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Gamma Ray - Empire Of The Undead (2014) [iTunes Version]
From out of anguish, honey can be made. I am positive that I twisted an original phrase and some way or another changed it, but that is when you can remember what that same slogan was, yet I am sure that you understood my point.
Over the last two years the German Power Metal gods, GAMMA RAY, suffered from tragedies it began with the departure of their longtime drummer, Daniel Zimmermann, replaced by the talented Michael EhrÃ© (ex-METALLIUM / ex-FIREWIND) and afterwards, and ended in band's main home studio and rehearsal room, Hammer Studios, was burned to the ground while the band toured South America. Therefore, one would think that something good will arise from such negative occurrences, gladly it did with the upcoming release of the band's eleventh album, "Empire Of The Undead", via earMUSIC / Edel Records. It has been four years since "To The Metal!", and I believe that something happened within the creative minds of Kai Hansen and Dirk Schlachter, possibly for the better in comparison to the previous effort.
It won't budge you in the beginning, but in an general manner, GAMMA RAY became fiercer and with a brusque attitude that affected their music to grow into utter heaviness, one of their heaviest albums to date, ringing them with adaptations of American inspired Speed with a Thrash twist, encircling maniacal energetic tempos of savagery. Furthermore, I detected signs of a will for development, to head above the band's normal frolics, still shouting humorous remarks here and there, with an addition of a minor modern edge to the mix. Nonetheless, Hansen and Co. on "Empire Of The Undead" maintained their fantasy thriving scenery of majestic ancient Power Metal haunting dogma, which sounded slightly less melodic in comparison to old blasters as "Somewhere Out In Space" or "Land Of The Free", showing instrumental dexterity, especially the lead guitaring, magnificent Henjo Richter, and abashing drumming that simply mesmerized, and experience that also channeled upon the richness of the composed music. What's more interested me was Kai Hanen's vocal ability, a solid proof that this guy's vocal chords are strong and his voice resonant and monumental. The funny thing is that while listening to some of the album's grease burners, I thought of HELLOWEEN's older days with Hansen on vocals and smiled to myself, this artist truly came far and on "Empire Of The Undead" kept his singing rate tightly while expressing himself even further.
Just to show you this album's miscellany, it is a must to note on several influential power points. "Avalon", can be easily compared to the epic "Land Of The Free" hit "Rebellion In Dreamland". In a matter of speaking, it measured up to that old classic, yet, it captured a much operatic type, or theatrical angle. Enticing with a powerful chorus of a stellar quality, GAMMA RAY recaptured old IRON MAIDEN signatures that crossed with the British giant's "Wrathchild", generally smearing spits of British Metal on the tune. Just like the previous, this epic track barely felt like it was nine minutes long, simply brilliant. "Time For Deliverance" is a special feature, a sort of a ballad emphasizing Hansen's astounding singing, softly embracing the soul, but also reminding that feistiness of the guy. I smiled again for myself right when the chorus kicked in, as if I was listening to QUEEN's "We Are The Champions", even sang the lyrics as it progressed, right through its end I was struck by a post Hansen HELLOWEEN ballad similarity, it was out of "Time Of The Oath", the song "If I Knew". Though I am used to be inspired by heaviness, GAMMA RAY came up with a powerful song to soften things up a bit. "Hellbent" and "Empire of the Undead" are coordinated lambasting assaults of Teutonic force, in the name of Metal and the ones that are true to the right form of music, GAMMA RAY went hell bent for leather, firing away speedy tempos with tantalizing riffery and vocalic intensity. As if "I Want Out" and "Send Me A Sign" aren't enough hits on Kai Hansen's belt, the album employed "Master of Confusion", a kind of a humorous sidesplitting, musically on the same formula and feel of the older hits, an entertaining tune indeed. Finally there is "Pale Rider", an odd creature, first time for me listening Hansen proudly shaking down the "F" word. Obviously there is an American toughness sprayed all around, but virtually still a GAMMA RAY, yet with a smack to the face.
On the whole, the band's songwriting development and direction on this album enabled me to find myself in different corners of it, every single vibe, whether violent and head bashing or in the opposite caressing and touching, it was all there before me, inviting me in for the canter.
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein
Kai Hansen: Guitars (1989-present), Vocals (1995-present)
Dirk SchlÃ¤chter: Guitars, Keyboards (1990-1997), Bass (1997-present)
Henjo Richter: Guitars, Keyboards (1997-present)
Michael EhrÃ©: Drums (2012-present)
1. Avalon 09:21
2. Hellbent 05:22
3. Pale Rider 04:23
4. Born to Fly 04:31
5. Master of Confusion 04:54
6. Empire of the Undead 04:25
7. Time for Deliverance 05:10
8. Demonseed 06:38
9. Seven 05:07
10. I Will Return 06:55
11. Men, Martians and Machines (Live from the final studio sessions) 03:50