Finally, the eleventh studio album from power metal icons, GAMMA RAY, is nearing completion! Titled Empire Of The Undead, it is the record that almost wasn’t.
Penned throughout 2013 with Eike Freese at the mixing desk supporting the ever-precious work of bass player and co-writer, Dirk Schlaechter, the band had just landed in South America with tour mates Helloween when some harrowing news reached Kai Hansen and crew: Hammer Studio, their home, rehearsal space, and meeting point for many metal bands throughout Germany, had burned down leaving nearly all its contents in ruins, with the exception of the tapes from their nearly-finished new studio album.
Back on their home turf, GAMMA RAY evaluated their losses only to do what they do best – move on. “If this could not stop us, nothing ever will,” joked a light-hearted Hansen, adding that, “We got rid of a lot of shit that we gathered there. Unfortunately, a lot of good equipment as well. Anyhow, we look towards the future, we saved the production and we can continue now in this new place. By mid-January we should be done with the work on this album.”
The title track, “Empire Of The Undead,” a high-paced number in the traditionally epic GAMMA RAY style that has influenced so many bands globally, has appeared on the single/EP Master Of Confusion which was released last year and served as precursor to the forthcoming full-length.
Empire Of The Undead will be released in North America on CD, LP and digitally via Armoury Records in conjunction with earMusic late this Spring. Further details to be revealed in the coming weeks. In the meantime, view a video message Kai Hansen at THIS LOCATION.
There are a few notable hard rock & metal releases this week! New stuff is out this week from Hinder, Gamma Ray, Chevelle, Yngwie Malmsteen and a kick ass debut from Humbucker!
Chevelle – Stray Arrows – A Collection of Favorites
Gamma Ray – Live: Skeletons & Majesties
Humbucker – R.O.C.K.S.
Hinder – Welcome To the Freakshow
Affiance – The Campaign
Bloody Hammers – S/T (Import)
Yngwie Malmsteen – Spellbound
RALF SCHEEPERS – It’s not inappropriate to call Ralf Scheepers a Heavy Metal tenor. His larger than life voice can rival the very best in the history of Heavy Metal. Just let your ears delve into the back catalog of albums that Ralf Scheepers has sung lead vocals on and you shall be convinced. As a founding member of Gamma Ray, alongside Kai Hansen, Ralf Scheepers was the lead vocalist on three of their studio albums, from 1989 to 1993. In 1997, Ralf and Mat Sinner founded Primal Fear, a formidable Heavy Metal band that has etched out a powerful legacy to this very day.
There are many famous lead vocalists in Heavy Metal and Ralf Scheepers is one. However, when it comes to Ralf Scheepers, there is much more to being just a “famous” front man for a world known Heavy Metal band like Primal Fear. I never received a micro-hint of ego from Ralf as we spoke, nor did it ever appear that Ralf has, will or ever rest on his laurels. Ralf values friendship, (in a tiered format which he explains) and likes to create music on his acoustic guitar in front of his fireplace.
No, your not going to read on about a spoiled and partied out Heavy Metal star here, instead you will find out that Ralf Scheepers puts more thought into compassion and staying in touch with family, than he does about any Sunset Strip shenanigans. His new solo album “Scheepers” accentuates his fondness for ballads, guest musicians and of course, Heavy Metal. After my interview with Ralf Scheepers ended, I had to quickly remind myself that he is the intimidating vocal and physical presence of Primal Fear, for he truly carried himself in such a relaxed, polite and accessible manner. Here is what Ralf Scheepers had to say:
HRH: How relieved and proud are you, now that your solo album is being heard and praised?
RALF: I’m very pleased about it. The reviews have been good so far. I hope the people who bought the album are having a good time with it.
HRH: Which song on “Scheepers” moves you the most on a personal level?
RALF: Definitely “The Pain Of The Accused”, it’s based on a personal situation that I went through years ago. Once I got the melody line in my head for this song, I couldn’t get it out of my head.
HRH: How was the idea of doing a song (“Remission Of Sin”) with Tim “Ripper” Owens born?
RALF: I actually got to know Tim five or six years ago. We have gotten to know each other personally and Tim is a very nice guy. We’ve kept in close contact over the years. We email and see each other often, getting together to have some beers. I sent Tim this song while he was between two tours and he recorded it! I’m very happy about the way it came out. Tim and I are just good buddies!
HRH: Am I out of line by calling “Saints Of The Rock” a Heavy Metal Anthem Classic?
RALF: Well, you know, this song was recorded back in 1996 originally. It’s been re-recorded with Matt (Sinner) on bass. I did the whole choir on this re-recording.
HRH: A “Cyberfreak” never existed back in the eighties. Were the eighties a better time for Heavy Metal and the world as well?
RALF: I don’t think so, there’s always many changes happening. You have to deal with progress, you know? I sent my first email fifteen years ago! It’s a better world now. I get to stay in touch with cousins in America through Facebook, where years ago I couldn’t as easily stay in touch from a long distance. Facebook is a great network to keep in touch with friends and family. I’m not trying to sound like a Facebook commercial here by promoting them either. (laughs) You can advertise your music better through the internet now, then again, you can also lose money from people illegally downloading your music too.
HRH: Many of your friends appear as guests on “Scheepers”. Where do you rank friendship on the scale of life?
RALF: That’s a good question. It all starts with Facebook right? (laughs) It’s the same in personal life as well. I have friends that are not as much close. Then I have friends in business and friends I exchange problems with on a more personal level.
HRH: What other musicians would you have liked to guest on your current solo album and perhaps on any future Primal Fear or solo album?
RALF: For a guitarist, Neal Schon is amazing. He had no time and was just too busy with touring and recording to appear on my record. I’m pretty sure there are many names I can’t think of right now. There are many out there, it’s not easy to name them all. Rob Halford still is an old time favorite of mine! Tim “Ripper” was great to sing together with!
HRH: What are the differences that you see, when it comes to Heavy Metal being marketed in Europe compared to the U.S.?
RALF: That’s a tough question. In the U.S. the market is huge, it’s the biggest. I’ve learned later in life (laughs) with Primal Fear, that you must go to the U.S. and play for the fans. You play for the kids in the U.S. to go out and buy your album. It’s the opposite in Europe, the kids buy your album first and then go to your concert.
HRH: Would you ever consider a singing role on Broadway, if the situation was right?
RALF: Never say never! I love the musicals in Germany. At the Musical Theater in Germany, they are really studying singing and stuff. I’m not quite aware of being able to do it though.
HRH: Why’s that Ralf?
RALF: You have to be very professional and deliver the goods more so than Heavy Metal. It is night in and night out on Broadway. It’s a job too, it can become boring in a way. Then again, Heavy Metal is an everyday job too! I’m sure there has to be different feelings you must have to perform on a Broadway stage as well.
HRH: Will there be a solo tour in the U.S.?
RALF: It would be great! Only, with the new Primal Fear album being recorded and released, combined with Primal Fear doing festivals and tours, it may not be. I also have to see what the market reaction is to my solo album. If the promoters want me to go out solo, I am the last one to say no!
HRH: Do you feel our world needs to exercise some more compassion right about now?
RALF: Yes. I mean, I had the idea for this song (“Compassion”) when the earthquake happened in Haiti. Now its Japan too. I had the chords and the melody in my head as I watched the news on that Haiti earthquake. We need to show people we have feelings and not only money, that people are there for them, to give them (earthquake survivors) feelings that someone is there for them. I remember writing this song on my acoustic. I’m the acoustic guitar guy in front of the fireplace.
HRH: What? Ralf Scheepers sits in front of the fireplace, with his acoustic guitar and writes songs? (laughs)
RALF: (laughs) I also like to shred with my acoustic too! (laughs) That doesn’t mean I’m a big softy or anything like that! I’m still the Heavy Metal guy!
HRH: (laughs) Don’t worry Ralf, you’ll always be the big Heavy Metal guy in my mind!
HRH: How is the new Primal Fear album coming along?
RALF: We have now, about ten songs. The guys are very busy. They’ve sent me playbacks and I’ve put my vocals and melodies on them. Then, we team up and rehearse the songs. It is very important to team up with the band and not rely solely on the internet when writing songs.
HRH: Good luck with the recording of the new Primal Fear album Ralf!
RALF: Thank you very much, it’s going to sound great! I’m already banging my head to these Primal Fear demos!
1. Hold Your Ground
3. Send Me A Sign
4. Rebellion In Dreamland
6. Brothers (extended version)
7. Rebellion In Dreamland (Karaoke version)
In support of their 10th studio album To The Metal!, German Metal powerhouse GAMMA RAY will do five shows at the start of 2011 in North America. These will be the only dates the band play in North America all year, so make the trip to join the party! Tickets are on sale through Enterthevault.com. Also, as a special bonus, the band will offer VIP tickets, which give the fan entrance to the venue 1 hour before doors and a special meet & greet opportunity with GAMMA RAY.
GAMMA RAY North American Tour Dates:
1/28/2011 Gramercy Theater – New York City, NY
1/29/2011 Cafe Campus – Montreal, QC
1/30/2011 Imperial – Quebec City, QC
2/01/2011 Key Club – Los Angeles, CA
2/03/2011 Reggie’s – Chicago, IL
By far one of the strongest offerings from GAMMA RAY in their storied history, their tenth studio album To The Metal! proves there is no band better when it comes to classic heavy metal! The special edition of the album features a bonus DVD, The Making of To The Metal!, filmed in HD with interviews, rehearsals, live studio sessions and 3 video clips!
To The Metal! is out now in North America on EarMusic through Dismanic Distribution/Knife Fight Media. For live coverage of the tour dates and other promo/coverage requests contact Earsplit PR.
“It’s a real treat when a band you’ve followed for the better part of two decades releases an album like this.” 9.5/10 – USA Progressive Music
“Unlike many of their contemporaries they’ve steered clear of orchestral interference. No, they’ve not gone death/thrash/black or any other non-metallic offshoot, but this isn’t galloping rhythms end-to-end.” – Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles
“…an enjoyable power metal release that thankfully leaves the cheese at home and delivers potent tunes that are well played and memorable.” 4/5 – Sea of Tranquility
“Whether you’re a new Gamma Ray fan, or if you’ve followed them since 1990, you’ll love this album.” – Metal Assault
KAI HANSEN - As European Power Metal has sustained and nurtured it’s loyal fans worldwide spanning three decades, there is one key figure that can be saluted for his unparalleled contribution to this Heavy Metal sub-genre, that being Kai Hansen. As cofounder of legendary Helloween back in 1984 and founding member and leader of Gamma Ray since 1988, Kai Hansen has undeniably carved out his name in Power Metal History, if not Heavy Metal History. With his band, Gamma Ray, releasing their tenth studio album “To The Metal”, on January 29, 2010, on Earmusic, the legacy only grows stronger for this living legend of Heavy Metal.
Kai Hansen is a lead vocalist, lead guitarist, lyricist, song writer and arguably one of, if not “the” Founding Father of European Power Metal. To state that Kai Hansen is an important and historic figure to the world of Heavy Metal is justified, his music resume is undisputed. What has impressed me even more about Kai Hansen, besides his brilliant Heavy Metal career and launching European Power Metal through the stratosphere, is that he carried an interview as a true gentleman, a musician who is not looking for bragging rights or staking claim to fame. This is a musician who knows his accomplishments and has every right to be proud of them. Kai Hansen recently took time from his filled schedule to talk to Hard Rock Hideout, this is what he had to say:
HRH: Is Gamma Ray more tight than ever as a band, it sure sounds that way to me on “To The Metal”.
Kai: Absolutely! I think so, absolutely. With our friendship, there is no need to discuss songs anymore, we have enough chemistry, therefore, there is no need to argue. We’re good old boys, you know? We each know each other so well and know what the other is thinking.
HRH: “To The Metal” is as potent and powerful as any Gamma Ray album ever made. Truthfully, how much fun was this album to create?
Kai: I’m very happy with this new album. Everything just went smooth and it was a very relaxed process. There was never much doubt about the songs at all. Making “To The Metal” was a growing process, especially when the record company, (SPV), went bankrupt. There was a slow down for awhile, then things got resolved. Eventually it was a very good process still. The break for us did the album some good, it gave us a chance to let things settle down a bit and take time to reflect.
HRH: The song “To The Metal” is Old School genius, what’s the story behind it?
Kai: “To The Metal” was born when I was jamming around on guitar in rehearsal rooms, while I was playing riffs. Dani, (Daniel Zimmermann/drummer), heard these riffs and we both said this is a Metal hymn. Dani started jamming on it, he could feel it, then things started to roll from there. “To The Metal” is a song about Metal itself. Metal has been around for such a long time, Metal is very much like a dragon with many heads and when one gets cut off, it grows a new head!
HRH: “No Need To Cry” is an amazing example of healing personal loss through music. How proud is Gamma Ray of this exceptional song?
Kai: There are actually two songs on this album like this. “Mother Angel” and “No Need To Cry”. Music is a good outlet to get over a loss. Music is something that is very touching and helps me to get out my emotion and what I’m feeling inside. “Mother Angel” was written for my Mother who passed away a couple of years ago. “Mother Angel” is my way of talking to my Mother now.
HRH: “Rise” is a song that resonates with high emotion. Is this your favorite style of song to sing?
Kai: It depends on the song and which way the song goes. I always have a lot of emotion when I sing. This song has a “let’s go attitude” and ”break free”… “rise”.
HRH: Your song “To Mother Earth” from the album “Land Of The Free II” comes to my thoughts each time I see the news footage of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf Coast. What are your thoughts?
Kai: Well, it is something. It doesn’t take a very wise man to think about these things. It was bound to happen anyways, especially after the Exxon Valdez disaster happened years ago. It’s a shame. It’s too bad really.
HRH: Do you stay in touch with Ralf Scheepers? (Former/original Gamma Ray vocalist & current Primal Fear vocalist).
Kai: We talk on the phone a lot and send emails back and forth all the time. We meet up at festivals and drink beers together. We are very good friends always!
HRH: What festival is your favorite to play?
Kai: Wacken. I grew up with this Wacken Festival, it’s my hometown. I’ve seen the Wacken Festival grow from a small festival with cows grazing nearby to the very large festival it is today. There would be two hundred to three hundred people at the Wacken Festival in the early days.
HRH: Do you have any personal memories of Ronnie James Dio you would like to share?
Kai: We once toured with Dio for a few shows, when I was with Helloween. I was amazed by Ronnie’s presence on stage and his voice, he was a giant! When I heard the news of his passing, I put on some Dio music and reflected on those moments I was with him on tour.
HRH: What’s it like to collaborate on a project with Tobias Sammet?
Kai: Toby? Toby is one of the greatest guys I ever worked with so far. I know him from when Gamma Ray played around his hometown, he would come to all of our shows! Here was this little boy, giving me his demo’s and asking me lot’s of questions. Toby’s demo’s reminded me of a cross between Helloween and Blind Guardian, not bad music at all. I didn’t like the name of his band Edguy back then though! I said, if your gonna make it, you have to change that F’n name! Being funny is a part of Toby and Edguy is a funny name for his band. Toby really made it and made it in a good way.
HRH Note: Kai Hansen was a guest-lead guitarist on Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia album, “The Scarecrow”, released in 2008 on Nuclear Blast Records.
HRH: Will Gamma Ray be headed to the States in 2010?
Kai: We are at the moment, looking at September. The plans are on the table but it’s too early for details right now. Our agency is on track though for this to happen. Our fans can check out our website and MySpace for updates on Gamma Ray’s tour schedule for America and abroad.
HRH: What is Kai Hansen’s most proud musical achievement?
Kai: Well, I cannot pin it down to just one song or one album. I’m happy with everything I’ve done so far. Having been a part of Helloween and witnessing this band becoming so big. Then, starting something new with Gamma Ray and twenty years later both bands are still so strong. My band Gamma Ray delivering songs to people for twenty years, that they can take and enjoy, is something very special to me.