review by: Roberto Martinelli
Sanctuary Records’ Castle Music division has re-released the first eight Helloween records, re-mastered them and added bonus tracks (in some cases on a second CD). The packaging features an interview with guitarist Michael Weikath about the album.
We had already written about Pink Bubbles Go Ape, perhaps the most reviled album in Helloween’s discography. But we wrote about it in our From the Vault section (where we chronicle favorite albums of yesteryear) because we LOVE it. Here’s what we had to say:
"That’s right. We’re giving our highest nostalgic recommendations to Helloween’s Pink Bubbles Go Ape. The supposed worst album in Helloween’s discography. The one we’re *all* supposed to hate. The one with the song ‘Heavy Metal Hamsters.’
Yeah. That one. It’s one of the best albums the band will EVER record. Didn’t you know? I’ll go on record and say that overall, it’s better than Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II.
Let me say that again. Pink Bubbles Go Ape is better overall than Keepers II. How’s that for controversy?
I, like many other fans (including Maelstrom’s own Steppenvvolf - who also loves the record now that he’s actually LISTENED to it), avoided Pink Bubbles... like the plague. It was supposed to be Helloween’s sell out record; an attempt to be more commercial after the huge success of the Keeper series.
They ditched the pumpkin symbol. And sure, the cover art and album title are ridiculous. A picture of a woman in a dress holding a fish aloft, a guy in a hallway in a bed/bathtub, and men with fried eggs over their eyes would make any true metal fan balk. But that’s the point. It was meant as a challenge to the metal world; as a sort of statement that Helloween could not be painted into a corner in terms of style or image. The song ‘Pink Bubbles Go Ape,’ a 35-second acoustic guitar piece that begins the album, goes, ‘Some people are much too smart. They know everything before it starts.’
‘Well,’ the band seems to say, ‘Pink Bubbles Go Ape! What do you think of that?’
What’s really remarkable, in spite of all this apparent stylistic change, is that Pink Bubbles... isn’t all that different from the music on the Keeper series. It’s a bit less hard, but still undeniably metal, with power metal drums and solos. And the vocals. Man, those vocals.
It’s impossible that any record with Michael Kiske on vocals is bad. Not with what is perhaps the greatest voice in metal ever. And while, yes, Keeper II has a few all-time best songs, some of the other tracks on that album are, well, not so great.
While on Pink Bubbles Go Ape, all the tracks are wonderful. Ok, ‘Heavy Metal Hamsters’ is borderline, but accept what it’s called, get the joke and move on.
I get chills every time I hear the chorus to ‘Mankind,’ and am compelled to sing along with ‘Kids of the Century’ and just about every other beautifully crafted song on here. I’ve wanted to listen to little else lately. Give this album a chance and you’ll think so too."
Ok, so we might have gone a little overboard on the gushing. Pink Bubbles Go Ape is NOT the best album Helloween has ever done, but it is the best pure vocal performance that Michael Kiske did with the band on a studio recording. And that’s really the big sell with us. Kiske is the superlative power metal singer in this reviewer’s book, and one of our favorite performances of his is guaranteed to equate to affection for the album.
The expanded edition’s re-mastering is good. It makes the album louder and a bit fuller, mostly bringing out the lower end. Thankfully, the re-mastering accentuates unpleasant sonic frequencies to a minimum, or not at all.
An issues, though: the playlist. In our beloved Japanese edition of the album, the original 11 tracks are succeeded by the bonus song, the b-side "Shit and Lobster," which is a fantastic little number that features a superb, bouncy, energetic main riff and excellent singing and melodies (as always). It was the perfect way to round off the album experience.
On the expanded edition, "Shit and Lobster" is bumped to #13, with Helloween’s cover of Elvis Presley’s "Blue Suede Shoes" preceding it. Presley has his undeniable place in rock and perhaps even metal, and you may like his music, but I don’t, and it’s even worse that the ideal flow of Helloween’s original material is interrupted with a cover. But thankfully we’ve got programmable CD players and CDR technology.
The other two bonus tracks are decent to good. "Les Hambourgeois Walkways" is a rather unremarkable instrumental, and "You Run With the Pack" is a b-grade rockin’ power metal song that’s pretty good considering what it is. Someone with sense would have ordered the bonus tracks, "Shit and Lobster," "You Run With the Pack," Les Hambourgeois Walkways," and "Blue Suede Shoes." (9/10)