Pumpkins United

Live at the Palladium

Los Angles, CA

September 8th, 2018

Review and photos by Travis Baumann

Helloween are credited as the godfathers of the power metal sub-genre. First formed in 1984, the German heavy metal band paved new paths with their epic story-telling and blazing riffs.

Their debut album "Walls of Jericho" made international waves and laid the foundation, but it was with the two part "Keeper of the Seven Keys" albums that really cemented their legendary status.

Pumpkins United represents an unprecedented regrouping of all three of the vocalists from throughout their storied career coming together and presenting a complete encapsulation of the three and half decades of metal music that Helloween have carved out on this earth.

For this tour their member roster would be seven strong including founding members Michael Weikath on guitar, Markus Grasskopf on bass guitar, and Kai Hansen on guitar and vocals.

Joining them are the two primary vocalists throughout their history; the legendary Michael Kiske who left the band in 1993, and Andi Deris who took over for him in 1994 and now welcomes his predecessor back to into the fold.

Adding to this amazing lineup are two late-comers with Sascha Gerstner on guitars who joined in 2002, and Daniel Löble on drums who came into the ranks in 2005.

Helloween had no supporting acts, they were slated to put on a three hour concert delving through their entire back catalog for their devoted fans.

They kicked off the set with the epic "Halloween" from the first of the "Keeper of the Seven Keys" albums. The song clocks in at nearly fourteen minutes on the album, and while they may have shortened slightly, it was a massive and amazing introduction to the show.

Their stage setup was also massive, large enough to allow for seven musicians to actively move around. They had a large three panel projection screen behind the drum platform which for this opener had an enormous evil vine-type plant growth with various jack-o'-lantern characters hanging from its branches.

Between each song, they had a really goofy animated segment with cartoon characters with jack-o'-lantern heads doing various things to one another which always culminated with them throwing something into a really large machine that would then lead into the next song.

"Dr. Stein" from the second of the "Keeper" albums was what came out of the machine and the animation lead into goofy mad scientist tropes with bizarre inflated pumpkin characters. They sounded amazing as they went back into the far past. It brought back memories of when I first heard the album in junior high and first became a fan of Helloween.

Keeping within the "Keeper" albums for the first three songs, they followed up with "I'm Alive" from the first of them. If you were an old school fan like myself, it was already an amazing set. For the first two songs Michael and Andi shared vocal duties but for this one, Michael took the spot light and it was cool to see him back with the band after so many years.

Michael and Andi switched out for "If I Could Fly" from 2000's "The Dark Ride" which lead directly into "Are You Metal?" from "7 Sinners" which was the newest song of the set so far having come out in 2010.

Another vocalist change and a jaunt back to 1988 brought another favorite of the set for me with "Rise and Fall" from "Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part II". The three guitarists and the bassist moved about the stage as they shredded through songs old and new and every thing in between as the vocalists either stood center stage or framed the drum platform .

The animated screens showed a Jack the Ripper type character as Andi emerged with a top hat on. This led into "Perfect Gentleman" from 1994's "Master of the Rings".

The next segment of the set was another highlight for me as both Michael and Andi left the stage and Kai Hansen took over the mic as they did a medley from their debut album, "Walls of Jericho" including "Starlight", "Ride the Sky" and "Judas".

Kai remained the helm for one more with "Heavy Metal (Is the Law)" before tossing his Kaiser cap that he had donned off to the side of stage as Michael Kiske emerged to sing another classic, "A Tale That Wasn't Right" from the first "Keeper" album.

This led into their latest output, the "Pumpkins United" from last year, which featured everyone present. Hitting the half-way point of the set, everyone except the drummer exited the stage.

He proceeded to beat out an impressive drum solo that also incorporated recorded portions of the original drummer, Ingo Schwichtenberg including imagery on the screen. Ingo died tragically in 1995 when he succumbed to depression and jumped in front of a train in Hamburg. It was a fitting tribute to a founding member and a good center piece to the show.

The band came back out with Michael singing two of their more somber ballads with "Livin' Ain't No Crime" and "A Little Time". As Michael handed off the mic to Andi, they kicked things up a notch moving to 2013's "Straight Out Of Hell" for "Waiting for the Thunder".

Andi remained at the helm and introduced the next song as the first he wrote and sang when first joining the band in 1994, "Sole Survivor". He followed that up with "Power" from "The Time of the Oath".

For the final song of the main set, Michael, Andi, and Kai all joined forces to sing "How Many Tears" from their debut, "The Walls of Jericho".

As the band took a moment to recoup the audience chanted "Helloween" louder and louder until they relented and came back out. The audience had been enthralled with the experience so far but many of us were still anticipating several classic songs and a cheer when up when the first of these was revealed.

"Eagle Fly Free" kicked off the first encore and sated a lot of fans' wish lists. My own personal favorite was up next with the truly epic "Keeper of the Seven Keys". This song clocks in at nearly fourteen minutes and tells a tale that combines the book of Revelations and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings into a grandiose uplifting fantasy.

Everyone left he stage except Kai Hansen who tore through an intense guitar solo. As the rest of the ensemble returned, the screen showed futuristic imagery which lead into "Future World" from the first "Keeper" album with Michael singing the classic.

Andi joined him on stage and they said they had one more song to go. Everyone knew what was coming. Potentially their biggest hit from the past and the entire audience sang along to "I Want Out".

It was an insane show to say the least. Three hours spanning over three decades. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. Everyone filtered out onto Sunset Boulevard and talked about the show for quite a while before actually moving off to find our ways home. I am still singing "Keeper of the Seven Keys" days after and probably will be for many more to come.

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