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If you are on the fence about picking up a bunch of Gamma Ray albums because you are short of cash, but you want the absolute best out of the band, this is pretty much the album for you. Particularly fans of the post-Scheepers era of Gamma Ray will want to get this as all the songs from his era in the band have been fully re-recorded with Kai doing the vocals and the currently line-up playing the music.
I only have one complaint about the songs chosen, and that is the decision to include "Changes" off the "Sigh No More" as a regular track and only included "Rich and Famous" as a limited bonus track. I'm sorry, but a better production job can't salvage an utterly mediocre song, from a lousy album, with a rather stupid message attached to it. I took 6 points on this release because I don't like having to hit the skip button on a great album, even if it's only one time.
However, the positive really outweighs the negative on this release. The highlights on this release are the 3 songs chosen from the "Heading for Tomorrow" release on CD 1, of which the title track is the best as it has been expanded a bit, for the better I might add. "Heaven Can Wait" has a much stronger drum production on it, although I think that Kai's vocal performance gets a tiny bit silly at times. "Lust for Life" is extremely well done, particularly with the stepped up guitar sound. On CD 2, the songs off of the "Somewhere Out in Space" take the prize. I was a tiny bit disappointed that "Shine On" didn't make it on here, but "Valley of the Kings" did so that eases the pain significantly. "Into the Black Hole" and "Somewhere out in Space" are both solid speed metal classics with tons of memorable riffs, well worthy a few repeats.
Although mostly geared towards the more casual listener of Gamma Ray, as all compilations tend to be, this album also has plenty for the more core fan of Gamma Ray, such as myself. I found the overall idea of re-recording the pre-Somewhere Out in Space material to be excellent, and displays the commitment that these guys have to the work they do. I also give major kudos to Dan Zimmerman for being able to reconcile this undertaking with his incredibly busy schedule, as he recorded albums for 3 different bands just the year before (Gamma Ray, Iron Savior, and Freedom Call). If you are also a core fan, you will like all the remakes on here, they are very true to the originals and lack the production flaws that those releases had.
In conclusion, you can't go wrong with releases like this, as they draw out the best of the best. I recommend this strongly to newer fans of Gamma Ray in particular who are not familiar with all of their work. This album is a valuable tool in determining whether or not to invest your hard earned money in this band's rather sizable back catalog.
So, Gamma Ray released a greatest hits album; But this was no ordinary compilation; All the tracks on here that were sung by the band's first vocalist, Ralf Scheepers, have been re-sung by the one and only Kai Hansen. Also, EVERY track on the first disk and part of the second has been fully re-recorded and remastered...I'll bet many Gamma Ray fans were curious as to how this would turn out. Let's see...
Disk one breakdown: This disk is fully comprised of material from the first three albums, back from when Scheepers was still on board....Okay. Let's face the facts, people. Back in those days, Gamma Ray wasn't the powerhouse it is today. While the potential was obviously showing through, the songwriting, in most cases, just wasn't there. There were some diamonds among the rough, sure; One of them being the energetic, inspirational Heaven Can Wait, which was a great song to start with, and is made even better with this re-recording. Insanely catchy, that's for sure. However, other than Kai's vocal performance, which is much better than Ralf's, very little can change the fact that these are still the songs with great musicianship, but a low quality of songwriting. Who knows, maybe this stuff will grow on me someday...But as I've stated in my Land Of The Free review, ballads/slower songs of Gamma Ray are a very hot/cold affair, and the songwriting just could've been better. I still like One With The World, though. Decently catchy and with a nice message in the lyrics.
Disk two breakdown: This is, in my opinion, definitely the better of the two disks. Right as you hit "play" and look at the tracklisting, you notice that three awesome songs from Land Of The Free, which already had Kai on vocals, which are Rebellion In Dreamland, Man On A Mission and the title track, have been re-recorded. Well, I'm sure some fans were skeptical at first (I wasn't, seeing as though this was my first GR venture...), but these have vastly improved production than the original masterings, and well I'll be, these are actually BETTER than the originals. Rebellion In Dreamland in particular has outstanding drumming; All sorts of fills that weren't in the original version are put in here. For Man On A Mission, things remain mostly unchanged....Although I think the chorus choir is a little too high in the mix, and I prefer the original version of that. As for Land Of The Free....Wow. Things are great here...There are some guitar parts that I couldn't even hear in the normal version. One interesting note with this song is that even though it's re-recorded, the vocal tracks of Hansi and Mike are kept in the chorus, just lower in the mix than Kai this time around. Doesn't detract from anything, really.
Next up, we've got a re-sung (Other than remastering, the music is identical to the original) version of The Silence. One of Gamma Ray's ballads that actually work, and one of the aformentioned diamonds in the rough of their early albums, this is an atmospheric song about, basically, how the seasons go by as mankind continues on its path of self-destruction. Really pretty.
Afterwards, nothing is re-recorded; It's just a remastered greatest hits from Somewhere Out In Space and Powerplant. There are three songs from each album, and the choices of those couldn't be better; My favourite songs from this section are the title track of SoiS, and the ultra-catchy, melodic Send Me A Sign. Oh, and Armageddon is better on the live CD, I think, it's still great here.
This, up-and-coming bands, is how you make a greatest-hits album; An overview of some awesome songs, as well as some new stuff for the longtime fans. Highly recommended for fans of this genre.
This is a must have for any fan of Gamma Ray or power metal in general. As Kai Hansen wrote in the booklet, the songs were chosen by fans from all around the world through internet. Songs from the first 4 albums were re-recorded with Kai on vocals, showing a lot of improvement compared to the originals, at least in my opinion, as I think that Kai's singing nowadays is much better than Scheepher's in the early 90's (I prefer his work in Primal Fear). "One with the World" and "Last Before the Storm" are fine examples of how good songs from the first Gamma Ray albums (which aren't the best) turned into awesome pieces of power metal. Those two are my personal favorites, the same can be said about the rest of CD 1. The second CD features 3 re-recorded songs from "Land of the Free", which already had Kai on vocals, but these new versions are heavier, especially "Man on a Mission", one of the fastest songs I've ever heard. The rest of CD 2 is a good "best of" with tracks from "Somewhere Out in Space" and "Powerplant".
The only negative (and unavoidable) aspect of "Blast From the Past" is that some excellent songs were left out, for example, "Gardens of the Sinner" or "All of the Damned", to name a few, because only 3 songs from each album could be voted. However, I believe it was a great idea from Kai and the band to give the fans the opportunity to make the choice.
All in all, this is a terrific compilation, and a good start for those who want to know more about one of the greatest power metal bands in existence.