Hansen & Friends - XXX Three Decades in Metal

Hansen & Friends XXX Three Decades in Metal cover
Hansen & Friends
XXX Three Decades in Metal
earMusic
2016
6.5
Kai Hansen’s “XXX-Three Decades in Metal” the first “solo” release from Kai Hansen, aided by some of his closest friends and presented by them, Earmusic and the “Wacken Foundation” is a bit of a strange beast with Unisonic, Gamma Ray and the occasional guest spot and the hiring of a touring singer; one would have thought that the influential German guitarist would have had his platter quite full, but either because of being very workman-like, or just to have some extracurricular fun, w/o serious per-conceptions this project IS.
 
Sounding like a mix between 80s Priest, Accept and stuff that you’d attribute to Kai’s own style through the years, “XXX” isn’t a complete flop, but it isn’t some hot and hardcore pounding metal epic either, but I feel the attempt to flesh out a semi-conscious, quasi-conceptual album, bogs even the better songs included down...
 
“Born Free” is a nice semi-autobiographical piece of Teutonic Metal that sounds a bit like Accept/Ray… and while Kai was never a “singer’s” singer, it’s kinda sad to hear how his voice sounds shredded and rather weak, but I guess time does take its toll.
 
“Enemies of Fun” features two of Kai’s closest collaborator’s Ralf Scheepers (ex-Gamma Ray, Primal Fear) and Piet Sielck (Iron Savior etc.) and it owes its existence to Judas Priest via Accept, but with all three different voices it’s a little uneven. Not bad, but a little “silly” really...
 
“Contract Song” features Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider as the boss & Steve McT as the manger, but with it’s almost music theater style (sort of) not mixing entirely too well with the standard power metal, is not entirely hitting the mark, while not missing it either. Again trying to be autobiographical, but not avoiding the pitfalls of sounding slightly daft, it’s only saved, but a few “catchy” passages and surely not the “spoken” parts that sound just off… not Kai’s best effort at storytelling then, which is a shame as a couple of melodies could have been utilized in a far better way.
 
“Making Headlines” feature’s this era’s poster boy none-other than chief-Avantasian and Edguy singer, Tobias Sammet and is somehow a bit like a continuation of the themes running on the previous song… but because both parts are sung, it flows a whole lot easier. Tobias is easily the better singer here, but he’s underutilized.
 
“Stranger in Time”, which features an arm list of guests, namely Michael Kiske (solo, Helloween, Unisonic, Avantasia), Frank Beck (Gamma Ray’s new vocalist), Tobias Sammet (Avantasia, Edguy) & Roland Grapow (Helloween, Masterpaln, solo) on the guitar solo, is a decent track, but really that opening melody and riff owe more than a bit to Ten’s “Fear the Force”, or Purple’s “Anya” by extension… my oh, my…
 
“Fire and Ice” features also a plethora of guests, like Clementine Delauney (Serenity, VOA), Marcus Bischoff (Heaven Shall Burn), Richard Sjunnesson (Sonic Syndicate) & Michael Weikath (Helloween) on a guitar solo… and is another “decently good” song, which also in its closing portion does tend to feel a little derivative, but still is one of the better moments on the album.
 
“Left Behind” also features Clementine Delauney and another HSB member, guitarist Alexander Dietz. It’s a half ballad that ends up symphonized midway. Ok-ish I guess, but the two style are not welded together perfectly, I’m afraid.
 
“All or Nothing” is the third and final track to feature Delauney and it’s a ballad that picks up steam in the chorus, with CD offering just ambient backing.
 
“Burning Bridges” features, Dark Ages’ guitarist Eike Freese, who’s a buddy of Kai’s from various rehearsal studios, but he’s singing. It’s a pretty good song, but not one of the best Kai vocal performances, but still OK, I guess.
 
Lastly, “Follow the Sun” has Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kursch (returning the favor) & Tim Hansen guesting on a guitar solo and it’s another one of those “Accept the Priest” sort of bouillabaisses… it’s a nice enough ending I guess if not a little typical of the overall style…
 
Apart from Kai, Alex Dietz (Heaven Shall Burn) is assuming the bass duties and Dark Age’s Eike Freese those of guitar, while Daniel Wilding (Carcass, The Soulless, Trigger The Bloodshed) is occupying the drum stool. Now, the first advance payment from the album is supposed to benefit the Wacken Foundation, a bit of a “nonprofit” designed to aid the promotion of heavy metal and hard rock music worldwide, which I do presume is a nice gesture in the grand scheme of things.
 
As for “XXX” as I don’t feel like making any puns, right now, it’s OK I guess, but could have turned out much better and the addition of too many guests (ie too many cooks in one kitchen) plus the somewhat lack of a specific focus and drive, combined with Kai’s beaten up voice, which shows it’s wear and tear on occasion, seem to make it suffer at certain times. Still if you‘re a Hello-Ray fan, you’ll probably get it regardless, so just don’t pay too much attention…