In 1987, the German power metal band Helloween released Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 1. A year later they released Pt 2. Both albums were very well received. Yet for some reason Helloween guitarist Kai Hansen left the band. So far, the excuse is reportedly because the band was becoming too big to handle. Whatever the reason, Hansen was on his way out. In 1989, he started up Gamma Ray with ex-Tyran' Pace vocalist Ralf Scheepers. Originally to be a side project, Gamma Ray eventually grew into a band, with the addition of bassist Uwe Wessel and drummer Matthias Burchardt. In 1990 the band released its first album, Heading for Tomorrow.
Heading for Tomorrow takes off from where Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 2 leaves off. Much like the Helloween formula, Heading for Tomorrow contains the high flying vocals, melodic guitars, and heavy double bass that brought Helloween so much success. Kai Hansen is one of my favourite song writers, both lyrically and musically. Heading for Tomorrow is a perfect example of why he is, as it contains various hooks to reel you in and keep you interested. Whether it is some catchy vocal lines, a melodic harmony, or some aggressive riff played over heavy double bass, there is much to love on this release. Some of the albums top cuts, songs like Heaven Can Wait, Heading for Tomorrow, and The Silence contain the band's most important and elements, and have since become fan favourites.
Gamma Ray's vocalist, Ralf Scheepers, currently in fellow German power metal band Primal Fear, does a fine job. His "Halfod meets Kiske" vocal approach suites Gamma Ray's vocal needs very well. Where as today he sounds more savage and Painkiller era Halford-esque, on Heading for Tomorrow his style really mixes well with the happy, positive, encouraging lyrical themes in songs like Lust for Life and Heaven Can Wait. Though in my opinion, Ralf doesn't reach the same heights as Kai does on the Blast from the Past album, his performance is still pretty impressive, as he can really hit the high notes. For some, Ralf's high pitched singing may be a little hard to digest on their first few listens (especially if you're like me and heard the Blast from the Past renditions prior to hearing the original album). Perhaps Ralf is not the best singer in the field of power metal, but he certainly sings with his heart on his sleeve.
Much like Helloween's work, Gamma Ray is also not totally serious for 54 minutes straight. Kai Hansen hasn't forgotten the silly, humourous writing style, and it is used quite a bit on Heading for Tomorrow. As if Heaven Can Wait and Lust for Life weren't light hearted enough, the band lightens the mood even more with cuts like Money, Hold Your Ground, and the Scheepers penned Free Time. These silly tracks contain some passable material, such as the opening riff to Money, however after repeated listening; these songs can get quite annoying, similar to Rise and Fall off Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt 2. I do wish there was some more serious moments on the album, similarly to newer Gamma Ray albums like No World Order and Majestic.
Heading for Tomorrow was the first Gamma Ray album. With a 54 minute length, there is plenty of time for excellent leads, wailing vocals, and aggressive drumming. Though not the band's best effort, Heading for Tomorrow shows plenty of potential for a band that not only Helloween fans, but power metal fans in general will enjoy. In my humblest of opinions, it would be many years before Kai Hansen's former bandmates would come up with a record that tops this one. Definitely one of my favourite debut albums.
Heading for Tomorrow
Heaven Can Wait
Lust for Life