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Wanting an endless supply of godly bands, we on this imperfect Earth have to suffice with great numbers of less than awe-inspiring albums to keep us entertained. However, there are times when almost all metal seems like irritating, imbecillic noise and only the very best handful stands out as enjoyable. When the thought of another hour of merely tolerable music is intolerable, there is yet a place for this double CD in my heart and mind.
Why this live album and not one of their hit albums from 1995-98? Well, here you have in one package many standout songs from that era and an abundance of their best moments from other albums – Land of the Free II does not suffer frequent listening in its entirety, but the band had the sense to feature the excellent sing-along Real World on this live collection. Similarly, while No World Order from 2001 leaves me yawning, The Heart of the Unicorn and New World Order are very good picks here. And then there is that expected cavalcade of Somewhere Out In Space – Land of the Free – Rebellion in Dreamland etc. etc. Fans of the Scheepers era might be disappointed, but there are a couple of songs for them as well. Considering the band’s extensive discography, the track listing is phenomenally well balanced.
The band performs with passion and integrity. While retaining reasonable precision (the backbone courtesy of Mr. Atomic Clock Zimmermann), the members seem to be having fun, especially evidenced by Hansen’s furious “FUCK YEAAAH! AWESOME!” ad lib ending to Send Me A Sign. Far from a lifeless replica of album versions, the live set is vibrant and energetic and, as a welcome bonus, Henjo presents many guitar fills and “lead riffs” that have either been buried in album mixes or not in the originals at all. Some examples to point out would be from Land of the Free: Man on a Mission and the title track are ever more glorious as the two-guitar arrangement is given adequate attention. Unfortunately, the bass is far too low in the mix, which weakens the overall sound a notch and hides the potential of Mr. Schlächter.
That complaint aside, this is a fierce, fiery live album, recommended for just about any moment in life. I cannot stop loving the energy here – this has actually grown to be my favourite Gamma Ray. Take a look at the DVD version as well.
Hell yeah (pun intended) that this is one of the best live performances ever. I must confess to you guys that I am a Gamma Ray fan, I have almost all their catalogue except for (you guessed right!) ‘Insanity & genius’ and ‘Sigh no more’ but as far as the rest I just love them all so this album was kind of mind blowing for me because of the set list. There is a little bit of everything and to begin with, the band open with one of my favorites ‘Gardens of the sinner’ from Powerplant, there are tracks from the less than stellar ‘No world order’ and some songs from the old days, even the already burnout ‘I want out’ is there to cheer old fans.
I have to say that, although the stage might fall short in comparison to those of Helloween the band know how to handle themselves on stage. As far as the performance I have to say that Kai is a very charismatic singer and he creates this cool vibe with the audience. They know who he is and they respect him for that but aside, he knows to treat the audience with respect and he adds a lot of energy when in front of the people. Henjo is, as far as I am concerned, kind of underrated. He is a very capable guitarist but his problem is with stage presence, but since this is the audio version of the concert we should not worry about that. He plays the riffs along the way and the solos, although not very technical or impressive go along with the music. There is even an acoustic song which is kinda new for a Gamma Ray; I have never seen them using acoustic guitars. Dan Zimmerman, unfortunately as most power metal drummers follows the rhythm beats but nothing else. He is good, no doubt, but he does not add anything or even texture to the songs. What is remarkable about him is that is one of the back ground vocals WHEN PLAYING! Dirk is an awesome musician but sadly enough the bass is really low in the mix so you can barely heard it.
The songs are pure cheer intensity and whenever they play ‘Beyond the black hole’, ‘Valley of the kings’, ‘Somewhere out in space’ I have to admit that I start playing my air guitar because they are the fastest songs they have written. There is power metal at its peak is performed. The mid paced songs are as well awesome and I say this because ‘Heavy Metal Universe’, ‘Blood religion, ‘Send me a sign’ come to our ears they send chills down your spine. The proficiency of the guys in stage is breathtaking and they do know how to play heavy metal. Even the good ballad ‘The silence’ (without the extraordinary vocals of Ralf) is thrown into the mix and it sounds quite well.
The only bad point I have to appoint is the bass which is really low as I mentioned above. It is really sad because the crunch is taken away. Since the vast majority of power metal bands use an M+ scale and it is so high (especially in power metal) then the bass would be needed to add support to the rhythm parts. Aside from that this is a very very good rendering of the set and I must say I enjoy it a lot whether the audio or the DVD version. I like the set list the most since I can listen to songs from all their many eras and the intensity and power of the band without many keyboards and/or over dubs puts a smile on my face.
Yes, it most certainly does sound like Helloween, so if you hate Helloween then you probably aren't going to enjoy this album. However, if you like Helloween then this is probably going to be right up your alley. Basically what we've got here is some aggresive power metal performed with some great energy. While the band's songwriting and skills may not be as good as other power metal bands, they do make up for it in their energy and enthusiasm.
Just in case you're wondering, this is the only Gamma Ray album I have, so I can't compare studio versions to live versions. But, I can talk about these live versions. Of the whole batch there is not a bad song but the song that really stuck out as better than all the others was the epic ten minute long 'Heavy Metal Universe' which features some very captivating vocal improvisations in an extended audience particpation bit. You know the deal, the vocalist makes a silly noise and the audience repeats. They're usually corny as hell but this one here for some reason is just classic.
Gamma Ray is not mindblowing. They don't play the fastest, they don't write the best songs, they don't have the best guitarist or the best vocalist and they don't bring anything new to the table, but if you're looking for some good power metal which can keep you entertained while you're waiting for the next Helloween or Iced Earth album to come out, then this album here just might do the trick. You know what you're going to get, and you can be almost one-hundred percent sure that you're going to like it, so add it to your collection.
Also note the full name of the album is quite entertaining: Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome And The Finnish Keyboarder Who Didn't Want To Wear His Donald Duck Costume- Live In Montreal.