Sometimes, even for grumpy middle-aged metal fans, wishes can come true. So when it was announced in 2017 that former Helloween members Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen were to join the current incarnation of the band there was much, much rejoicing. The Pumpkins United (Nuclear Blast) single which followed swiftly dispelled any initial concerns about musical overcrowding, the band now consisting of seven members including three vocalists plus Hansen adding a third guitar, and the path to Helloween (Nuclear Blast) was clear.
Heavy Montréal returns next month! Presented by Black Label, the tenth Heavy MTL on July 27 & 28 at Parc Jean-Drapeau as well as its sister fest on July 26 with Heavy In The City (77)! has announced its daily schedules. The city of Montréal has revamped Île Sainte-Hélène of Parc Jean-Drapeau, one of the most renowned festival sites in North America! More than thirty bands have joined previously announced Slayer, including Ghost, Godsmack, Evanescence, Anthrax, Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, In This Moment, Killswitch Engage, Anthrax, Steel Panther, Clutch, Gamma Ray, Testament, Hatebreed, Beartooth, Skillet, Metal Churh, Municipal Waste, Atreyu, All That Remains, Quiet Riot, Cancer Bats, Fever 333, and many more! Passes on sale now!Continue reading
If you have been following this space, we love YouTuber Beth Roars and her amazing critiques of singers, especially rock and metal vocalists like Mike Patton, Layne Staley, Maynard James Keenan and more. In addition to her recent Patreon campaign, she has launched a podcast, the “Good Job Podcast which you can find on Spotify and other places you listen. Episode #3 features an interview with Ralf Scheepers, the world-renowned singer from Gamma Ray and Primal Fear. They chatted about his career, developing his talent and remaining humble, how the music industry changed over the years, and more. Subscribe and listen now!Continue reading
After a one-year hiatus, Heavy Montréal is back in 2019! Presented by Black Label, the tenth Heavy MTL on July 27 & 28 at Parc Jean-Drapeau as well as its sister fest on July 26 with Heavy In The City! As part of a project, the past two years by the city of Montréal the fest takes place at the revamped Île Sainte-Hélène of Parc Jean-Drapeau, one of the most renowned festival sites in North America! More than thirty bands have joined previously announced Slayer, including Ghost, Godsmack, Evanescence, Anthrax, Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, In This Moment, Killswitch Engage, Anthrax, Steel Panther, Clutch, Gamma Ray, Testament, Hatebreed, Beartooth, Skillet, Metal Church, Municipal Waste, Atreyu, All That Remains, Quiet Riot, Cancer Bats, Fever 333, and many more! Passes on sale now! Continue reading
Remastering albums is a tricky business. For every perceived mistake or fault which gets cleaned up, smoothed over, or completely erased; for every tweak or alteration to the mix, there will always be listeners who prefer the original, no matter what. Trying to improve a recording can often lead to losing the charm of the original, and so as much as record label Nuclear Blast have given a significant portion of Blind Guardian‘s discography a deserved facelift here, the results will lie purely in the eye (or in this case, the ear) of the beholder.Continue reading
The list of acts who can be linked to Metal legends Helloween through their band members is really quite an impressive one. Masterplan, Running Wild, U.D.O., Krokus, Accept, Iron Savior, Savage Circus, and Freedom Call have all featured one or more of the German pumpkin botherers at one time or another, not to mention obscure side projects like Shockmachine and Palast, and a frankly ridiculous amount of collaborations and guest appearances.Continue reading
earMUSIC, the international record company of Edel Group has signed an exclusive US distribution deal with Entertainment One. Their release schedule has been announced with the following:
Deep Purple – Long Beach 1971
Angra – Secret Garden
SOTO – Inside the Vertigo
Thunder – Wonder Days
ASH – Kablammo!
Gamma Ray – Best Of:
Well, that’s shut me well and truly the fuck up
It’s apt to begin a commentary on a release from one ex-Helloween guitarist (Roland Grapow) with reference to the man he succeeded in the pumpkin-obsessed kings of Power Metal, one Kai Hansen, who titled the third Gamma Ray album Insanity & Genius (Noise) and referenced in the lyrics how thin the line between the two is. Well, the line between generic and uninteresting pap and Power Metal Glory is even thinner, perhaps as thin as the hair-line on Herr Hansen’s fivehead these days. But with As Daylight Breaks (Nuclear Blast) Serious Black (contenders for best new band name – certainly best Harry Potter themed one) have released a debut that is so far over the line on the side of quality, the line is a dot to them (answers on a postcard if you get that reference).
Having written off Power Metal in my mind as a genre that, no matter how well its composite parts could be put together, was done, creatively redundant and in the type of artistic morass that Death Metal found itself in for twenty years, nevertheless, like the child poking the disembowelled frog with a stick and hoping for some twitch or reaction, with morbid curiosity I find myself drawn to it. See, when Power Metal is on it, there’s very little better for invigorating the mind and soul. And Grapow’s latest offering slapped me round the chops, leaving me with a fiendish grin, a rediscovered enthusiasm for the genre and a frog named Lazarus.
The brainchild of Grapow and former Visions of Atlantis bassist Mario Lochert, with the rhythm section rounded out by former Blind Guardian tub thumper Thomen Stauch, Serious Black absolutely nail everything that is joyous about Power Metal infused hard rock, from the driving opening pair of ‘I Seek No Other Life’ and the simply massive ‘High And Low’ through to the theatre-y and slightly camp closing ‘Older and Wiser’.
The band is led by the underrated and under-celebrated vocal talents of former Tad Morose pipes, Urban breed who avoids being one of a million Kiske-clean wannabes by injecting power and tone; at times channelling Jon Oliva, particularly on the keys led title-track, at others Mike Howe (Metal Church), and able to carry a faster verse alongside the ubiquitous sizeable choruses.
Musically, you can bandy about names such as Kamelot (‘Akhenation’), Within Temptation (the uptempo rock romp of ‘Trail of Murder’), Savatage, Stratovarius, and Sonata Arctica if you like; there definite elements of Blind Guardian and Helloween, and that’s absolutely fine, as Serious Black sit as a kind of summation of all that “is” from the polished end of Power Metal.
As Daylight Breaks benefits from a great, full, vibrant production and above all exudes the sensation of a band really enjoying their work. As they rightly should. I once incorrectly tagged Grapow as a Janick Gers figure who had ruined one of my favourite bands. He well and truly proved me wrong – I even quite like Pink Bubbles Go Ape now, and I’m one of the few people on the planet who love Chameleon (both EMI) – and with Serious Black he’s done it again, proving as Edguy did with last years’ Space Police (Nuclear Blast) that, when done well, Power Metal can be fulfilling rompy-pompy.
Kai Hansen almost single-handedly (OK, double-handedly – it’s quite hard to play the guitar with one hand) invented Power Metal as we know and love it today, being the guiding force behind Helloween’s legendary Walls of Jericho (for the thrashier power metal) and Keeper Of The Seven Keys I and II (for all other non-US power metals) tour de forces. In terms of style, since Land Of The Free Gamma Ray have sat firmly between the two, imparting both classics (Somewhere Out In Space, No World Order) and less-than-vital releases (Land Of The Free II, To The Metal).
Like death, taxes, and Max Cavalera dropping names as frequently as you or I drop off the kids, there’s an inevitability about Gamma Ray albums. You know they’re coming , you know exactly what they’re going to sound like and you know you’re going to get to play the #Neknomination rivalling potent drinking game of “Spot The Stolen Riff” (have a shot for each stolen riff on the last 6 Gamma Ray albums and see if you survive), and Empire Of The Undead (earMUSIC) is no different.
Opener ‘Avalon’ is a 9 minute microcosm of all things Gamma Ray. Strong, distinctive riffing, rousing vocals, a powerful chorus, excellent melodic lead-work, grand story-telling… and then some bits stolen from Iron Maiden (though plundering the Brave New World era is a new approach for Hansen). Elsewhere, it’s hard to ignore that ‘Master Of Confusion’ is a mash-up of two Helloween tracks – the Hansen-penned classic ‘I Want Out’ and the post-Hansen ‘Who Is Mr Madman?’ – or that ‘Time For Deliverance’, the obligatory piano ballad, is different words to Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’. While Hansen may keep on fighting to the end (it’s impossible not to substitute the line), there are further lifts from Judas Priest’s ‘All Guns Blazing’ and his own ‘Future World’.
You may find this forgivable; their albums are always enjoyable, always reliable, and tracks like ‘Born To Fly’ with its massive chorus are certainly good Power Metal songs, but for every fiesty ‘Hellbent’ there’s a ploddy ‘Demonseed’, and, ultimately Empire Of The Undead is just A.N.Other Gamma Ray album, with all their usual high-points and failings.