Roland Grapow - The Four Seasons Of Life
Victor Entertainment
Neo-Classical Melodic Metal
12 songs (55:00)
Release year: 1997
Reviewed by Ben
Archive review

In the course of the career of the gigantic metal monster truck known as Helloween, two members have been kind of forgotten by the fans. When looking back, guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch were integral parts of the machine. They were excellent musicians, strong songwriters, and together, Roland and Uli learned they had some pretty sweet compositional chemistry. When they were ousted from Helloween, the two went on to form the venerable Masterplan and went and pulled a Lost Horizon by releasing two incredible albums out of the gate with a vocal god, Jorn Lande. So why isn't Roland remembered as the bad ass he is? First, he joined the band as a replacement to founder Kai Hansen in the middle of a tumultuous touring cycle. Then, his first two records with Helloween were the band's most, uhhhh, "controversial." Finally, he never got an explosive introduction to the band like Mr. Uli Kusch did on HIS debut with the group, the Master Of The Rings album. That drum intro in Sole Survivor won him over in the hearts of every Helloween fan left and just wiped away the bitter taste of butt that was Chameleon. Roland just kind of quietly started writing some killer songs in the middle of their shittiest period.

The Four Seasons Of Life was the first solo outing by the new axeman, and ardent fans of Helloween would notice that this has much in common with his song, Grapowski's Malmsuite 1001 in D-Doll which was a b-side to some singles from Master Of The Rings. That isn't to say that The Four Seasons Of Life is b-side material, it's just trying to point out that this has a heavy neo-classical slant to it. Roland also does the lead vocals here and he's adequate but not spectacular. As a solo album put out in the mid nineties, this is more than acceptable. If one were to go back and find this in 2020, one might see this as a fairly raw album. First and foremost, this is a metal album. Hooray for us, Roland didn't feel the need to make something spectacularly shitty to cement himself as a "true artist." As mentioned before, the main "drawing point" of this album is that it has alot of Yngwie worship in it. Guitar nerds will enjoy this, and hardcore Helloween fans will feel like they spent their money well. This is not an "I hate metal" solo album. Something interesting to note for the hardcore aficionado is that we do get a glimpse into the evolution of Roland the songwriter. (spoiler alert: next week I'll review his second solo album Kaleidoscope). His type of "busy"( as in no power chord whole notes for verses) rhythm guitar is already evident in the first song after the instrumental intro. This is something that he would carry all the way to Masterplan. Outside of The Four Seasons Of Life, perhaps the most amount of time we've heard Roland in a lead vocal department has been Helloween's SEXCELLENT double live album, High Live. On that album, on the song Steel Tormentor Grapow basically handles every last line of the verses by himself in a trade off with lead vocalist Andi Deris. Another interesting thing to note is that the bass and drums were done by fellow Helloween mates Markus and Uli respectively. Keyboards were done by Ferdy Doernberg who has been with Axel Rudi "fuckin" Pell since forever.

Lezzz be honest here, only hardcore Helloween fans are inclined to pick this one up. The Four Seasons Of Life is not exactly a groundbreaking album. But again, to jump in the way back machine and travel to the mid nineties, a solo album from the guitarist of a long running institution was something to get a bit stoked about. That this ended up being a quite enjoyable album was a terrific bonus for the faithful.

Killing Songs :
I Remember, The Winner, Dedicated To, Strange Friend
Ben quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by Roland Grapow that we have reviewed:
Roland Grapow - Kaleidoscope reviewed by Ben and quoted 66 / 100
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