HELLOWEEN – Master Of The Rings (Expanded Edition)


Sanctuary Records
Release Date: May 16, 2006

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Welcome to part six of a series of eight total reviews that Metal Express Radio plans to post covering each of the newly released Helloween “Expand Edition” releases. For the unknowing, the first eight full-length releases by Helloween have been re-released as remastered, expanded edition CDs by Sanctuary Records. Each edition includes several bonus tracks consisting of single B-Sides, remixes, and live renditions.

Part six of this “mini-series” focuses on the Expanded Edition of the 1994 Master Of The Rings release. Just like the other USA re-releases in this series, the packaging is a glossy, heavy-duty cardboard sleeve that engulfs the plastic jewel case. The front and back of the sleeve contains artwork from the original LP sleeve. The back of the sleeve also contains the track listing, including the bonus tracks.

The less than favorable reaction of Helloween’s fifth full-length release, 1993’s Chameleon, left quite a depressing mark on Helloween, their management, the record label, and, more importantly, their fans. After two less than stellar releases, the fans themselves were ready to give up on the band. Everyone in the Helloween camp knew something had to be done. The fallout started with vocalist Michael Kiske getting his “pink slip,” as no one could work with him any longer. The band brought in Pink Cream 69 (a.k.a. PC69) vocalist Andi Deris, whose credits include being a part of one of Pink Cream 69’s best releases, Games People Play, which is a Hard Rock masterpiece. After alcohol and drug related incidents, drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg was also given ‘Der Stiefel’ (“the boot”). To complicate matters, a session drummer was brought in who would later be replaced by former Gamma Ray drummer Uli Kusch. Call it a “twist of fate,” a “strange coincidence” or a “victim of circumstance” that Kusch happened to come from the same band that Kai Hansen had left Helloween years prior to form. Additionally, Kai Hansen had apparently tried to recruit Kusch’s predecessor in Helloween, Schwichtenberg, to join Gamma Ray. Perhaps the band was taking very few chances at this point, but for whatever reasons they also brought back ex-Co-producer Tommy Hansen to handle production to give Master that old Helloween edge.

The finished Master Of The Rings turned out to be “linked” to the Keeper Of The Seven Keys story and could have actually turned into Part III. The only question remaining was did re-vamping part of the line-up infuse new life into Helloween? The trademark opening symphonic instrumental, “Irritation” was a good indication that things were starting on the right track. The powerful, psychotic drumming by Kusch on opener “Sole Survivor” left no doubts that this was no Chameleon! Helloween showed more power on this release than the two predecessor releases put together. Deris was clearly more of a Heavy/Hard Rock vocalist, versus the operatic tendencies of Kiske, which helped bring out the aggression in Helloween. This release contained eleven tracks (one being a short introduction) with the weakest being the slower, ballad-like “In The Middle Of A Heartbeat.”

Highlights being the aforementioned “Sole Survivor,” the underrated, Power Melodic “Why?” (Penned by Deris), the moody “Mr. Ego,” the infectious “Perfect Gentleman,” the powerful album closer “Still We Go”… the list goes on. Not a terrible track among them, all being very palatable — Helloween was back on track!

This particular re-release edition is a two disc set that includes seven bonus tracks culled from B-sides of three singles released for the original album. Three of the seven are cover tunes of Kiss, Thin Lizzy (interestingly enough an enjoyable, but non-traditional choice, “Cold Sweat”) and Grand Funk Railroad songs, all three done quite well and pretty straightforward … not much experimentation here (unlike Chameleon). From end to end, the bonus disc has very solid tracks and is definitely a “bonus” — worth owning all on its own.

Once again, highest marks for the liner notes. This one includes a 12-page booklet that includes the original LP cover on the front page and a reprint of the vinyl album’s original jacket sleeve. Like the previous Expanded Editions, this one contains another 2006 interview with guitarist Weikath that offers insight into the band during this time frame. The liner notes contain reprinted lyrics for all original LP tracks and credits for each set of tracks.

Bottom line, this album is considered by some Helloween fans to be the band’s strongest “Andi Deris-era Helloween” release. While it’s not the fastest or “Thrashiest” of the Helloween releases, it was certainly a big step in the right direction. From end to end, the album has some great, memorable Heavy/Hard Rock songs and introduces “Mach III” of the band’s line-up, which solidified Deris as the band’s final vocalist. With the additional seven tracks of commendable B-side cuts, the “pot” became even sweeter! In the end, this Expanded Edition should be considered a must buy and is one to go “ape” over … without the “Pink Bubbles” of course.


Andi Deris – Vocals
Roland Grapow – Guitar
Michael Weikath – Guitar
Markus Grosskopf – Bass
Uli Kusch – Drums


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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