GAMMA RAY and Rhapsody of Fire live in Helsinki

Spread the metal:

23’rd of April 2014

CLUB TAVASTIA, HELSINKI

REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA AND ARTO LEHTINEN

The Gamma Ray / Rhapsody of Fire package tour was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated power metal gigs in the spring in Finland.  Gamma Ray just released their album EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD, their strongest album in a long time. Rhapsody of Fire, now finally played in Helsinki for the first time since 2001, so it wasn’t surprising that the show in club Tavastia sold out a long time ago. It left in the air the question of whether the bands should have played more than one gig in Finland this time.

RHAPSODY OF FIRE

The Italian Rhapsody Of  Fire (Note that “of Fire” to avoid confusing them to Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody) had been booked to share the stage with Hansen’s Gamma Ray. The Italian hobbit power metallers had appx—one hour of playing time to offer the Finnish power metal freaks’ best-of set. The heroic power metal assault was kicked off by “Rising From Magic Flames” and was followed by a good amount of songs picked up from their long career. The sounds were quite horrible in the beginning, even though Fabio Leona’s voice saved most of the set. The current guitarist, Roberto De Micheli, having stepped into the boost left by Luca Turalli, was more in the background during the whole gig. His character seemed not to rise as high as Turilli’s profile in the band was in the past. He definitely needs to come out of the shadows to show off the skills that he has. However, the outfit’s neoclassical symphonic metal with the folk-music influences sounded terrific for sure, pleasing the fanatical power metal fans. At least the set was a nice balance of the old Rhapsody classics and a few newer songs from the most recent albums. The Holzwarth bros look like identical twin brothers. Both the brothers have played in several metal bands over the years. But their roles in Rhapsody Of Fire were more like statics, focusing on the playing and just being on the stage to handle the mandatory day job. Due to Turilli’s absence from the Rhapsody line-up, Fabio Leone has more space to increase his role on the stage and become the dominating personality to communicate with the audience. Fabio was literally on fire on the stage. But he blew the ceiling up into the air with Gamma Ray.  All in all, Rhapsody Of Fire’s neoclassical power metal sounded kind of dull in some aspects. Obviously, the band needs a large stage and better conditions for the true heroic hobbit metal adventure.

Rising From Tragic Flames
Land of Immortals
The March of the Swordmaster
Unholy Warcry
Dark Wings of Steel
Lamento Eroico
Holy Thunderforce
Dawn of Victory
  Encore :
Reign of Terror
Emerald Sword

 

Rhapsody In Fire

Rhapsody In Fire Rhapsody In Fire

 

Rhapsody In Fire
Rhapsody Of Fire

GAMMA RAY

Gamma Ray started the current tour successfully one month ago, but recently they have faced a lot of adversity because of Kai Hansen’s health. A few shows were canceled, and on some shows, the band has used several guest vocalists to help Hansen out. The show in Helsinki started somewhat normally when the band opened with the new album opener “Avalon.” I didn’t recognize any difference between this or the past shows regarding Kai’s vocals or performance, which worked just fine. Classic “Heaven Can Wait” and rarely heard “Tribute from the Past” followed, and still, there was no sight of tiredness or any problems with Hansen’s presence at all. As expected, the old Helloween gem “I Want Out” got a great reception and made the crowd sing their voice out. So far, so good. Next, it was Fabio Lione’s turn to take over the vocals on three tracks. Well, I’m not the biggest fan of Rhapsody of Fire or Lione, but honestly, it can be said that he did a great job with Gamma Ray. Especially “Empire of the Undead” sounded just furious with his vocals.

Gamma Ray
Gamma Ray

Hansen returned briefly behind the mic stand for “Blood Religion.” And now it finally happened. His voice started to break up, and it wasn’t surprising that he next handed the microphone to another guest. The next vocalist was Frank Beck, the virtually unknown guy who had filled Hansen on few selected shows before. Based on his appearance alone, you could tell he wasn’t a member of the band, but he started promisingly with “Master of Confusion,” which sounded just fine. Unfortunately, the following threesome of LAND OF THE FREE tracks was just too much for him to handle. I’ve never heard such loose and bland versions of “Land of the Free” or “Man on a Mission” until now. “Miracle” was the last song on the set before the pair of encores “To the Metal” and “Send Me a Sign,” which was again sung by Hansen himself.

Gamma Ray
Gamma Ray

It’s strange how long-term bands like Gamma Ray sometimes lose their “red thread” and start to release just generic and self-repetitive albums one after another. It’s been four years since the band released it’s previous and somewhat disappointing TO THE METAL, but now they’re back with EMPIRE OF THE UNDEAD, which is a bit surprisingly Gamma Ray’s best album in over twenty years. Usually, something has to be changed to fix the direction, and with Gamma Ray, it meant a drummer exchange. Michael Ehre replaced longtime drummer Dan Zimmerman in 2012. The man already played with Gamma Ray on the Hellish Rock II tour, which the band did with Helloween in 2013. Maybe he was a bit lame and still learning things on that tour, but now he was on fire. The man definitely added some extra kick needed for the classics, and he was a star of the evening. But anyway, when the show was over, I got a bit of mixed feeling from this gig. On the other hand, the band sounded really tight, and it was great to hear so many new album tracks live. The setlist was well prepared and included not just the obvious choices but some rarities as well. But, but… Of course, it’s nobody’s fault if somebody’s sick and can’t perform in prime condition, but maybe it would have been a better choice for the band to cancel this show and then return when Hansen is fully recovered. Although everyone for sure did their best, it did not work good enough this way. Sorry.

Avalon
Heaven Can Wait
Tribute to the Past
I Want Out
Future World
Empire of the Undead
Time for Deliverance
Drum Solo
Blood Religion
We Will Rock You
Master of Confusion
Rebellion in Dreamland
Land of the Free
Man on a Mission
Miracle
To the Metal
Send Me a Sign

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