I was in my first year as a student in university and Helloween wasn’t anymore a priority to my ears but fortunately I took in my hands a live recording that worked like a best of for their mid-90’s era and I was so surprised by High Live’s high energy and quality that I immediately went to the local record shop in the city I lived at the time and bought together “Master of the Rings” and “The Time of the Oath”. These two were totally killers and turned to be instant classics but “The Time of the Oath” is dedicated to original drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, (who was fired from the band after “Chameleon” and as he after that suffered from depression he turned to drugs, which led him to commite suicide by throwing himself under a train on March 8th, 1995), and so it took easily a special place to all pumpkins worldwide as everyone just loved Ingo. After all both albums worked as a boxer’s twin (right and left) punches that made Helloween again champions of Power Metal. Don’t forget that things weren’t so easy for Heavy Metal at the time despite the fact that Power as a sub-genre had its golden years offering in abundance excellent LPs (not only coming from Germany) and Helloween had to face the commercial fail and the departure of a major label, the one and only, EMI that had bet their money on Helloween as the new Iron Maiden back in the dawn of the 90’s. Michael Weikath on guitar, Markus Grosskopf on bass, Roland Grapow on guitar, and the so back then called newcomers Uli Kusch on drums and vocalist Andi Deris have been touring successfully for “Master of the Rings” and the now stable line-up had almost a whole year (1995) for writing and recording the new album under the commands or if you prefer with the help of the legendary danish producer Tommy Hansen of both “Keepers”, Heavens Gate, Pretty Maids and TNT fame.
Two weeks before the official release the single “Power” had everyone from hello (the other two singles were “The Time of the Oath” which was released on 2nd of May 1996 that also featured the cover on Jean Michel Jarre and “Magnetic Fields” and on Judas Priest’s classic “Electric Eye” and “Forever and One (Neverland)” which was released on 4th of September 1996 featuring “In The Middle Of A Heartbeat (Live)”, “Light In The Sky” and “Time Goes By”)…”Power” is melodic, catchy, groovy with memorable and born for sing along chorus. So their fans had set the bar too high with the first single and when they saw the artwork cover (again designed from the father of the pumpkin trademark Frederick Moulaert) their heart started to beat faster and faster…some doses of Keeper as he (the keeper/wizard) appears again wearing his cape (instead of a space scene as on the cover of Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1, the area under the Keeper’s hood is filled with stars and a line of golden rings, in the fashion of Master of the Rings’ artwork), some rings and stars referring to its predecessor making all happy and (might) focusing on their fan base that have left in the early 90’s…
“The Time of the Oath” is a concept album. According to Andi Deris, it is based on the prophecies of Nostradamus, referring to the prophecies made for the years 1994 to 2000. Nostradamus’ interpreters believe that he predicted a third World War followed by a millennium of peace if humans made the right choices. The album is meant to reflect the choices of humanity. The Keeper that appears on this album, having returned from the first two Keeper of the Seven Keys albums and later to return on the third, could represent God, or the stupidity of humanity in the form of the seventh trooper in the song “Before the War.”
The 12 songs have a plethora of tempos and elements that will please all fans of melodic Heavy Metal and of course all Power and euro power aficionados. It wasn’t only the fast tracks though that gave “Time of the Oath” its reputation and fame. While it starts with blasting hymns like popped out “Walls of Jericho”-era (definitely without its Teutonic raw sound and Hansen’s accent) opener “We Burn” (Deris) “Steel Tormentor” (Weikath/Deris) and “Before the War” (Deris), that shows a now more comfortable and confident Deris (please notice that he composed or co-written the above fast songs), there are also some slower moments and ballads that makes the album filling and totally balanced. “A Million to One” (Kusch/Deris), “If I Knew” (Weikath) and “Forever and One (Neverland)” (Deris) are emotional and worked fine with ultra-fast “Kings we be Kings”(Weikath), the aforementioned single “Power” (Weikath) is catchy as hell while as “Wake up the Mountain” (Kusch/Deris), have both amazing choruses, and the entertaining “Anything My Mama Don’t Like” (Deris/Kusch).
Last but not least some flavor of epic and mystery in the title track (the track “The Time of the Oath” written by Grapow and Deris reflects on Act V of Faust Part Two, written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Andi Deris plays the part of Mephistopheles, reclaiming the soul of doctor Faust, whereas the Choir of the Orchestra “Johann Sebastian Bach”, Hamburg, -conducted by Axel Bergstedt- sings the Dies Irae from the traditional requiem, representing the angels rescuing Faust’s lost soul)and the complicated with progressive hints and dark tone “Mission Motherland” (Weikath/Helloween). So there’s a panspermia of ideas and melodic parts that together combine a wonderful record that marked its era and was at the same time fun, heavy and full of energy bringing back their old school fans and simultaneously welcomed newcomers in the best way.-