Tag Archives: kai hansen

“Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1” (remaster) by Helloween

Artist: Helloween
Title: “Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1” (remaster)
Label: Sanctuary Records
Release Date: 8/8/2006
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 5/5

As the follow up to their debut “Walls Of Jericho”, Helloween would find lead singer/guitarist Kai Hansen choosing to focus on the axe work while they brought in a then 18 year old Michael Kiske to handle the vocal duties. The song writing would grow by leaps as well, and as a result the 1987 release of “Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1” would become one of the most revered albums in Power Metal music history. Interestingly enough, Power Metal was not yet a widely used term and based on their efforts, Helloween is regarded as one of the prime founders of the genre. It’s easy to see why this is the case based on the direction that the group took with the second album for instead of maintaining course to the more thrashy debut they increased the use of melody and double guitar leads. Yes bands like Maiden and Priest also had twin axe men but theirs was a sound based on the influences of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple and while also melodic it did not reach speed levels like the Helloween players delivered. The release in remaster and expanded format is a real treat for any Metal fan or study of the genre as the classics come to renewed life with the cleaner production of this CD.
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Gamma Ray @ B.B. King Blues Club (5/1/2006)

Logo - Gamma Ray

Artist: Gamma Ray
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Into Eternity, Arctic Flame
Date: 5/1/2006
Label: Sanctuary Records

Far from being in the shadow of his accomplishments in Helloween, singer guitarist Kai Hansen has made sure that Gamma Ray is one of the most important bands in Power Metal history.

Starting off the festivities for this evening would be Arctic Flame, whose name I had only recently heard but alas I was not in the club when they performed. I was given a copy of the CD by their singer and got to chat with them briefly. Watch for that CD review sometime soon. Opening up the show would be Into Eternity, and as I write this I can hear the Metal concert goers sighing “again?” The band was pretty much a mainstay at some of the biggest shows of 2005 with almost every major Power Metal show having them on the bill as well. Great for the fans that enjoy them as I do, but perhaps not too much in the eyes of those who look to see some different stuff a little more often. Tonight however we would find a very different band on the stage. Gone was drummer Adam Sagan, who had left the band a few months ago and in his place was Jim Austin who recorded the album for them in the first place. The other surprise to me as someone who had seen the band several times was the absence of Rob Doherty who was being filled in for by Collin Craig. While I don’t know the specifics behind his absence I have to say that Craig did a great job on the material that I knew. Once again a number of Metal blasts from “Buried By Oblivion” were delivered and we even were treated to a couple of new numbers that will be on their as yet untitled follow up to the last record. Looking at the calendar of shows made me wonder how many times I will see them this year. Either way I am sure Tim Roth and company will be sure to start off everyone’s Metal evening right so I look forward to it.
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“Walls Of Jericho” (remaster) by Helloween

Artist: Helloween
Title: “Walls Of Jericho” (remaster)
Label: Castle Music/Sanctuary Records
Release Date: 4/25/2006
Genre: Power Metal
Rating: 8/10

When one thinks of Power Metal, one of the names that comes up as among the first to venture into this new genre of Metal is the one and only Helloween. The band was ahead of its time and mixed the newer speed metal riffing along with incredible melodic displays to an extraordinary result. This release of “Walls Of Jericho” in an expanded version is a treat for all Metal fans because not only does it include the original album, but it also has the impossible to find “Helloween” EP for its first 5 tracks. The lineup of these early years consisted of Kai Hansen (vocals and guitar), Ingo Schwichtenberg (drums), Markus Grosskopf (bass), & Michael Weikath (guitar) and when you listen to these formative songs you will find the band performing at blistering speeds on most of the tracks. By 1985’s standards this was a refreshing change from the “Hair Metal” stuff that was killing the real headbangers. Music of the 80’s in that style needed a kick in its own tail to remind the world that Metal was as much an attitude as a musical form. The band also had some chops in the live sense and they showcase this on the included tracks from the “Treasure Chest” EP.
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“Skeletons In The Closet” by Gamma Ray

Artist: Gamma Ray
Title: “Skeletons In The Closet”
Label: Noise Records
Release Date: 3/9/2004
Genre: Power Metal
Rating: 9/10

Gamma Ray has long been considered one of the bands that set the standard in the Power Metal genre and the double CD release of “Skeletons In The Closet” brings you some great songs performed live in concert for a screaming audience. Leader Kai Hansen has always been a force to be reckoned with in this type of music. It showed early in his career when he was a part of the legendary Helloween where he played guitar and also sang. Eventually he formed a partnership with Ralf Scheepers to start Gamma Ray and released the amazing debut “Heading For Tomorrow”. If you owned this album when it came out you knew immediately that Power Metal was going to be headed in a new and exciting direction as long as this band was in existence. This was over fifteen years ago and fast forward to today where almost a dozen records have been released in the bands catalog. Scheepers has been gone for awhile and now performs in Primal Fear which left Kai the vocal duties in the group and to be quite honest he really has an amazing voice. He is also very busy on the guitar and I admit its most impressive to see the range he can hit during the songs while playing that well. I truly enjoyed most of this CD and I had a real love for “Gardens Of The Sinner” for it’s overall power and delivery. “The Silence” has also been one of my very favorite Gamma Ray tracks since the day I first heard them on that debut album & “Heart Of The Unicorn” also seemed to grow on me. This track has a very Judas Priest/Halford feel to it and will appeal to those listeners without a doubt. Joining Kai in the group is Henjo Richter (guitars/vocals), Dirk Schlacter (bass) and Dan Zimmerman (drums); together this powerful lineup gives you 18 of their most rarely heard material in one place.
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“Heading For The East” [DVD] by Gamma Ray

Artist: Gamma Ray
Title: “Heading For The East”
Label: Sanctuary Visual Entertainment
Release Date: 2003
Genre: Power Metal
Rating: 6/10

My first exposure to the music of Gamma Ray was back in 1991 when Kai Hansen had left Helloween to start this side project of power metal. I really liked the first CD entitled “Heading For Tomorrow” and fortunately for me the core of the material comes from this release. Power metal was slowly becoming my music of choice since the States was being consumed with the Grunge movement. Now, I liked most of the bands that came out from this movement, but I preferred the majesty and drive that European Power Metal had to offer.
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