Sunday, March 9, 2008

TO HELL AND BACK: The history of Helloween cover art

I know this is not a popular opinion, but I really like old Helloween. I like them a lot, but that's not what this post is about. Nor is it about whether or not the Germans play power metal (as some American fans define them) or heavy metal. It's not about how their upcoming show in Jakarta got moved to an outdoor venue. It's also not about the tragic suicide of Ingo Schwichtenberg, who jumped in front of a subway after being ejected from the band. Yeah, he was wearing a Helloween shirt. It's pathetically sad. But, I digress. This post is about a band's cover art gone wrong, but then returning to grace. Alleluia! To illustrate the journey, I picked a few key (no pun intended) covers and divided them as the band's history has been divided by their official Russian fan-club.

PART 1 - "The Iron Age (Heavy Metal Marches On!)": 1984 - 1986

1985 - Helloween

This is were we start our journey. Helloween still thought they were a tough metal band. This cover is pretty metal, I guess. We have Eddie's retarded brother tearing out of a pumpkin hovering over a burning soccer ball. There's also some lighting and shit like that. No one could have predicted in '85 that Helloween would stray so far from this type of artwork.

1985 - Walls Of Jericho

This is still pretty metal. Eddie's retarded brother has escaped the pumpkin and he's tearing shit up! You can see where he came from. Just follow the footsteps in the sand. Didn't these idiots see him coming? I can see the footsteps a good mile back! Oh, never mind the horrible attempt at foreshortening on his left arm, check out the dude flying up. Good thing he wore clean underwear that day. It's nice that Jesus made a cameo on the cover (bottom right).

PART 2 - "The Golden Age (Dumbeldore's Army)": 1987 - 1988

1987 - Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1

In the liner notes and and in covers of EPs and singles, they were starting to use the pumpkin cartoons, but on the LP covers Helloween remained pretty fucking metal. Wizards with magical powers in magical lands holding magical glowing balls. Obviously, this is where J. K. Rowling got the inspiration for Harry Potter. You see, Voldemort IS the keeper the seven keys.

1988 - Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 2

So, Voldemort apparently wants 8 keys. This cover is a little gay, I concede, but it's WAY more metal than what's yet to come!

PART 3 - "The New Age (Surreal LP covers haven't been cool since the 70's)": 1989 - 1993

1991 - Pink Bubbles Go Ape

OK! Thank you very much for playing and good night! I think this artwork was supposed to be a Rush cover, but Helloween stole it in the last minute. Let's see; a lady kissing dead tuna, a flamingo just chillin', a teen in a tiny bed playing with foam and a drunken Chewbacca leaning against a wall? I think the band thought: "In 17 years there's gonna be this thing called the Metal Inquisition Blog and they will make fun of metal record covers. Let's give them a doozy!"

1991 - Kids Of The Century

By now, every ounce of metal has been drained from Helloween covers. WTF is this? Well, it's a gay couple and their pony-tailed Filipino sex-slave. They adopted a baby. Oh, yeah and they all wear plastic fried-egg novelty sunglasses for the family portrait.

1993 - Chameleon

By 1993 no one in their right mind took Helloween very seriously. Only people in Greece, Portugal, Spain and a few places in South America, but those people still wear Guns'n'Roses back-patches on their denim jackets, so we'll ignore their opinions... as we always do. Anyway, in my expert opinion this is THE most un-metal cover a metal band has EVER had. The record is shit, of course, but the cover broke new ground in suckiness and lameness and shitiness and all-around non-metalness. When I first saw it, I thought it was the logo for the 1994 Gay Olympics in Berlin.

PART 4 - "The Modern Age (What goes up, most come down)": 1994 - 1997

1994 - Master Of The Rings

Well, it's still a pretty pussy-looking cover, BUT they did go back to cool airbrushy type art. I guess that's a step in the right direction, no? Also, the Lord of the Rings rip-off thing is pretty metal. In a Blind Guardian kinda way.

1996 - The Time Of The Oath

See? Never give up on a band's artwork, because you never know! Just like in The Goblet of Fire, Voldemort is back! And with him, is metal artwork! I guess Voldemort is an Italian mobster (golden pinky ring) and an LA gang-banger throwing gang signs. The best of both coasts. He better watch out, tho, there's some horribly rendered overweight demons behind the shitty fire. I think they are coming to ask him what he did with the seven keys.

1998 - Better Than Raw

Now we are talking! A HOT witch-girl in garter belts, leather bikini and chains in a castle? Can we say: METAL!? Now, this may not be a Dan Seagrave, nor a Frank Frazetta ManOwar cover, but considering where Helloween were 5 years before this, it might as well be "To Mega Therion", which is arguably the most metal record cover ever.

2000 - The Dark Ride

Metal is back in Helloween World! There's some evil pissed-off fucking pumpkin looking down on earth as our home-planet gets slammed by some rock asteroid or some shit. I think this evil pumpkin is playing an evil game of evil interplanetary pool and earth is going into the corner pocket! Whatever it is, it looks dark, evil and metal. Even if it is a pumpkin, which is pretty lame... Oh, yeah, they also used a House Industries font on the album title, for the design nerds in M.I. land. Some House Industries fonts are pretty metal.

PART 5 - "Back To The Roots (Male pattern baldness)": 2003 - 2007

2003 - Rabbit Don't Come Easy

I know what you are thinking: "What happened dudes? You were doing so good?" I guess they fell off the metal wagon, again. This robotic magician is pretty fucking lame and not very metal at all.

2005- Keeper of the Seven Keys - The Legacy

What do you do if you are an aging metal band and have turned completely irrelevant to everyone except the losers stuck in 1987 in the countries mentioned above? Well, you "go back to your roots", of course! for 'Ween it meant coming out with Keeper Part 3, basically. And you know who's back? Volde-fucking-mort! Hell yeah. He's got his magical glowing ball again, too. To top it off, a hot robotic-devil-girl in super hot hooker boots is giving him the seven the keys back. I love it when robotic-devil-hookers come to visit me in Mordor and bring me gifts.

2007 - Gambling With The Devil

Last year's CD brings us back to the present. A present where I'm the only Helloween fan I know. Anyway, this cover is sweet. It's got an evil dude with a skull belt-buckle and a top-hat pointing at some evil wheel with bad-ass evil shit on it. There's a pentagram burning on the ground and that's pretty fucking metal. There's also a HOT broad outside a bar or something. Man, if I was there I'd totally hit on her! She's SO hot! To top it all off, there's a rat checking out the scene. I think the rat's got a boner for the hot chick. I know I do!

And there you have it. Was this post too long? I need some sort of feedback on the length and content of my posts. That way I can completely ignore it and write whatever I fucking please. Thank you for reading, kiss my ass.


  1. Don't count on me for kissing your ass, get that thing away from me, but this post was great.

  2. You can get away with long posts when they have funny pictures :)

  3. did they consider how some of these later pieces would translate when cropped for cassette covers? i'm not sure, but i'm guessing that in greece, portugal, morroco, and other Helloween strongholds, it's still the format of choice.

  4. fantastic post. amazing investigative reporting. this should run on Nightline.

  5. oh, i forgot to mention that the cover of "gambling with the devil" is similar to the Whiplash cover for "Ticket To Mayhem"

    Also, I never knew that Helloween had slipped so far into the realm of prog-style surrealist cover art. I learn something new every day on this here blog.

  6. You had me at:

    "To illustrate the journey, I picked a few key (no pun intended) covers and divided them as the band's history has been divided by their official Russian fan-club."


    Phil Collins and Genesis must have been VERY jealous of some of those early-90's covers as well. Good god, I had no idea...

  7. Long posts are fine when they're funny.

  8. Wow, I knew the records were bad, I didn't know the covers matched...

    Also, my post on the "Soulside Journey" post was "saved," but never posted. I think my unearthing of the poserliness of the writers is being censored!

    Fucking hilarious, as usual.

  9. Also, my post on the "Soulside Journey" post was "saved," but never posted. I think my unearthing of the poserliness of the writers is being censored!

    chris, i speak for all of us at MxI when i say that we welcome accusations of poserliness! i will look at the comment and make sure we didn't accidentally hide it or something.

  10. lucho: i thought about the whiplash comparison, but by the time i sat down to write the post i'd forgotten about it. it's a great point, tho!

    i wanna thank everyone for the positive feedback on the post. i often feel inadecuate, since everone else here is so much funnier than me. it took me almost 6 hours to do all the research, collect the images and write the whole thing, so i'm glad people like it. i'm such a loser, i stayed home on a saturday night to write it. i posted it @ 3:30am

    ps: im listening to AC's top 40 hits. man these guys are great!


  11. dude, living in 1987 beats the shit outta living in the slipknot and victory-emo era. and that's where your country lives.

    ...posers! you can only wish you lived in morocco!

    on a more serious note - skullkrusher: double the size, double the fun, man. i was cracking up.

  12. Skull Crusher, I wish you were the only Helloween fan you know.

    Shyer and I have gotten super into them and are waiting for them to come around with Gamma Ray. We were holding tickets to the Keeper 3 tour that got canceled in the USA because we were the only people who bought tickets.

    This post completely cured my hangover. Hilarious. \m/


  13. Oh god, 2 people with the same will we differentiate?

  14. I remember, reading about "Pink Bubbles Go Ape" in some column in Metal Maniacs, but never actually saw the cover art. I didn't think that it was possible for the visual accompaniment to actually be worse. Jesus Christ.

  15. chris brings up a fantastic point. we should ALL move to Morocco. I don't want to be around all the nu metal crap in the US. If we move there, we could go shopping for Helloween albums at the mall, pick up some sweet Forbidden shirts and pack patches. beats the hell out of what is happening in this stupid country. damnit. we should invest in an escape pod.

  16. Nipples ain't shit.

  17. >Oh god, 2 people with the same will we differentiate?

    i don't use caps. and sometimes i make half-assed attempts to defend europe.

    we'll manage.

  18. what a long and strange road its been!

  19. This just made me like Helloween even more than I already did (which was a lot). The parts about Chameleon and that newest release. Wow.

    A ha! But I noticed that although you took a cheap shot at Ingo, you failed to mention how Michael Kiske also went nuts after getting kicked out of Helloween.

    He got "born again" and went on endless tirades about how metal was satanic and evil, all throughout the nineties. But I guess he's a satanist again, singing in evil stuff like Avantasia.

  20. "Nor is it about whether or not the Germans play power metal (as some American fans define them) or heavy metal."

    The early Helloween stuff was speed metal, as were the first couple of Running Wild releases. A lot of the Hamburg scene and later Blind Guardian followed a similar trajectory from awesome speed metal to europower to irrelevancy.