Released: 2019 / Nuclear Blast
Rating: 4 / 5
It took a while but Helloween’s fourth live album is available…just in time for Halloween! Most fans are aware that the band has been on a very long reunion tour cycle featuring former members vocalist Michael Kiske and guitarist Kai Hansen. It was no surprise that at least one of these epic concerts would be captured and released. What was surprising is how long it took to release this! The concert in question was performed on December 9th, 2017 and here we are, almost two years later before it hit the racks.
UNITED ALIVE IN MADRID is a very cool three CD set packaged in one of those nice triple jewel boxes. This is far superior packaging to those crappy digipaks that don’t protect anything and get easily scuffed and damaged. It comes with a full-colour 24-page booklet with liner notes, lots of big photos and the credits and so on. For the record I am reviewing the audio set. I am thankful that they released this on CD, many bands are not releasing live albums anymore, they are just adding the audio CD’s into the packaging of a DVD or Blu-Ray set. Major bonus points to Nuclear Blast and the band for actually putting this out at all. Some of us just want to hear the concert!
There is one MAJOR flaw in this release. The powers that be decided, very foolishly, to release an incomplete version of the concert! Who wants to hear only part of a concert? I can understand if there was a logical reason, but there is no reason at all, and no justification for not releasing the full concert. The 3CD set has plenty of room. The length of the actual concert was two hours and 46 minutes. They cut out 25 minutes of the concert! We get a two hour and twenty minute version! For the record, they eliminated Daniel’s drum solo, Kai Hansen’s guitar solo, and two full songs, the new hit single, ‘Pumpkins United’ and ‘Why’ from MASTER OF THE RINGS. What a rip off. The mastering job is also horrible. You can hear audible click sounds where they butchered out the banter between the songs! That is part of the charm of the live concerts, listening to the band and audience interact and hearing what the band has to say!
They could easily fit the concert on the 3-CD set. Disc Three, with the four bonus tracks, is a mere 21 minutes long! They have 55 minutes worth of empty space of Disc Three they could have used. The disc was already being manufactured and mastered anyway so it is not like there was an additional expense! Did they think that adding four bonus tracks instead of giving the fans what they want, the full, unedited concert, would trick us or appease us? It is nice to have those four bonus tracks but I would have easily sacrificed those tracks in exchange for the full concert.
It was a stupid, stupid mistake and bad decision. I don’t know if it was the record label, the band or management that are responsible for this travesty. Once again the true fans get punished. Now we have to buy two versions if we want to hear the full concert. I should have carefully researched before spending the $25.00 on this set. Maybe one day they will see the light and release the full concert on CD but I know that will never happen. Now, I’ll have to find those missing tracks on-line, download them, insert them into the correct spot in the show, and ‘frankenstein’ myself a digital version of the whole concert to put on my iPod.
Now that I got that rant off my chest, back to the positive aspects of this release.
The track-list is a little predictable but that is forgivable because the whole exercise was the whole anniversary/reunion thing focusing on the past. So we get a ton of the Kai and Kiske era songs and no songs from about six albums; RABBIT DON’T COME EASY, KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS-THE LEGACY, GAMBLING WITH THE DEVIL, MY GOD GIVEN RIGHT and two Kiske era albums, PINK BUBBLES GO APE, CHAMELEON, but no one in their right mind expected to hear cuts off those albums. The track list is heavy on the 80’s with 14 of the 20 cuts coming from that decade so if that is to your taste you will rejoice. I was quite happy to see a few later era songs scattered into the set-list and a couple of cool cuts, ‘Waiting For The Thunder’ and semi-rarity ‘Living Ain’t No Crime’ were pleasant and unexpected additions.
I’ve probably over analyzed this album but what it really comes down to is the music and performances. There is so much energy and enthusiasm, even with the generous run time the concert never lags. It is a delight to hear all three signers at the top of their game, trading verses, singing the others parts, up into the stratosphere. The sound quality is excellent, the level of where the crowd is in the mix is great.
I really like how the band does not saturate the market with live albums. They certainly could, they are of that stature. Helloween could release a live album for every tour they do, much like their contemporaries in Rush, Iron Maiden, Dream Theater and Nightwish, who all have way more live albums than Helloween.
UNITED ALIVE IN MADRID is probably the ultimate Helloween live album. The other three live albums they have released to date have their charm but this concert has everything any Helloween fan could want. Despite my utter contempt and hatred for the fact they deliberately butchered almost half an hour out of this concert, I’d still recommend this to anyone.
02. Dr. Stein
03. I’m Alive
04. If I Could Fly
05. Are You Metal?
06. Rise And Fall
07. Waiting For The Thunder
08. Perfect Gentleman
09. Kai’s Medley
10. Forever And One
11. A Tale That Wasn’t Right
01. I Can
02. Living Ain’t No Crime / A Little Time
03. Sole Survivor
05. How Many Tears
06. Invitation / Eagle Fly Free
07. Keeper Of The Seven Keys
08. Future World
09. I Want Out
CD 3: (bonus)
01. March Of Time
02. Kids Of The Century
04. Pumpkins United
Kai Hansen-Guitar, Vocals