Power Metal has been in the doldrums for this guy recently. Not being a fan of the Folk oriented nor the symphonic side of the genre, I enjoy my Power Metal fast and larger than life. Those bands though haven’t really come through for me recently though, as DRAGONFORCE seems to be a parody of the genre instead of a savior, and I have awaited for Power Metal to come back in force.
It’s looking up in 2010 already for the genre as DREAM EVIL decided to finally throw down a new album and now there is the new GAMMA RAY on the speakers right now. 2007’s “Land Of The Free II” was a bit of a disappointment from the usually very consistent Germans, but I was looking forward to redemption of sorts for the RAY.
Now I sit here, pondering what I could possibly say about the band’s latest release, with the cheesy title “To The Metal!”, that could display both the joy and disappointment that is this record. For a band that was always such a potent force for Power Metal with their razor sharp melodies and fist pumping anthems, “To The Metal!” comes across as too similar and not enough of the same. It is essentially the same GAMMA RAY that many in the world have come to love over the years – it’s full of speed induced and never ending melodies with lots of sick drum work and Kai’s soaring vocals – but it still retains a bit of that experimental feeling that “Land Of The Free II” dabbled with.
When this album is on, it’s fucking on though. The headbanging “Shine Forever”, the chant heavy “Time To Live”, and the roller coaster ride “Rise” all bring to mind the great eras of these Power Metal legends that all fans can appreciate. A good chunk of this album does make these associations (even the oddly structured keys on “Deadlands” can’t shake that enjoyment) so fans are going to writhe in with energy from these.
Unfortunately, “To The Metal!” is not a full return to form as most of this album would dictate. The band likes to dabble in some mid tempo tracks too on this album which come off as rather overdrawn out and…dare it be said…boring. The change of pace is a good idea to balance their crack induced speed songs, but the opening track and even the lead off single title track tend to wear thin after a few spins and lend themselves to be skipped on repeated listenings. None of these songs are ‘bad’ as this would dictate, but not up to par with the latter half of the album and the faster tracks.
Fans of GAMMA RAY can rejoice that the experimentation has been limited on this album in its return to form, but despite some valiant efforts there still is filler that sneaks its way into this album. “To The Metal!” is still a great Power Metal release and a nice addition to the genre and catalog but its sameness and filler tend to hold it back from being a modern classic.
Songs to check out: “Rise”, “Time To Live”, “Deadlands”.
(Online March 25, 2010)