When I think of the power metal 'greats' that continue to persevere and produce consistent and quality metal, at least two bands come to mind (there are more). Those two bands are Helloween and GammaRay. Of course, these bands have a mutual history and close ties. This year Helloween delivered the sterling 'Gambling With The Devil.' Now it's GammaRay's turn with 'Land Of The Free Part II.' This is premium melodic metal from a crew that knows their art. Few bands can deliver with such acumen and consistency. GammaRay is such a band.
According to the press material, Kai Hansen and band wished to return to the form for which they are best known. 'Land Of The Free' is most likely the classic GammaRay album and the one by which subsequent material is judged. However unfair this may be, the first edition is definitely a classic power metal album. Let us not look to or dwell on the past. 'LOTF2' my have some similar stylistic conventions equal to its predecessor, but that's where the comparisons end. This music is fresh and impressive. If you thought power metal was on life support, then listen to this work. GammaRay breathes new life into this genre just as Helloween did with their latest release.
Immediately, I was thrilled with the very first cut, 'Into The Storm,' which has a mysterious Priest and Maiden feel. Yet, it's still all GammaRay doing what they do best. 'From the Ashes,' the next number, is quintessential power metal: strength and melody in abundance. The guitar solos are killers, too. Speed, power, and melody combine in fine form on 'To Mother Earth.' The chorus and it's vocal harmony is especially exceptional. And again there's some really ripping guitar work. (And you know how much I love that stuff!) I could say something good about every song on LOTF2 because this work is consistently strong throughout, but let me hit only a few more highlights. I'm going to jump around here, so try to keep up.
'Empress' is nearly different in style than the songs already mentioned. With it's solid beat and rhythm section, it's seems more strict heavy metal than power metal. It has some great acoustic licks in the middle that makes it astonishingly pleasing. GammaRay is not rushing along here. Rather they're just producing inspired (and rocking) metal. 'Rain' is another great song that displays a diversity of style and creativity. Dirk Schlächter's bass work is brilliant. Another highlight is 'Real World.' No, those are not keyboards you think you hear at the beginning, but some rather creative guitar work. This is another number more akin to hard rocking heavy metal (ala Judas Priest) then power metal. Philosophically and theologically, the song is lyrically confused and improbable. Yet, this is damn fine metal and so very much fun to listen to. If all this isn't enough melodic metal inspiration, LOTF2 finishes with an Iron Maiden like epic in 'Insurrection.' Honestly, I might say that it is better than anything Maiden has done recently. Yet, after the first time through, I wondered if this might not be the weakest cut on the album. It just seemed to long and prodding. However, after several more listens, there are some great moments in this song, specifically Hansen's vocals and guitar work, Schlächter's bass work, and the complex arrangement.
I will go on record as saying this: I believe this is GammaRay's finest work to date. Simply, they demonstrate the strength and creativity of a band that knows their craft beyond all measure. These guys are good! Nay! These guys are excellent. Very highly recommended!
- Craig Hartranft
GammaRay's latest is their best to date. If you love power metal, then you should find and buy this album today. Go now! The creativity of craftsmanship is superb; from beginning to end you will be pleased!
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