Released: 2010, SPV Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
(Setting: Helloween band meeting – insert your own German accent)
Michael Weikath: Hey guys, I have a great idea how we can celebrate the 25th anniversary of Helloween!
Band: Tell us how Michael!
Michael Weikath: Okay, okay, check this out. We’ll re-record 11 classics from our catalog, but here’s the kicker – we’ll totally shit all over them. I’m talking doo wop, adult contemporary, bloated symphony interpretations. This album will be a complete German schizer film!
Band: But Michael, won’t that piss off the fans?
Michael Weikath: Nah, of course not, we’re Helloween for Christ’s sake! We’re German, we’re quirky; people will love it!
Band: Okay, we’re in!! Hey, while we’re at it, can we also put together an equally embarrassing music video that looks like it was made by the 8th grade Audio/Visual club?
Michael Weikath: That’s the spirit!!
The worst thing that any band can do is insult their audience, and that’s exactly what Helloween has done with UNARMED – BEST OF 25th ANNIVERSARY. 25 years in the biz is certainly cause for celebration and re-recording/revisiting classic tunes isn’t unheard of. But to completely deconstruct those songs and turn them into poppy, non-metal, schlock that bears no resemblance to what made them classics to begin with is reprehensible. This is really the way that Helloween wants to say “thank you” to their fans that have supported them for a quarter century?
With each listen, I kept waiting for someone to come through the speakers and say – “hah, just kidding! Here are the real songs…” But that moment never came. At it’s best (and I use the word VERY loosely), UNARMED is an ugly attempt at alternative lite-rock. Some moments like “I Want Out” are almost palatable, with its jazzy acoustic treatment which retains some of the bite from the original and the orchestral approach to “The Keeper’s Trilogy,” a medley of “Halloween,” “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” and “King of 1000 Years,” but overwhelmingly, this album is a train wreck of massive proportions.
Whether it’s the 50s rock, doo wop swing of “Dr. Stein,” the Peter Paul and Mary spin on “Eagle Fly Free,” or the “is this Helloween or Celine Dion?” sappy balladry of “A Tale that Wasn’t Right,” UNARMED is bad in the way that your gym shorts smell after a long workout. You know, when you take a whiff and the smell is just so pungent you have to smell it again? Or convince a friend to smell it, because it’s just so bad? That’s UNARMED. The only reason that you’ll listen is to hear just how pungent the next tune is. You’ll try to convince you’re friends to listen to it, because it’s so pungent.
If your band is lucky enough to have a 25 year career, prison raping them with a supposed “best of” collection is not the way to show your appreciation. If you want to celebrate 25 years of Helloween, track down a copy of THE BEST, THE REST, THE RARE, or any one of the classics in their catalog. With UNARMED, Helloween has demonstrated that they have zero connection or understanding about who their fans are, what they want, or why they’ve supported the band for 25 years. Stay away from UNARMED. Stay far, far away.