Helloween – The Time Of The Oath

May 16, 2012 in Artist Rewind, Reviews by blackwindmetal

Helloween
The Time Of The Oath
1996

In the last installment of this rewind, concerning Helloween’s The Master Of The Rings, I wrote a bit about the obstacles faced by Helloween in 1994. Trying to become relevant once again after a couple weaker albums and some drastic lineup changes, they managed to produce an album that was pretty good, if by no means perfect. However, it was a big step in the right direction; in contrast to the more fundamental shortcomings of Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon, the only problem with Master Of The Rings was the newness of the lineup. The band seemed to have a pretty clear idea where they wanted to go (unlike Chameleon) and a good deal of creative energy going around (unlike Pink Bubbles), and yet Master Of The Rings seemed a little “clunky,” for lack of a better word. Let me explain…

One of Helloween’s greatest strengths has always been their attention to detail. Most of their songs are relatively simple in structure – more “verse-chorus-verse” than “progressive” or whatever-you-want-to-call-it – but they have a knack for writing really interesting parts for each instrument. The instrumentalists don’t simply “back up” the vocalist; rather, they create a full experience complete with energetic drums, popping bass lines, and scorching guitar riffs, and it seemed to me that Helloween played things a bit too safe on Master Of The Rings. It wasn’t that they were being lazy, nor that they had become boring, but it seemed like they were still testing the proverbial waters, trying to figure out how to play together as a (more or less) new band.

By contrast, Time Of The Oath finds the band brimming with confidence. Everyone is in top form here, most notably drummer Uli Kusch, whose performance on Master of the Rings I criticized for being a bit bland. As a reviewer, I always like to have something specific -something I can point to and say “this is why I think album A is better than album B” – but here I’ll have to appeal to the feelings I got from each album; The Time Of The Oath just seems to bear the mark of a confident band. Again, it’s not all too different from Master Of The Rings stylistically; the songs vary from Keeper throwbacks like “Power” (a classic tune, by the way) to darker, more modern tracks like “The Time Of The Oath” to the occasional hard rocker à la “Anything My Mama Don’t Like,” all imbued with Helloween’s charismatic sense of melody. The only difference is that this time around they make it all sound easy; there’s a vibrant energy here that only comes with a few years of playing together.

…and yet they would go on to do even greater things. The Time Of The Oath was a good record, certainly, but the new lineup would continue to refine its character and style and would go on to create even better works. However, Helloween had triumphed; they had come back from the brink of oblivion and worked out all the kinks to once again become a huge force in metal. Stay tuned.

On a side note, apparently this is some sort of concept album dealing with the prophecies of Nostradamus. If you can figure out how this fits together, good on you.

Tom’s Rating: 4.0 out of 5