Getting Into: Gamma Ray
With these "Getting Into" articles I will present a fair, full description of a band's discography of studio albums with a clear rating out of five, as a way of aiding people that want to get into such bands but do not know where to start, as usually reviews have different authors and are written at different points in time - so this is a clear guide of how to get into the band in question.
Gamma Ray have always been one of the front bands of the European power metal scene and have always given the fans what they want in the form of solid, fast, powerful and catchy albums throughout the years. Once you have heard Gamma Ray you will never forget them, so many catchy hooks and choruses and songs to make you smile. If you are new to Gamma Ray this article will arm you will all the knowledge you need to start in the right places, or if you are an old fan; interest can still be found in reading this overview of one of the best bands of the genre from another person's perspective.
|Heading For Tomorrow (1990)
As founding member of Helloween and arguably creating this subgenre we now know as power metal, Kai Hansen did the unthinkable and left his creation, Helloween, after the release of the second part of the "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" album due to differing opinions concerning money and the direction of the band. In 1990 before Helloween release their follow-up to the legendary double album "Heading For Tomorrow" is released and hailed by some to be the true follow-up to the "Keeper..." albums. In reality maybe the album is not quite at the standard of those albums, however it still undoubtedly has songs on it that require brutal head trauma to get them out. Gamma Ray in this earlier form are a little more traditional heavy metal than Helloween but still has the double bass stompers of "Hold Your Ground", the fun songs with "Money" and fifteen minute epics such as the title track. A vital part to your Gamma Ray collection.
|Sigh No More (1991)
"Sigh No More" doesn't deviate far from the band's debut in just about all aspects. Still with the more heavy sound to them we have another album of high quality. "Rich And Famous" still a favourite today and so many more memorable songs such as "(We Won't) Stop The War", "One With The World" and the superb "The Spirit" to close the album. This album is however lacking in originality when compared to the first album, but this still does not take much away from it when both albums are so enjoyable.
|Insanity & Genius (1993)
Moving on into 1993 and "Insanity & Genius" moves slightly away from the more solid, heavy sound of the first two albums and more towards the archetypal power metal consisting of continuous double bass and super catchy choruses. This is the last album with Ralf Scheepers, now of Primal Fear, singing and of course he delivers on this album as he always does. This album provides a little more variety with tracks such as "Heal Me", but by far the true highlights of this album are "No Return" and "Last Before The Storm"; these two are still two of the catchiest and best songs the band has produced over the years.
|Land Of The Free (1995)
Generally considered to be one of the best Gamma Ray albums "Land Of The Free" marks the point where Kai Hansen took the brave decision to carry on singing lead vocals by himself after his voice had grown and improved immensely since the first Helloween releases. This album can be used as a reference as to what power metal is it is so typical in its ways. The album has many classics; "Man On A Mission" and "Gods Of Deliverance" for example, and even Michael Kiske guests with lead vocals on the swaggery "Time To Break Free". The album's reputation may be a little misleading, this is not the best Gamma Ray album so do not be put off if you didn't find it exactly to your taste; but the band were biting at the heels of their finest years and this is unquestionably a great album.
|Somewhere Out In Space (1997)
Enter Dan Zimmerman and seemingly a whole bunch of inspiration and ideas with him. This album marks the beginning of the best years Gamma Ray have had with fifth album "Somewhere Out In Space". A spacey themed album, probably influenced by Kai's involvement with the new Iron Savior project, and a new, faster drummer changes the sound of the band. Not a bad track on the album can be found as we gallop from start to finish at lightspeed. The title track, "Valley Of The Kings", "The Winged Horse", "Shine On", so many tracks can be considered classics. This is now true modern power metal as it should be. You will be singing these songs for a long long time, it is impossible to resist the positive feelings you get from the album; the super fast double bass drumming and Kai's brilliant singing makes this one of the band's best albums and an essential for your collection.
|Power Plant (1999)
"Power Plant" keeps the momentum from the previous album galloping along at full speed. It is very similar to the previous album, which raises originality issues if you care about that; but if you have heard either album you know that it is not a problem at all. The albums, just as the previous contains so many classics and favourites that never leave the band's live setlist. "Gardens Of The Sinner" and "Heavy Metal Universe" just beg to be sung along to, and we have the fantastic "Armageddon" at nearly ten minutes long to close the album. All the band members do a fantastic job, and we even have a cover of the Pet Shop Boys "It's A Sin" to top things off. This, and the previous album really are classics in the whole power metal genre.
|No World Order (2001)
Momentum is yet again carried forward into "No World Order" which along with the previous two albums battles for the title of the best Gamma Ray album, but a conclusive best album will probably never be decided. "Dethrone Tyranny" kicks us off into hyper speed and is followed up by the rest of the album to do the talking. "Heaven Or Hell" another live favourite and plenty more classics finishing with the beautiful "Lake Of Tears" makes this album the last of the magic three best albums the band produced. "No World Order" does not have its foot on the accelerator all the way through, the album has a little more of a heavy touch to it compared to the last few which is gladly received. Gamma Ray show off a slightly more mature side on this album, which also makes this essential for your collection.
A long wait for a new studio album and "Majestic" is what we get. Most of the elements that make a good power metal album are here; we have super fast drumming, a talented singer and band, but something is missing with this album that unfortunately made it a bit of a letdown at the time, although the album does still have a good quality to it. The catchy choruses are not as prominent, the album seems less and less original and just generally lacks the same power metal spirit the previous albums had. Still, the album has its moments, "Fight" and "How Long" are both brilliant songs, it is just the general picture of the album and also the expectations raised from previous albums that help let this album down.
|Land Of The Free II (2007)
The latest offering from these German stars of power metal is a continuation from their 1995 album and so expectations were high, but the album is both an improvement from "Majestic" but also suffers from some of the same drawbacks the previous album had also. It is a different band from when the original "Land Of The Free" was written and recorded and so this is not so much in the same vein as that, but the album does share a boost of inspiration the band seemed to find in 1995 as well. A good few of the tracks on this album should pass the test of time and should also sound great live; this is definitely an improvement from "Majestic" but the album does still lack originality and in more of an obvious way than before which will put some people off. Fans of the band will rejoice with this album as this is more of a return to a better form compared to the comparatively duller "Majestic". This is a good album but there are other Gamma Ray albums that your attention should be given to first.
Gamma Ray have always been one of the very top power metal acts in the world with their heavy and straight German style, and it doesn't look like they will be going anywhere for a while. The trio of "Somewhere Out In Space", "Power Plant" and "No World Order" should be where your attention goes first, but the quality does not stop there by any means. If you find yourself preferring the first four albums, you will also be interested in the "Alive '95" live album, which includes a good mix of the best songs from those albums. "Skeletons In The Closet" is a double live album that will be on interest to any big Gamma Ray fan with it's perfect production and feel of a grand occasion to bring the songs to life even more. Gamma Ray will appeal to any person interested in the genre, so if you are new to the world of power metal then these are a perfect future favourite band of yours.
Written by Barry Anderson
|Written on 23.12.2007 by Member of Staff since 2006
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