By Nick Balazs
German power pioneers HELLOWEEN marched into Columbus, OH this past Sunday (September 29th), bringing their Hellish Rock to the US for the first time in five years.
The trumpets sounded in the concert hall, but it was not to signal a battle of military sorts, but a one of metal as ‘Walls Of Jericho’ filled the air. The pumpkin heads stormed the stormed the stage, starting with a bang in the speed metal romper ‘Eagle Fly Free’.
Singer Andi Deris, sporting a GENE SIMMONS of KISS t-shirt, was in a festive mood and the audience was eager participants when Deris urged the crowd to sing along. Deris is filled with charisma and does a great job commanding the audience’s attention. He also drew some laughter during ‘Live Now!’ when he had the left and right sides of the crowd alternating singing, but then switched it up, so he told the one side “that means you guys shut the fuck up!”
Humor has always been in the Helloween DNA and bassist Markus Grosskopf was at the center of it with his stage antics, by making motions to the lyrics of the songs. He would make some goofy faces and pretended to shoot himself during ‘I’m Alive’ and flexed his muscles during ‘Power’.
The band’s newest and latest offering, Straight Out Of Hell, received strong pull as five songs from the album were played. ‘Nabataea’, the first single and seven-minute epic received a strong reaction, as did the title track and piano driven ‘Waiting For The Thunder’. ‘Live Now!’ was a fun audience participation song and Deris kept making funny faces to guitarist Sascha Gerstner when he did the robotic voice during the opening of the tune. The only letdown was when the power metallers decided to slow things down with the ballad ‘Hold Me In Your Arms’. The only thing the crowd wanted to hold was a beer while headbanging to some tunes!
Helloween mixed in other Deris-era tracks in the main set and only dipped into the Michael Kiske era again with ‘I’m Alive’ and Gernstner and the pumpkin elder Michael Weikath stood together for the solo, which provided a neat visual.
The JUDAS PRIEST-influenced thumper ‘Steel Tormentor’, the slow, brooding ‘Where The Sinners Go’ (which the band flawlessly executed the transition to the speedy solo), the piano driven, thoughtful ‘If I Could Fly’, and ‘Hell Was Made In Heaven’ round out the energetic performance.
The encore is where the electricity was kicked another notch. Deris appeared with a top hat and had just one question: ‘Are You Metal?’ The song appeared on the band’s last album, 7 Sinners, and it is poised to be the next big crowd favorite. I was taken aback by the huge response it garnered. Colorful, bright lights adorned the stage for ‘Dr. Stein’ and all that was missing was the crazed scientist walking on the stage to look over the crowd. The second encore featured the bouncy, and dance worthy (I admit I was shaking my hips to this one) ‘Future World’ and ‘I Want Out’ where that epic solo sent the pumpkin faithful into a frenzy. It should be noted too that Deris did not have a problem molding his raspy, deeper voice, to the high octane, high register vocals of the Kiske songs.
One of Germany’s finest exports delivered an exciting, fun show filled with energy and audience participation. It even had some unpredictability. During the middle of the set, it seemed like just for the hell of it, Gernstner and Grosskopf exited the stage and walked around, past the crowd to the sound area just to hang out as Dani Loble began his drum solo. Some of the fans had a bewildered look on their faces and some attempted to go say “hi.” Helloween does not get to North America often and since the year is entering the season where the ghosts and monsters come out for games, go and see what Helloween has to say!