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Unarmed: Best of 25th Anniversary

(The End; US: 30 Mar 2010; UK: 1 Feb 2010)

Why do so many metal bands think they’re doing their fans a service by re-recording their greatest hits instead of putting out a tidy best-of compilation? Fans hate such stunts. Metal aficionados can be the most discerning listeners this side of jazz, clinging dearly to their favorite bands’ old material, and if anyone dared to mess with the originals, there would be hell to pay. While it’s true that a band can inject new life into its older material if it’s done with enough passion (recent collections by Destruction and Vader are good examples), these gimmicks rarely work and are always met with great derision.

Who knows what was going on in Helloween’s heads when they decided to serve up a dozen revamped favorites in celebration of their 25th anniversary, but what we’re stuck with is not only a record that no sane Helloween fan will want to have anything to do with, but it turns out to be one of the biggest trainwrecks by a metal band that this writer has ever heard. That the band wanted to “reinvent” their best songs rather than simply cover them straightforwardly is somewhat admirable, I suppose, but the way they go about doing it is damn near laughable, as many classic, highly influential tracks are reduced to mere jokes.

The horn arrangement and tacky saxophone on “Dr. Stein” sound like Paul Shaffer’s NBC Late Night band with David Sanborn in tow. “Future World” is clumsily transformed into an Americana song. “I Want Out” is reduced to a Peter Bjorn & John-style acoustic shuffle. And worst of all, the medley featuring the classic epics “Halloween” and “Keeper of the Seven Keys” combine a bloated symphonic arrangement with an inexplicable Gospel choir. If that wasn’t enough, vocalist Andi Deris shows yet again just how incapable he is of filling the shoes of former frontman Michael Kiske. It’s been a very long time since Helloween put out a relevant album, but founding members Michael Weikath and Markus Grosskopf should be ashamed of just how low they’ve sunk on this album.


Adrien Begrand has been writing for PopMatters since 2002, and has been writing his monthly metal column Blood & Thunder since 2005. His writing has also appeared in Metal Edge, Sick Sounds, Metallian, graphic novelist Joel Orff's Strum and Drang: Great Moments in Rock 'n' Roll, Knoxville Voice, The Kerouac Quarterly,,, and A contributing writer for Decibel, Terrorizer, and Dominion magazines and senior writer for Hellbound, he resides, blogs, and does the Twitter thing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Helloween - Dr. Stein
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