GAMMA RAY

"To the Metal!" (Earmusic; 2010)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

German power metal kingpins Gamma Ray return with their 10th studio effort, appropriately titled "To the Metal!"

This 10-track affair features the quartet’s signature musical maneuvers and retains the outfit’s traditional metal approach, keeping a fever-pitched energy level (“All You Need to Know”) and melody lines soaring high in the sky.

Branching out a bit this time around to include an orchestral introduction before kicking it up a notch (“Chasing Shadows”) as well as a tender piano-lead (“No Need to Cry”) in between dollops of Euro-heavy racing power metal and groove-laden Priest-esque rockers (“To The Metal!”), Gamma Ray presents a solid yet unspectacular slab of metal that stays true to the veteran group’s classic metal predilections.

For more information, check out http://www.gammaray.org.

"Skeletons in the Closet" (Sanctuary / Metal-Is; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

According to the liner notes, Gamma Ray got the idea for "Skeletons in the Closet" from fans who always asked them why they didn't place certain songs in a live setting. Taking this kernel of an idea, the band went to promoters and said, "Hey, what if we toured and played only the rarer songs that fans want to hear and left the big hits for another night?" Surprisingly, promoters were behind the idea and the band set out on their "Skeletons in the Closet" tour of 2002.

"Skeletons in the Closet," the CD, is a document of that tour, recorded in Barcelona, Spain and Strasbourg, France in October and November of 2002. The double-CD set is over 103 minutes worth of music, featuring one of power metals best bands performing songs you probably have never heard recorded live ... and probably never heard the studio versions of. In addition, the CD is also the first live recording of the current band line-up (listed below).

The good news is that, as Gamma Ray fans have come to expect, the CD is loaded with incredible musicianship and high energy performances. It's also cool to hear songs performed live that you probably never expected to be played live and the band is obviously having a good time delivering the goods. Oddly, the fact that the CD contains rarer tunes is also a downside - if you're not a Gamma Ray fan, you may not know many of these tunes and, if that's the case, you're better off starting out with a CD like "Blast from the Past" reviewed below. Based on how I feel about Gamma Ray, "Blast" will probably ignite your interest in the band and you'll end up buying "Skeletons in the Closet" somewhere down the line anyway.

A great double-live CD from a great band doing something that not many bands do - record the stuff that hasn't already made the rounds a million times on a million different records. KISS should take note.

Disc One also contains bonus video footage of live performances of "Gardens of the Sinner" and "Razorblade Sigh" as well as backstage footage of one of the bandmembers having his leg bandaged up (?).

Gamma Ray: Kai Hansen - guitar and lead vocals; Henjo Richter - guitars, vocals; Dirk Schlachter - bass, vocals; Daniel Zimmerman - drums, vocals. Special guest: Axel Mackenrott - keyboards, vocals.

For more information, check out http://www.gamma-ray.com

"Blast from the Past" (Noise Records)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

As vocalist/guitarist Kai Hansen says in the liner notes to "Blast From the Past," this double-CD set is the first "Best of" collection for Gamma Ray. The band, not wanting to choose their own "best," decided to ask the fans, taking songs from each of their albums. The result, as contained herein, is a powerful collection of some of Gamma Ray's best stuff. There is no question that this CD kicks some serious ass.

What's even more interesting and exciting, however, is that the band also didn't feel right about asking its fans to buy another collection of, as Hansen puts it, "something already existing on your record shelf." In addition, the band has grown and changed over the years. So - the songs chosen from the band's earlier albums - "Heading for Tomorrow," "Sigh No More," "Insanity & Genius," and "Land of the Free" - have all been newly recorded with the current lineup, giving the band the chance to tweak here and there and to fix any "fuck ups" (again quoting Hansen). The remaining songs from the band's later albums have been remastered here.

The bottom line is that you get two CDs full of over 120 minutes of great Gamma Ray music here. It all sounds great, the selection is terrific and, damn, after listening to just one CD you can't wait to get out and fill in the blanks on your Gamma Ray collection. "Blast From the Past" is a great place to start.

GAMMA RAY: Kai Hansen, vocals, guitars; Henjo Richter - guitars & keyboards; Dirk Schlachter - bass; Daniel Zimmerman - drums.

"Power Plant" (Noise Records)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

If you're a fan of HELLOWEEN, IRON MAIDEN or any other hard rock/heavy metal band that celebrates that breakneck yet somehow melodic music that is both ballsy and epic, save yourself some time and click the link above to purchase "Power Plant" by Gamma Ray. You won't be sorry.

Those familiar with Gamma Ray know their history. This isn't a group of young upstarts who are simply trying to breathe fresh life into heavy metal. Gamma Ray have been a major source of life to heavy metal for many years. Sure, there have been different line-ups, but they've all been led by Kai Hansen who, in fact, is one of the founding members of the aforementioned HELLOWEEN (Hansen left that band in 1988).

In fact, "Power Plant" is the first time in Gamma Ray history that two consecutive records have featured the same line-up. You'd never know it. "Power Plant" is a rich, powerful, head-banging heavy metal record and isn't afraid to admit it. Hell, there's even a song thereon entitled "Heavy Metal Universe." Chunky guitars balanced with razor-sharp lead riffs and driving drums combine with strong songwriting and incredibly accessible vocals (especially these days) to create an album that dares you not to get caught up in its raw metal power. Surprisingly, despite the record's overall theme of impending doom, the real message, lyrics-wise is hope and defiance. A theme that works exceptionally well with the music's epic sound.

Sharply produced by bandmembers Hansen and Dirk Schlachter - and co-produced by the rest of the band - "Power Plant" brings to mind the heydays of 80's metal - when the music transcended trends and existed for the sake of its art. That isn't to say that  it sounds dated - on the contrary, it's the type of record that will lead the way to the resurgence of true heavy metal.

GAMMA RAY is: Kai Hansen, vocals and guitars; Dirk Schlachter, bass; Dan Zimmermann, drums; Henjo Richter, guitars and keyboards.

For more information, visit the Gamma Ray website at: http://www.gamma-ray.com.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2010 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 19 Feb 2017 18:25:01 -0500.