Master of the Rings Import
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2 CD set. The beloved metal act's 1994 album for Raw Power with embossed silver lettering on the cover of the CD booklet. The line-up on the album includes vocalist Andi Deris and guitarist Roland Grapow. 11 tracks, including 'Irritation','Sole Survivor' and 'Still We Go'. Features 7 bonus tracks 'Can't Fight Your Desire', 'Star Invasion', 'Cold Sweat', 'Silicon Dreams', 'Grapowski's Malmsuite 101', 'I Stole Your Love' & 'Closer To Home'. Castle Music.
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This is the album Helloween should have released just after Keeper Part II. Master of the Rings is a tight, melodic power metal album that avoids the goofball humor of Pink Bubbles Go Ape ("Heavy Metal Hamsters," anyone?) as well as the watered down rock of Chameleon. Master of the Rings is a complete breath of fresh air, thanks in large part to new vocalist Andi Deris, whose tenure with melodic rockers Pink Cream 69 made him the ideal choice to replace Michael Kiske. Deris's powerful vocal delivery, plus his songwriting abilities made him a true asset to Helloween.
With standout songs like the anthemic "Sole Survivor" and "Mr. Ego" and the greatest hits caliber "Perfect Gentleman", Master of the Rings is a fantastic power metal album all the way through (OK, perhaps the obligatory instrumental introductory track doesn't add much), and one that should bring old school Helloween fans back to the fold.
Edition Notes: Sanctuary finally got around to remastering the Helloween catalog in 2006, and they certainly did it right. In addition to digitally remastered sound, the reissued version of Master of the Rings serves up an entire second disc that collects all of the Rings-era b-sides, including covers of Thin Lizzy, KISS, and Grand Funk Railroad, plus a crazy guitar extravaganza called "Grapowski's Malmsuite 1001." You also get expanded liner notes by Metal Hammer's Dave Ling, photos, etc. plus a nifty slipcase for the disc. This is what a remastered version of a great album is supposed to look and sound like. If you already own Master of the Rings, it's time to replace your old version!
After two semi-poorly recieved albums (Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon), this is the first album to start retreading back into the right direction for Helloween. Andi Deris was brought into the mix to add new soaring vocals and Uli Kusch to fill the large void at drums left after the tragic suicide of the founding drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. Both new members add fresh ideas and force to a band that had no direction at the time.
This 2006 edition is the same as the bonus edition put out by Castle Records in 1994 with the same 7 bonus tracks on a second cd, so if you have that version, this is not necessary to gain any new tracks. It is worth having if you want the take advantage of the new packaging (cool slipcover that matches the other re-masters and cool interview/biography linernotes). The 7 tunes are all cover songs, and were not available for many years(especially in 2001 when the re-mastered and released the single disc).
This album boast some of the most awsome "Anthemic" helloween songs that fans have come to know and love over the years. Perfect Gentleman, Where the Rain Goes, and Mr. Ego are all powerful, fist pumping, crowd chanting favorites (see High Live and the re-mastered better than raw) Plus the song "In the middle of a heartbeat" is a cool ballad of the fading hair metal days, with a Helloween twist.
So what this boils down to is buy this re-mastered version if you do not have the castle version, want a complete 2006 series, or do not already own a copy altogether. It is a must for any metal fan.
This is my rating of each track:
1. "Irritation" ****
2. "Sole Survivor" *****
3. "Where The Rain Grows" *****
4. "Why?" *****
5. "Mr. Ego (Take Me Down)" ****
6. "Perfect Gentleman" ****
7. "The Game Is On" ***
8. "Secret Alibi" ***
9. "Take Me Home" ***
10. "In The Middle Of A Heartbeat" **
11. "Still We Go" ****
Also recommended: Other Helloween albums, Gamma Ray, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Destruction, Running Wild, Omen, Saxon, Mercyful Fate, Fates Warning, Queensryche, Candlemass, Death, Trouble, UFO, and Watchtower.
After the hugely successful and influential Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums from 1987 & 1988, the band lost founding member Kai Hansen (who would form the excellent band Gamma Ray) and changed up their style on the experimental albums Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon from 1991 and 1994, which many fans rejected. It cost the band a lot of momentum and many fans lost interest. Then singer Michael Kiske and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg left the band, replaced on this record by Gamma Ray’s Uli Kusch and unexpectedly Andi Deris from Pink Cream 69, who at first glance wouldn’t seem like a perfect fit.
The new line-up revitalized the band and helped them regain momentum. The sound of the album itself however is a bit of a mixture between what the band were just before the line-up change, and what they would become when they found their feet.
The tracks “Sole Survivor,” “Where The Rain Grows,” and “Still We Go” show highlights of what was to come on the band’s next few albums, and the re-establishment of their speedy Melodic Power Metal style.
The tracks “Secret Alibi,” “The Game Is On,” “Perfect Gentleman” and “Take Me Home” are a bit more eclectic and varied, a little silly in parts, with an emphasis on sickly sweet melody and humorous asides… sitting half-way between the Power Metal style and Hard Rock. There’s plenty of space in the music, plenty of charismatic drum fills and pleasant guitar leads, the real feature however is Andi Deris’ vocals which take the spot light. These are enjoyable and fun tracks, and give the album a unique feel, but some fans can find them a bit too outside of their Power Metal comfort zone.
The rest of the record falls into a sort of mid-tempo, Hard Rock world. That would be the tracks “Why?” and the seven-minute “Mr. Ego,” along with the power ballad “In The Middle Of A Heartbeat.” These tracks are solid, however if you were being harsh, they could potentially be described as filler or at least a bit forgettable.
The album is viewed by many as a step in the right direction. It sees the band still finding their sound. The musicianship and production are high quality, and the energy is there, but some songs are overlong for how many ideas they have, and the ratio of Hard Rock to Speed Metal influences hasn’t just clicked over to what most fans want yet. With their next album, Time Of The Oath, Helloween would really nail it and firmly regain their footing.
Overall; Master Of The Rings is a decent album, solid and worth listening to, but not a massive career highlight or a good starting point for new fans. The band had released better albums before this in the 80s and would release better albums directly after it. Master Of The Rings is an entertaining step along the way. It has got a few drawbacks (the aforementioned length to ideas ratio, and Metal to Rock ratio, as well as some pretty cringe-worthy lyrics) but its got a lot of positives going for it too.