Helloween - Shepherd's Bush Empire 2008

Hellish Rock Tour
London - January 8
Capacity 2,000

The Hellish Rock tour received a lot of attention from it's very announcement because it represented the first time, aside from a couple of shared festival bills, that German power metal pioneers Helloween and Gamma Ray, the band formed by former Helloween guitarist/front-man Kai Hansen, have ever shared a stage.

The tour also saw Axxis along for the ride, supporting their new CD Doom of Destiny. To help them out they brought Magica vocalist Ana Mladinovici with them to duet with front-man Bernhard Weiß on the new songs. Mladinovici's presence was entirely underwhelming and for the first two songs Axxis were an incredibly boring prospect. The middle two songs of the set, Little War and Take My Hand, really took off, but the closing brace returned to the inspiration-less nature of the first two. Thankfully Weiß is hilarious and did an excellent job of warming up the crowd by himself.

Very little time was wasted changing equipment for Gamma Ray, who are supporting their new album Land of The Free II. Their set was surprisingly light on new songs, only the average From The Ashes and Empress appeared, and unfortunately Empress, for one reason or another, sounded terrible; strange considering it's the best song on the album.

The rest of the set was a mixture of surprises and classics. I don't think anyone expected as many as two songs from New World Order to be played before this tour started, and the inclusion of Somewhere Out In Space to close the main set clearly caught a few people off guard (in a good way). But generic power metal song after generic power metal song (Heavy Metal Universe, Ride The Sky, Valley of The Kings etc. etc.) and a rather lacklustre performance from Hansen (not to mention ridiculous looking bassist Dirk Schlächter) really did nothing to light up their set.

Helloween were the main event and it was clear to see during the two previous bands that the back of the stage was already set up for Helloween, with some kind of large statue at the back. This turned out to be a 15-foot (roughly) scale replica of the ring master from the front cover of new album Gambling With The Devil which, alongside a spinning wheel of chance on the other side of the stage and a backdrop of the rest of the album cover, made for an excellent stage set-up.

Helloween pulled a few surprises with their set, opening with the massive thirteen-minute Halloween, for example, but otherwise made the same mistake as Gamma Ray and played far too many middle-of-the-road, generic songs. Epic King of 1,000 Years from previous album Keeper of The Seven Keys: The Legacy and the always excellent If I Could Fly from Rabbit Don't Come Easy stood out in an otherwise wholly uninspiring set. Of the new songs The Bells of The Seven Hells sounded as strong as it did on the record, and As Long As I Fall is a much better live song than on the album, but excellent album opener Kill It was sorely missed.

Front-man Andi Deris was immense, really carrying Helloween through the 90-minute set, and if he hadn't been quite so on form they really would have suffered. They almost lost the entire audience during a completely ill-advised little bit of comedy theatre in the middle of Dani Löble's over-long drum solo, but again an outstanding Deris pulled everything back together with a masterful performance on King of 1,000 Years.

The main talking point of this tour has been the encore which, every night, sees Hanson, Schlächter and guitarist Henjo Richter join Helloween for the two Hansen-era classics Future World and I Want Out. I Want Out is undeniable and both Hansen and Deris do well with it, even if Hansen forgot he was singing the next line on occasion and found himself nowhere near a microphone, but Future World was as bland as several other numbers in both bands' sets (Eagle Fly Free, Rebellion In Dreamland, Dr Stein).

In the end a half-decent metal show would have been made so much better by less obvious and less generic setlists. In terms of guitar playing Richter and Hansen definitely had the beating of Sascha Gerstner and Michael Weikath, but Andi Deris was the man of the hour, turning in the performance of the night, even when he had very average songs to work with.

“ Andi Deris was immense ”

Axxis Setlist: Doom of Destiny / Tales of Glory Island / Little War / Take My Hand / Angel of Death / Little Look Back

Gamma Ray Setlist: Gardens of The Sinner / New World Order / Fight / From The Ashes / Empress / Valley Of The Kings / Rebellion In Dreamland / Heavy Metal Universe / Ride The Sky / Somewhere Out In Space // Send Me A Sign

Helloween Setlist: Halloween / Sole Surivor / March of Time / As Long As I Fall / We Burn / The Tale That Wasn't Right / Drum solo / King of 1,000 Years / Eagle Fly Free / The Bells of The Seven Hells / If I Could Fly / Dr. Stein // I Can > Where The Rain Grows > Perfect Gentlemen > Power > Keeper of The Seven Keys // Future World / I Want Out

Photo(s): Johan Eriksson | www.rockersdigest.com

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2008, Gigs, Power Metal, , ,

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