At the end of the day, if you remember the glory days of Helloween in the mid to late eighties because you were there, it’s hard to imagine anything better than the rush you get on hearing new music from Michael Weikath and Kai Hansen sung by Michael Kiske; You know that, I know that, and, most importantly, so do Helloween. So, on this sprawling reformation album, the band do the sensible thing and allow Kiske to take most of the weight on the killer opening duo of Out of The Glory and Fear of the Fallen. In this way, the listener is still running on the fumes of euphoria generated by the realisation that this Pumpkins United reformation is really a thing, a studio document, rather than just a yomp around the globe generating cash through Hintern auf Sitzen as slightly less interesting material like Mass Pollution or Robot King is smuggled through quality control without being too closely scrutinised…

A bit cynical, maybe, but there are always going to be questions like this raised when well-chronicled gripes are put aside for one last payday. The fact of the matter is that Andi Deris, who has kept Helloween afloat vocally for a long, long time whilst Kiske and Hansen ummed and ahhed about coming back, is relegated to something of a supporting role here; as the band seek to bring the best from all of Helloween’s eras together under one flag, he gets the songs that sound like off cuts from Master of The Rings (Rise Without Chains) when all the World and his wife seem to want is something from the old school. Even something that sounds like an outtake from Pink Bubbles Go Ape would be hailed as genius in the current atmosphere of Kiskemania, it seems…

You won’t hear Deris moaning, of course. He’s a team man, and he plays the part allotted to him with verve and steel-eyed commitment. Everyone does, actually, even the seemingly surplus-to-requirements guitarist Sascha Gerstner; it’s a tribute to the pumpkin legacy that everyone here is clearly ready to die for the cause, with the result being an album that challenges you not to smile, or indeed bang your head furiously, whilst the band hammer out high grade slabs of power metal like Indestructible. Not one of the set piece ‘classic’ tracks on the album, it’s actually here that everything coalesces most beautifully, from the stratospheric chorus warblings of Kiske, through the darker mid ranges of Deris to the goblinesque mischief of Hansen, everything clicks. Backed by the ageless bass work of Markus Grosskopf – surely the keeper of Helloween’s soul, perhaps even more so than Weikath – and fabulous, stellar guitar work, this is pure power metal nirvana.

Much the same could be said for Down In The Dumps, which purists will probably feel comes closest to the unmitigated glory of the Keeper albums.  Dani Löble is heroic in his take on the never-to-be-equalled drum assault of the much-missed Ingo Schwichtenberg, and the guitar interplay towards the end of the track will actually have you out of your seat as tears of nostalgic joy run down your beer-reddened cheeks. The band then seal the deal with signature epic Skyfall, which effectively extinguishes any final flames of cyncism under the sheer weight of pomposity deployed by the band.

Opinion has been a little bit divided over Helloween in critical quarters, but it’s hard to see fans greeting this album with anything other than unbridled enthusiasm. This isn’t the aeon-spanning classic some would have you believe it to be, but it is the best album Helloween have released in some while, and the reassembly of key members here means that the band are once more a force to be reckoned with rather than an amiable bunch of blokes who aren’t quite as good as they used to be. I think we’ll all take that.

is out now.