It was 1988 A.D. when a disbelieving whisper echoed through Germany's metal scene: singer / guitarist Kai Hansen had just declared his farewell from melodic speed metal masters Helloween, a band he co-founded. "I simply wasn't happy with it anymore", the man with the pink Randy-Rhoads guitar explains his motives at the time to leave his "baby" behind. This decision was quite a surprise as the five-piece from Hamburg had just received a gold record award ( for selling 250.000 copies of THE KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS - Part II) for the second time and was considered to be THE most hopeful act in terms of heavy music bearing the "Made in Germany" hallmark.
Already a year later all confusions in the business vanished into nothing but pleasure: The Hanseat presented a new team - including among others bassist Uwe Wessel and skinsman Matthias Burchardt - and his new enterprise Gamma Ray, named after a song by German rockband Birth Control. The debut HEADING FOR TOMORROW offered an impressive mix of trademarks known from early Helloween: Hansen's razor-sharp leads as well as anthemic, catchy melodies contrasted with distinct, clear metal shouting, courtesy of former Tyran Pace singer Ralf Scheepers. Consequently hymns like 'Heaven Can Wait', 'Space Eater' and especially the monumental titletrack are among standard favourites from the Gamma Ray catalogue.
In 1991 bassplayer Dirk SchlÃ¤chter, who had already joined Gamma Ray during the recordings of the debut, celebrated his first recording with the band on SIGH NO MORE. In the years to come he would develop to be Hansen's indispensable partner in crime as well as a noticable engineer and co-producer.
As the position of the bassplayer was still occupied by Wessel, SchlÃ¤chter backed up Hansen as a second guitarplayer, thus adding more strength and stringpower live. The second offering, on which Uli Kusch (formerly of Holy Moses) contributed his drumwork, had a far more experimental character than its predecessor, but with this musical statement Hansen & Co. cleared off all hidden reproaches of just following the successful path of his former band. Nevertheless Gamma Ray convinced their audience with SIGH NO MORE: the hymn 'One With The World' and 'Dream Healer' continue to be highlights of Hansen's songwriting art.
Only 24 Months later, after exchanging the entire rhythmsection (Kusch accepted an offer from Helloween and was replaced by Thomas Nack, later of Iron Savior; Jan Rubach came for Wessel on bass), the quintett established themselves in the national as well as the international metal scene as uncompromising advocates of melodic metal with a very special German stamping: INSANITY AND GENIUS - especially tracks like 'Tribute To The Past' or 'Last Before The Storm' - once more proved Hansen's dead sure nose for great melodies combined with earthy power and brute heavyness. Extensive touring, with Manowar among others, supplied evidence for the grown appeal of the band and its continously increasing acceptance within the worldwide community of headbangers.
The 1995 release of LAND OF THE FREE marks a turning point in the band's career: Hansen was again responsible for all leadvocals and guitars just as in the good old Helloween days. With a couple of discreet exceptions though. Hansen manged to win singer Michael Kiske, his former colleague of late Helloween days, for the titletrack and the programmatic 'Time To Break Free', while Blind Guardian frontman Hansi KÃ¼rsch could be persuaded to contribute the chorus back-ups for 'Rebellion In Dreamland', 'Farewell' and also 'Land Of The Free' as a guest. Despite the rather miserable conditions for traditional metal acts at the time (cue: grunge boom) the man from Hamburg / Germany and his crew managed to achieve what seemed to be impossible: sales increased. Listening to the epic 'Rebellion In Dreamland', the catchy 'Man On A Mission' or the monumental titletrack, it is no wonder, the band presented itself in such a great form and with such an authority.
The 1997 gem SOMEWHERE OUT IN SPACE saw the line-up consolidate to the present day form: As Rubach put down his bass, SchlÃ¤chter saw his chance to change back to his first choice instrument. Apart from new drummer Dan Zimmermann a new second guitarplayer was added to the line-up with Henjo Richter, who complemented Hansen's intricate playing style perfectly. This is also proven by the homogenous and compact songmaterial of the fifth record: the steadly growing audience would still be offended if the band left out the album's highlights such as the fast 'Beyond The Black Hole', the bombastic anthem 'Somewhere Out In Space' or 'Valley Of The Kings', which instantly encourages you to bang your head.
In 1999 POWERPLANT marked the end of the nineties releases. And it did so with a mighty bang: the quick 'Anywhere In The Galaxy' as well as the rockers 'Heavy Metal Universe' and 'Send Me A Sign' and especially the powerful double-bass version of the Petshop Boy's classic 'It'S A Sin' are considered to be timeless standards for effective compostion combined with clever arrangements. It's no surprise the band's triumphant advance continued without any resistance: No matter if it 's longtime fan bastions like Japan - since his Helloween days Hansen compositions are considered to be somewhat godlike here - or newly conquered territory such as South America or Mexico: euphorious reactions everywhere Gamma Ray hand over their visiting cards.
No wonder, that now we get the chance to look back on the last decade of the past millenium with re-releases of the aforementioned classic albums. All six releases are now available as re-mastered and digitally improved versions. There's also three bonus tracks respectively decorating these Gamma Ray classics. Here's a list of the bonus tracks as they appear on the re-mastered CDs:
On HEADING FOR TOMORROW : 'Mr. Outlaw', 'Lonesome Stranger' and 'Sail On' are three outtakes from the Heading For Tomorrow Sessions, which have later been released on the Heaven Can Wait EP.
On SIGH NO MORE: 'Heros', the demo version of 'Dream Healer' and 'Who Do You Think You Are'
On INSANITY AND GENIUS: the long version of the Birth Control remake of 'Gamma Ray', a Judas Priest-Cover 'Exciter' sung by Scheepers and a live version of 'Save Us' taken from the "Heading For The East" Video.
On LAND OF THE FREE: A remake of Holocaust's 'Heavy Metal Mania', a demo version of 'As Times Go By' with Hansen on leadvocals plus a a 1995 version of 'The Silence' also sung by Hansen.
On SOMEWHERE OUT IN SPACE: a new interpretaion of Uriah Heep's classic 'Return To Fantasy' as well as Judas Priest's 'Victim Of Changes' and also 'Miracle', which is the ballad version of 'Man On A Mission' from Land Of The Free
On POWERPLANT: 'A While In A Dreamland', a song from the Silent Miracles EP, a new recording of the anthemic 'Rich And Famous', which was initially a Japan bonus track on Blast From The Past and finally a Rainbow cover of 'Long Live Rock'n'Roll'.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please seize the opportunity to get in touch with the historic cultural assets of one of the most exposed advocates of German melodic metal!