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Kai Hansen And Friends: 'Thank You Wacken'
Released: Friday 30th June 2017 (earMUSIC)

johnny main
Words: Johnny Main

kai hansen

There's no doubting the talents of guitarist and vocalist Kai Hansen. Born in Germany in 1963, he's probably best known as the founder, lead guitarist, and vocalist of both Gamma Ray and Helloween, with whom he's sold millions of albums worldwide. Hansen's musical career began in 1978 in a band called Gentry, but it didn't take him long to outgrow the outfit. In 1983, along with Michael Weikath, he founded Helloween, where he served as both the guitarist and vocalist until they recruited Michael Kiske to the latter position.

In Helloween, Hansen became the chief songwriter, and the band were in the studio recording their debut album, 'Walls Of Jericho', in 1985, which still featured Hansen on vocals, and the follow up, 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys (Part 1)' in 1987 wasn't only Kiske's first record with the band but it also opened them up to a new fan base thanks to the single 'Future World'. 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys (Part 2)' was released in 1988 and saw the band performing as special guests to legendary bands like Iron Maiden and Anthrax and they were signed up by Iron Maiden's management company, Sanctuary.

Hansen left Helloween in 1989 and formed Gamma Ray, who became a hugely respected and successful act. Since 1990, Gamma Ray have recorded and released eleven studio albums and four live albums making them, alongside Helloween, one of the most successful Power Metal bands. Never one to rest on his laurels, Hansen has also worked with Blind Guardian, Stormwarrior, Avantasia, Angra, Hammerfall and even with former Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske on his solo album and become a member of Kiske's band Unisonic.

In 2016, Hansen decided to release his first ever solo album, 'XXX - Three Decades In Metal', which was a reference to his thirty years of involvement in the world of heavy rock. With help from some of his Heavy Metal friends including Twisted Sister's Dee Snider, Frank Beck (Gamma Ray), Alex Dietz (Heaven Shall Burn), Clementine Delauney (Visions Of Atlantis) and ex-Helloween band mates Michael Kiske and Roland Grapow, Hansen released one of the finest albums of his career containing ten brand new songs.

Fast forward to 5th August 2016 and Hansen assembled a band for a special performance at Wacken Festival which would showcase his solo album and let him have some fun along the way. Hansen's set from Wacken makes up this first live relesasse from Hansen And Friends and it's a glorious celebration of the career (so far) of the Godfather of Power Metal.

Available as a CD/DVD set, the setlist is made up mainly from his 'XXX - Three Decades In Metal' album with a few extras, in the form of some Helloween classics, thrown into the mix for good measure. Highlights of the set include the thundering 'Born Free' which kicks off the set and a dig at the music business with the 'Contract Song' which was introduced by Hansen as being "about managers, about record contracts, about the whole bullshit in the system", whilst 'Enemies Of Fun' is written about "the guys who always spoil the sports like teachers, moms, dads, non-smoking friends [laughs], non-drinking friends", and it proves that Hansen has lost none of his abilities to write catchy and memorable songs.

Clementine Delauney (Visions Of Atlantis) is invited up to centre stage on another new song, 'Fire And Ice' and likewise, the other backing vocalist, Frank Beck from Gamma Ray, is also invited up front for the Helloween classic 'Victim Of Hate', which is as strong now as it's ever been but, of course, the loudest cheer is reserved for Michael Kiske as he powers his way through the two undisputed highlights of the set, 'Future World' and 'I Want Out'.

The DVD is well shot and gives plenty of different camera angles, showing not only the band at their best but also the huge crowd they played too with all members of the band getting their fair share of screen time. If you're a fan of Helloween or Gamma Ray then this set needs to be in your collection, there's absolutely no doubt about it.

You can see the official video for Hansen & Friends performing 'Fire And Ice' live at Wacken here:

'Thank You Wacken' trackList:
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

Kai Hansen's band are:
Kai Hansen – Vocals/Guitar
Eike Freese – Guitar
Alex Dietz – Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals
Corvin Bahn – Keyboards
Frank Beck – Vocals
Clementine Delauney – Vocals
Michael Kiske - Vocals
Michael Ehre – Drums

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