I fuckin' hate corporate America. All the little sheepies just waiting to follow the next Britney Spears or P. Diddy makes me sick (I don't know if he's still da shit…I just like to say his new name and snicker…how he thought that was an improvement from Puff Daddy, I'll never know). The powers-that-be decide what is commercially acceptable then push that shit so hard that everything decent goes underground. This happened with Metal in the 80's but I realized that only in retrospect. Grunge came on and as it grew, the exploiters saw a new cash cow and Metal all but died. So I thought!
So by now you gotta be thinking…why is the above introduction in a review on a European Power Metal band. Well, let me tell ya. You see I like a review with a little panache, a personality, some history even and believe it or not I got a little personal story for this one. You see, I was given this CD back in 1999 by a music store owner who received it as a promo and had outgrown happy Power Metal. I was a big fan of anything similar in the 80's and early 90's but when grunge took over, Metal was nonexistent in Canada. There were no good Metal magazines, no Metal music videos on television and the internet was more like the information back alley then.
I discovered the internet in the mid 90's but I found it frustrating on dial-up most of the time. Band sites were few and far between…a far cry from what the net is now you see.
But slowly I began to realize that Metal was alive and well in the underground and in Europe it had remained much stronger. So as I was slowly discovering how fucking far behind I was on all my CD purchases, along comes this CD.
Wow! Holy mother-fuckin'shit! Who in the fuck are these guys and man do I hope they have another CD or two in their history? These were the initial thoughts that overcame me when I threw this on in the in the car and cranked it. So yeah, I am a late bloomer with some of the European Metal bands. Why cry over spilt milk? Better late than never! Yadda, Yadda, Yadda. Let's move on. So you can imagine the woody in my pants when I got home and fired up the now high speed internet and discovered the enormous GAMMA RAY catalog and that Kai Hansen, formerly of HELLOWEEN, was the warrior in charge. Giddeeup! These discoveries triggered a powerful reaction…a reaction so large…a reaction that continues to this very day…one that has me forking out the olas for endless piles of CDs from lands near and far. When will it end? Oh, when will it end? Can you say NEVER? Hope so!
Well, let me tell you, GAMMA RAY never left the player for weeks. I scoured the stores here for anything from them and like them. I was all over eBay looking to get any GAMMA RAY, STRATOVARIUS, HELLOWEEN, etc. that I could find. I think I had bids on almost 3 dozen CDs at one time. I was a mess.
Now, many moons later, I have come to understand this is not GAMMA RAY's finest moment but it is in no way a slouch either in my opinion. I have had time to absorb the discovery and the road it took me down and I can still say with confidence that this is an extraordinarily sweet platter.
What we have here is a very solid piece of work free of filler and one which is very well-produced by Kai, Dirk and the boys themselves. Kudos for that. I really like the vocals of Ralf Scheepers, who was in the band early in their career but now has moved on to PRIMAL FEAR, but I have truly come to love the vocals and vocals stylings of Kai Hansen. For me, he is truly GAMMA RAY. Is he the greatest singer? No, but like a certain Mr. James Hetfield , he shines for his attitude and class, not to mention doing so while riffing away at breakneck speeds .It doesn't hurt to have such a talented band behind you either.
Like a good Power Metal album should, this one opens with the speedy "Anywhere In The Galaxy". I'm a sucker for these opening blast-fests when they are so good, and it is…it sets up the mood so well. The tempo may slow a touch here and there but the rocking really does not and the urge to sing along is a constant. The heavy guitars and lower pitched vocals from Kai really help this CD stay heavy and avoid the classic "Power Metal is for wimps" reputation that even many Metalheads believe. "Send Me A Sign" opens with some very nice melody. Its tunes like this that can remind one of the masterpieces they created just a few years before. I can't go song by song here…the release is just so solid. All the GAMMA RAY ingredients are there: great riffs, great songs, great vocals and varied tempos and changes. I've even seen this CD well-reviewed on some big Progressive Metal sites…confirmed my thoughts on the level of writing and musicianship throughout.
Finally, I'd like to compliment artist Derek Riggs, of IRON MAIDEN fame, for the brilliant cover art and band member Henjo Richter for the booklet artwork and design. There's nothing like a well-designed CD package to go with some tasty metal. The bands reason for the smurf makeup must have some reason I have yet to understand but it looks cool so I won't fret it.
So in the end, I'd like to thank GAMMA RAY for being that portal into my rediscovering that it really is a Heavy Metal universe with a Heavy Metal sound. They truly are masters of the thunder that shakes me to the ground. (Online June 29, 2003)