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Land Of The Free
The introduction to the world of Kai Hansen and the key to the absolute rule of Gamma Ray in the power/speed metal industry. Quite simply Land Of The Free is among the best albums of the 90s and *ahem* of all time. The loss of atmosphere and creativity of Insanity & Genius is clearly present here on each and every track with no exception. Of course not all are *divine*, some fall short just being very good.
Now, I am not here to bash Scheepers in any way, as I believe he has one of the best voices in metal, but as soon as you start your journey with Land Of The Free (especially after listening to the previous efforts beforehand) you will be amazed as to how well Kai developed his voice since WOJ era.. and well :) on to the review… :
1. Rebellion In Dreamland –
Best song ever? Quite possibly so. Unbelievable.. Kai decided to take us all into his world, the world of undisputable greatness of Heavy Fucking Metal. The opening guitar sounds are so majestic you almost start to *sigh* we won’t hear them again in this song … same for the intro by Kai’s voice… “Voices are calling…” never fails to send shivers down my spine … incredible. And then the song builds up … well .. Hell I can’t describe it all .. LISTEN TO IT, again and again… you gonna love it. Every second of the magical 8:45 minutes, total guitar dominance.. wow.! If you’ve yet to listen to Rebellion In Dreamland, you have yet to live and experience Metal. 10/10
2. Man On A Mission –
Picking up the speed once again and truly establishing the pace that is set to progress Gamma Ray on to the years. This song really burns, teriffic atmosphere throughout, great guitar work and terrific tempo changes … especially the Queen inspired quiet part with a high pitched voice… Which has now became a Gamma trademark. There is also a song called Miracle available on a single and remastered CDs… every bit as great as this menacer. This could also easily qualify as the best duo opener in the history of metal.. perhaps only rivaled by Aces/23:58. 10/10
3. Fairytale –
The powerful 45 second blast really shreds.. and I don’t think its possible to have this song last any longer since it just totally rocks with a rock factor 20/10. And the melody! Wow.. I usually don’t rate songs shorter than a minute … but this song really deserves my recognition. And yours too! 10/10
4. All Of The Damned –
Unbelievable. What more can I say.. This is easily 4th masterpiece of a song in a row. With the 4 all being totally different and totally rockin’. This song has an incredible catchiness to it, but the opus is clearly the guitar solos. I can not describe it in words. Kai … Starting at about a 3 minute mark, with the climax starting at 3:37 (I even memorized that… :D) Truly a teriffic song, which might take some time for you to get to love it, I know many people don’t. 10/10
5. Rising Of The Damned –
Very atmospheric outro to the previous beauty. Great piano works, and I especially love how it follows right after AOTD, it flows brilliantly. But, since it is too short and no lyrics in it I am not rating it. :P However it is great trust me.
6. Gods Of Deliverance –
Here we begin to mellow out a little. This is definitely a sub par song (by Kai’s divine standards anyway). I do like it, but it clearly falls short on many departments including melodic factor, it is a fast paced song, but I just can’t put my finger as to what it is its missing. Something is missing though, still a totally solid number by all means. 7.5/10
7. Farewell –
The quality level rises right back up again. Great number this one is. (featuring Hansi) This song is quite possibly the best ballad by Gamma Ray, it is also very atmospheric, and by all means not a pretentious junk worthy of the name of HammerFall or something. This is the way powermetal ballads should be, great piano interludes and tempo changes. Great stuff all along. 9/10
8. Salvation’s Calling –
This is perhaps the second and last filler-like song on the album (along Gods Of Deliverance). And quite a similar song as well. However, with this one, you easily get a feel Kai just wanted to drastically pick up the pace after the ballad, which brings another issue (sort of) I have… why not have a little short interlude to merge the ballad with the following rocker? Maybe just me … again a solid number, what else to expect from Kai & Co. :D 810
9. Land Of The Free –
Here we GO! Back to where the opening trio took us. One of Metal’s all time classics and a concert mandatory monster. This is a very special song, not only does it feature one of the best vocalists on this planet (Mike), it has an incredible structure, guitar work (what else is new?) and of course the chorus lines. This song shreds. And hearing Mike in the chorus just reminds you of the Helloween days so much, almost do I shed a tear. Beauty. 10/10
10. The Savior –
Although a separate song, I think it is a natural part to the next opus. This is a tremendous interlude which almost makes you feel the power that is coming next, and of course it leads just perfectly into one of my another all time favorites.
11. Abyss Of The Void –
The soft intro, and the bombastic power explosion on the words “THE SAVIOR!” I don’t think it gets better than this. I absolutely love it. And is also another one of those songs which can not be described in proper words. The soft instrumental mid part is another timeless classic. It’s hard for me to believe material like this came out in the 90s. The supposed again DEAD stage of metal. Listen to this all you disbelievers. 10/10
12. Time To Break Free –
YES. Another blast. And with Mr. Golden Pipes himself on lead vox. Sweet. Michael makes a full appearance here, and Oh how this song rocks. Total blast. And a completely uncharacteristic song as well, shows how diverse and creative the songwriting skills of Kai really are. Just like Helloween. Too bad Mike is not into Metal anymore. Well, I only wait for more appearances from him in the future, until then, KAI is the man.
13. Afterlife –
Now this is a really different song. On the surface it goes just like any other (divine) track but it is really different especially with the instrumental parts almost sounding like Kai tried to be over complex. Now why fix something that isn’t broken? I myself can not think of a better structure for the song, now it’s not my job either is it :P. The emotion of the song and the atmosphere is actually unmatched by anything else on this album as this is of course the dedication to Ingo. R.I.P. Friend.
And so we conclude the ride. And a ride to remember it was. Hard to believe I do not consider this to be Gamma’s opus. But. Many people consider to be it. I love it endlessly, and can not pin point a single wrong thing with this album as to how the songs flow and compliment each other.
I do however recommend not making up your judgement about the album after only the first or second listen. Since of course the BIG 4 will jump on you from the first listen, it is the underrated miracles which will take some time to get to.
We seriously need more albums like this to keep our music strong.