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This release was one of the few power metal releases that made being a North American a bonus, for the USA release actually contained a bonus CD with material recorded with Ralf Scheepers still at the helm in 1993. The CD contains much of the best songs from the 3 albums of their early era, the stand out performances being “No Return”, “Heading for Tomorrow/Dream Healer” and “Last Before the Storm”.
Most of the best tracks off of the “Land of the Free album” made it into the performance, including such classics as “Man on a Mission” and “Rebellion in Dreamland”. Other classic Gamma Ray material includes “Space Eater” and “Lust for Life’ off of their first album, as well as “Heal Me” and “Tribute to the Past” off of Insanity and Genius. Kai Hansen’s renditions of the old Scheepers material is extremely well done, especially considering the range and power of the latter’s voice, and the fact that he didn’t have a guitar in his hand while performing (as Kai was, often playing lead).
Not to forget where he comes from, Kai and his band have also seen fit to include two classic Helloween tracks composed by himself. “Future World” is a particularly interesting track because we find Kai singing a song originally performed by Michael Kiske, another formidable vocalist whose shoes are extremely difficult to fill. He pulls it off well, though I did find myself missing the flash and flair of the original vocalist of the song. “Ride the Sky” sees Kai returning to what he originally did best, throwing out high notes like there is no tomorrow. This particular performance is so much like the original version of the song that I often find myself checking the CD jacket to make sure I’m listening to a live album.
The other musicians perform their parts well, particularly Dirk Schlachter during the various guitar solos, and the few instances where he is manning the keyboards. The rhythm section is tight and together, Thomas Knack has done some amazing work with Iron Savior of late, and this album sees the early period in which his drumming is already starting to develop into something spectacular. Here is how I rate the tracks.
Exceptional: Land of the Free, Man on a Mission, Rebellion in Dreamland, The Savior, Abyss of the Void, Lust for Life, No Return, Ride the Sky.
Good: Tribute to the Past, Last Before the Storm, Future World, Heavy Metal Mania, Space Eater, Heal Me, Fairytale, Future World, Heading for Tomorrow/Dream Healer.
Fair: Changes, Insanity and Genius, Future Madhouse.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this live album to fans of Gamma Ray and Helloween alike. Fans of Iron Savior and Primal Fear may also wish to check this album out since members of those two bands are present on this album. Metal fans in general will like this, though obviously the ones who hate melody will not be pleased, which comes as no surprise of course.