Friday, March 28, 2014

Gamma Ray - Empire of the Undead

So here we are in 2014, with Gamma Ray having been in existence for a quarter century, they have released their eleventh full length album, Empire of the Undead. Strange title with even stranger artwork, but the proof should be in the music, right? Anyone who is a metal head should know this band's history and it's roots. Guitarist and vocalist Kai Hansen left Helloween at the peak of their career to form his own group. There are two eras of this band, the Ralf Scheepers era and the good era! lol Anyway, this is another of the highly anticipated albums of 2014 and after the somewhat of a let down album, To The Metal, can Gamma Ray release an album that will put them back on the power metal throne? A year ago we were treated to a taste of the new album with the EP Master of Confusion. That was actually a good EP and the two new songs on it were promising. And, of course their was the fire at the band's studio that reportedly destroyed everything. Even with that obstacle they persevered and now we have the new album...and it appears that the band is not slowing down anytime soon.

The opener is the nine minute opus, "Avalon." It appears that they were going for a "Rebellion in Dreamland" type of song and though it's not as good as that classic, "Avalon" is a great song it it's own right. It begins slow with clean guitars and and Kai's vocals. Then the riffs kick in and the main riff seems to have an almost eastern feel to it. The song is epic and melodic with keys in the background to set the atmosphere but not to overwhelm. The songs picks up the pace in the middle with some nice riffs and a melodic verse. Then the leads kick in. First we have dual harmony leads that go into trade off solos and are they fucking huge. Kai Hansen and Henjo Richter are masters of their craft and it shows that they are still on top of their game. This is an epic metal song that is to be expected by a band of this caliper. This gives me hope that this is the album I expected it to be.

And man, was I right. "Hellbent" was a teaser that was released so we all know what it sounds like but I love hearing it over and over. It's fast, full of riffs and is massive! The lyrics are cheesy "metal" lyrics but when a song kicks your ass like this the lyrics fit the song perfectly. Once again, the solos are the star of the show here. You will be paying air guitar to these solos and headbanging to this song...if you don't then you are not a metal head and need to leave the hall! And it doesn't stop there. "Born to Fly" has a cool groove at the beginning and speeds up to a typical speedy melodic Gamma Ray song. Cool riffs, nice hooks, and a decent groove makes for a most enjoyable song. And, once again, the solos. I can't say this enough, Kai and Henjo are masters.

We know "Master of Confusion" and the title track from the EP. These are your typical Gamma Ray rockers. They may not offer anything new or innovative, they just rock. The title track is the more speedy of the two and just kicks your ass. Cool traditional metal riffs with melodic hooks and godly solos...what more could you want? "Demonseed" is a heavier song that is not as speedy but pounds you into submission. It has cool riffs and a catchy chorus and a blasting solos. "Seven" and the closer, "I Will Return" are speedy and riff laden songs that are catchy and full of hooks. This album is already favorite of mine and has surpassed it's predecessor by leaps and bounds.

This would be a perfect album except for "Pale Rider" which is just meh and nothing special as well as a terrible ballad, "Time for Deliverance." What's wrong with these bands? Why can't they write a decent metal ballad anymore? Anyway, this is still an overall very enjoyable slab of metal that will get plenty of playing time. This album shows that Kai and the boys are still capable of doing what they have always been known for, creating good power metal.


No comments: