After being a key part of two of my favorite “power metal” albums of all time (Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I and Part II), Kai Hansen quit Helloween and started a new band called Gamma Ray. He chose as his singer a dude named Ralph Scheepers, a man who was no stranger to the metal scene, as he had previously been the singer for Tyran Pace. Hansen, a founding member of Helloween, brought with him a signature sound, one so integral to Helloween’s success, and one to be continued in full glory with Gamma Ray. Precise, high-speed, and powerful, Hansen’s music can be described as uplifting and even downright happy. As a lyricist, Hansen was not afraid to be sometimes embarrassingly silly. Serious folks may not understand or ascribe to Hansen’s odd sense of humor (must be a German thing?), but I actually like the change of pace that his lyrics brought to the metal world. In leaving Helloween, Hansen also left behind an amazing vocalist with a super-human range; Michael Kiske. Ralph Scheepers stepped in quite nicely as Gamma Ray’s vocalist, and really stretched his limits with his performance on Heading For Tomorrow, showing more power and range than he had previous in his Tyran Pace days. At times he sounded a bit like Kiske, and that’s a compliment in my book.
Heading For Tomorrow begins with a brief intro called Welcome before diving headlong into the Helloween-esque majesty of Lust For Life. Easily my favorite song on the album, Lust For Life is a quintessential Hansen composition, calling to mind the greatness of Initiation/I’m Alive (the stirring opening to Keepers Of The Seven Keys Part I). Heaven Can Wait offers up a healthy dose of accessibility, and the pieced-together The Silence contains both moments of cheese, and moments of bliss. Scheepers penned one track on the album, Free Time, which gave him the opportunity to spout this lyrical nugget; “Free time is one of the things that I love. Free time is one of the things I enjoy.” Wow, Ralph, thanks for blowing my mind! Before I heard this song, I f*cking hated free time! Ha! The only part of Heading For Tomorrow that I really dislike is the unnecessary last five minutes of the title track. The song clocks in at over fourteen minutes, the last third of which is just a burden. Nevertheless, Heading For Tomorrow is a fine album that fans of Keepers-era Helloween should enjoy, if not love. My score: A-