An even greater mystery than Carly Simon's "who's so vain" saga: Which real-life metal band most closely embodies the fictional travails of Spinal Tap?

Few hit pay dirt better than that German musical concentration camp known as Helloween. They've got it all -- the brooding mysticism of Dio, the Reaper madness of Iron Maiden, the sexual harassment of the Scorpions. They even have the banshee front man: Michael Kiske, whose screed sounds like Rob Halford taking Bruce Dickinson by force from behind. Yes, every variety of cheese ya love under one logo. And it ain't Kraft!

Credited with pioneering the power-metal genre (which takes moody minor key metal and puts it through a wood chipper), Helloween has enjoyed international buzz since the mid-'80s. Americans preferred to stay misinformed, missing out on landmark power-metal albums like Keeper of the Seven Keys and Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 2. The latter contained the prophetic number "I Want Out," after which lead guitarist Kai Hansen split. The band issued the obligatory I Want Out: Live holding action and then opted for a misguided attempt at levity with Pink Bubbles Go Ape, which gave fans perhaps the doofiest metal anthem ever, "Heavy Metal Hamsters." Since that career bomb they've steadily moved upward to respectability (they could do little else), becoming the reigning granddads of Euro-metal while successfully covering ABBA and losing a suicidal drummer to an oncoming train (hey! That's not funny!). All roads lead to this all-important concert -- Helloween's first on American soil in 10 years. And since it's opening night, maybe the giant spinning jack-o'-lantern head will malfunction and emit noxious dry ice or something.



Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill in Tempe

Scheduled to perform on Wednesday, October 1. Show begins at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 480-829-0707.


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