Helloween, Gamma Ray and Unisonic. Now Hansen goes solo. Not really.
Reviewed by Brian McGowan Released by EarMUSIC on 23 June 2017.
Respected philanthropist and probably the most influential heavy metal musician in Europe, Kai Hansen, founding member of Helloween and Gamma Ray, knows how to put on a show. That doesn’t just mean he throws himself into it, although he does. And it doesn’t just mean he’s fast and loud, although he is.
In the same year (2016) that Hansen & Friends recorded their XXX album, they played the Wacken Open Air Live Show, in which he celebrated 30 years in metal. This recording of the gig, Thankyou Wacken, pays his audience the respect they deserve – by assembling a band of the finest musicians, Alex Dietz on bass, Eike Freese on guitar, Michael Ehre on drums and Corvin Bahn on keyboards; Clementine DeLauny and Frank Beck on backing vocals, and a guest appearance from the mighty Michael (Helloween) Kiske. And some cool sound FX.
The band’s performance manages that difficult balance between rehearsed precision, and freewheeling, adrenalin pumped performance. They sound great. What Hansen does is unpretentiously distil heavy metal to its elemental state, then adorn it with real melodies, probably the man’s greatest gift. The fact that it’s delivered at multiple bpms doesn’t disguise the quality of what’s within. Factor in his howling falsetto, nowadays tempered by a more conventional vocal delivery – witness both on new song, ‘Enemies Of Fun’ – to hear the perfect compromise.
Tonight, the “Open Air” at Wacken just crackles with electricity. When Hansen’s twinning up his axe with Freese, weaponising riffs or just riding tandem, it’s a glorious rush of amplitude, speed and complexity – ‘The Contract Song’ ‘Ride The Sky’ and ‘Future World’ all sound liberated in this setting.
Elsewhere, the gig is full of hooks, some lean, some mean and some – ‘Victim Of Fate’ and ‘Burning Bridges’ – terracing anthems in waiting. Bringing on Michael Kiske to sing ‘I Want Out’, perhaps the most recognisable Hansen song of all, was a nice touch, and went down well with an attentive, adoring crowd.
To the uninitiated, the neck snapping speed of many of Hansen’s songs may fool them into thinking his music is a triumph of style over substance. They need to see and hear Hansen And Friends live, and be mainlined into the heart of heavy metal.
The whole thing comes in at entry level as a DVD+CD digipack, rising through a gatefold double LP version to premium product level – a Blu-ray+cd with 4 bonus tracks. Sound quality is outstandingly good. Time and effort’s gone into this. It also comes in a digital version, which you can’t touch, feel or unwrap. Shame.
- Born Free
- Ride The Sky
- Contract Song
- Victim Of Fate
- Enemies of Fun
- Fire and Ice
- Burning Bridges
- Follow The Sun
- I Want Out
- Future World
- All Or Nothing
- Save Us