Start drooling now.
Review by Brian McGowan
Release date: 24 July 2015
Kai Hansen took a major career risk when he jumped from a rampant Helloween bandwagon in 1988. But by then, Germany’s hugely successful heavy metal juggernaut was running out of control. For Hansen, the situation was rectified with the formation of Gamma Ray, who, strangely, sounded a lot like Helloween. Only better. Hansen’s longtime friend, Ralf Scheepers handled vocals, with Hansen realising his plan to write and play guitar. They released Heading For Tomorrow in 1990. Twenty Five years later, Ear Music and Hansen have collaborated on this reissue. A remastered version of the original with a veritable multitude of bonus tracks, mostly on a second CD.
Now, I may occasionally be accused of being the biggest exaggerator in the entire universe, but this just has to be one of the best remasterings I have heard. At first, yes, it sounds a little rough and ready, but this is merely a reflection of recording standards a quarter of a century ago. Even through big ass, bass heavy speakers, the sonics are clear and sharp… you can pick out almost every note from Hansen’s densely constructed blasts of tuneful, orchestrated noise.
Rewind to 1988: Hansen had the almost impossible task of quickly penning a whole new album, in the midst of the gathering hysteria whipped up by his abrupt and reportedly acrimonious departure from Helloween. With Heading For Tomorrow, he proved all over again that he could write tightly structured songs packed with hair-raising dynamic shifts and vertiginous choruses. ‘Lust For Life’ offers immediate evidence of a song-writing style unfettered by band strictures or obligations to formula. It soars, and you can hear guitar, bass and drums in flight, carrying Scheeper’s vocals to a fabulous climax. It’s exceeded only by ‘Heaven Can Wait’ and its combination of melodic abandon, razor clawed guitar and a finely wrought hook, pumped up to epic proportions. Hear that descending bass line underlining the chorus, and the chiming lead guitar as the pace changes briefly around the 2′ 40” mark. Genius.
Whether it’s fan friendly balladic anthems like ‘Silence’ or baroque, teutonic metal monsters like the hugely ambitious title track, this album had it all. And has it again now, with all the finely filigreed detail restored. Plus three bonus tracks.
With this reissue, Hansen and the label have added a second disc, filled to overflowing, rich in the arcana much loved by aficionados. There are demo versions of ‘The Silence’ and ‘Heaven Can Wait’, sung by Hansen. There are cracking Karaoke versions of ‘Heading For Tomorrow’ and ‘Space Eater’. And much more. Interestingly, there is also ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, written for ‘Heading…’ but eventually winding up on the follow up album ‘Sigh No More’ (1990), now finding its rightful place on the reissue of the original album, if that doesn’t sound too Spinal Tap.
And it doesn’t end here. The label, Ear Music (an offshoot of Edel), will reissue double CD versions of the complete Gamma Ray back catalogue progressively through the rest of 2015. Each including bonus tracks, variants and rediscovered ephemera. Fans can start drooling now.
10 out of 10
- Welcome (Live)
- Lust For Life
- Heaven Can Wait
- Space Eater
- the Silence
- Hold Your Ground
- Free Time
- Heading For Tomorrow
- Look At Yourself
- Mr Outlaw (Japanese bonus track)
- Sail On (B Side from Heaven Can Wait EP)
- Lonesome Stranger (B Side from Heaven Can Wait EP)
- Who Do You Think You Are
- Heaven Can Wait (demo)
- Money (Demo with Hansen on vocals)
- Sail On (Demo with Hansen on vocals)
- Heading For Tomorrow (Live)
- The Silence (Demo with Hansen on vocals)
- Mr Outlaw (instrumental version)
- Heaven Can Wait (Demo with Hansen on vocals)
- Heading For Tomorrow (Karaoke version)
- Space Eater (Karaoke version)
- Lonesome Stranger (demo)