have been recorded by Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band with lead vocalist Andi Deris fronting them instead of the Boss. “Future World,” taken from Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 1, is redone here as a slower-tempoed acoustic number with electric bass. There is also a medley of three tunes taken from these two albums (most of Unarmed is sourced from them) called “The Keepers Trilogy” consisting of “Halloween,” “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” and “The King for a Thousand Years.” Recorded with a full symphony orchestra and backing chorus, the production is worthy of Jim Steinman! (To be honest, the whole album could have been produced by him as a musical.) “Forever & One” contrasts sharply here. The new version is a piano ballad with a symphony coming in toward the middle, whereas the original was a dramatic metal number. ”Perfect Gentleman” is another lilting ballad that stands in sharp contrast to its martial anthemic version on the expanded edition of Better Than Raw. “Fallen to Pieces,” from Gambling with the Devil, is almost jazzy with a Fender Rhodes, a Hammond B-3, sampled beats, and electronica. What remains to be seen is how Helloween's long devoted faithful will react to this wildly eccentric offering. It’s hard to re-record classics, let alone improve or redefine them, which is exactly what’s being attempted here. [There are numerous versions available as well, including a digipack with a bonus DVD, a vinyl edition, and a German-only digital download with a bonus cut.]

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