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A Triumphant Return to the Land of the Free - 97%

octavarium, February 25th, 2011

By trying to continue the legacy of their most successful and famous album, Land of the Free, Gamma Ray no doubt had a tall task ahead of them. The German power metal outfit led by Kai Hansen, regarded as the founding father of power metal, had the experience and skill to pull it off, but could it really be done? The answer is an absolute yes.

Though it's a continuation of the first Land of the Free, the style of the sequel is somewhat different. Instead of a straight-forward power metal style similar to that of Hansen's Helloween days, this album relies heavily on speed metal and heavy metal characteristcs. Still, as it is a Gamma Ray album it is still power metal at heart. Almost every song blitzes your ears with fast-paced, intense riffs that makes one question if it is humanly possible to play that fast. Unfortunately, Kai's voice, while great on this album, can be somewhat on the soft side and is sometimes muffled by the sound. Still, he stands out on several tracks, most notably the lead single and album opener, Into the Storm. Starting off with a distant-sounding riff, it gets louder and louder until it explodes into a full band effort. Kai's voice is not lost this time as he proudly proclaims that he's on his way "into the storm!" It also hearkens back to the first Land of the Free with the line "A land of the free, a land for you and me!" The most spectacular part of the song is the guitar solo duel between Hansen and Henjo Richter in which we are all the winners. And that's just the first song.

While Into the Storm may be the album's strongest track and obvious choice for a single, the rest of the album does not lag in any way. To Mother Earth has a real power metal feel to its opening riff, Leaving Hell has a powerful, upbeat feel to it, and When the World blasts on with a riff similar to Iron Maiden's Flash of the Blade. Opportunity starts off as what would seem to be a power ballad, but halfway it transforms into another speed/power metal hymn. With an epic beginning, the album must have an epic finale, and that comes in the form of Insurrection. Despite coming at eleven and a half minutes, the length did not make the song seem boring nor drawn-out. The only song I was ultimately unimpressed with was Empress. Perhaps because it has a slower, steady beat and features growled vocals during the chorus compared to the other songs filled with speed and energy caught me off guard, but in a way it still fits with the overall album and ultimately does not seem out of place.

Diehard power metal fans who remember the early days of Helloween may not like the speed metal aspect, the album still carries a power metal feel and seemingly never loses a serious step. Fast riffs, blasting drums, this album is a true milestone in any metal genre as the guys from Gamma Ray prove that they are true veterans and show no sign of stopping. No matter how many listen-throughs, the intensity never stops and never feels repetitive. Gamma Ray has not only returned to the land of the free, they've made it their kingdom.

Close, but no cigar - 76%

Agonymph, October 26th, 2008

Calling the album 'Land Of The Free II' was more than just giving the thing a name for Gamma Ray. It's saying you're going back to the sound of that highly successful album from the mid-nineties. For me personally, they didn't really need to. I loved the darker and cynical monster that was 'Majestic'. In fact, I thought that was their best album since the original 'Land Of The Free' and hoped they would carry on that darker path full of variation. Instead, we saw the band returning to their past a little. However, instead of reincorporating a few of the older influences into their new sound, Gamma Ray decided to regress with this new album.

The beginning ain't bad at all. 'Into The Storm' is nothing too special - like all of their opening tracks after 'Anywhere In The Galaxy' - but it's a nice, rocking little track which in deed is a slight return to the LotF-sound. It's after a song and a half when it falls apart for the first time; 'From The Ashes' starts out as an absolutely killer track, the intro is brilliant Power Metal to the max, but when the way too artificially happy chorus enters, my stomach turns. Maybe 15 year old me would have found this awesome, but I can't stand this right now.

From then on, this goes for a lot of songs. There's not one song on the album that's completely crap, in fact, most of the songs have absolute killer segments. Almost all of the songs start out great and the guitar solos are without exception great - I mean, it's Gamma Ray we're talking about - but usually it's the choruses that kill the songs ('From The Ashes', 'Mother Earth'). And if the songs DO have a great chorus ('Rain'), the pre-chorus fucks it all up. And the "and where the fuck is my Superman-outfit?" doesn't exactly do the song any good either. And what's up with summing up the days of the week in 'Opportunity'?

However, that doesn't mean there aren't any good songs on 'Land Of The Free II'. Au contraire! Despite the guitar melodies that are quite similar to those in 'Kryptonite' by Three Doors Down (which is, let's be honest, a good song), 'Leaving Hell' is a great Power Metal song with a nice punch to it. 'When The World' is an even better Power Metal track with some familiar sounds (the intro reminds me of Maiden's 'Flash Of The Blade') and an absolutely brilliant chorus. This one isn't exactly happy, it's rather hopeful. And I love double lead vocals and I'm being treated here!

Another positive listening experiences is 'Real World'. Somehow the goofy chorus of the song (check the other reviews for quotes) works here, but the thing that really stole my heart are the Nintendo-ish guitar lines in the intro. Youth nostalgia mixed with great Metal, you can't make me happier! The Danny Zimmermann-penned 'Empress' (most of the songs have been written by band leader Kai Hansen) is a stand-out track as well. Style-wise as well as quality-wise. The song is a Rock song with a relatively prominent role for the keyboards rather than a Metal song. However, it works. It's refreshing to hear a song like that. 'Insurrection' is a nice closing epic too, it's just not too special anymore, as Gamma Ray has a tradition of closing their albums with similar songs. This one obviously profits from being written by Kai Hansen though; it has a darker vibe than most of Henjo Richter's similar-styled songs.

Gamma Ray doesn't do anything explicitely wrong on 'Land Of The Free II', I just feel they've lost some of the power and hunger that made 'Majestic' such a great album. In addition, Kai Hansen sometimes has a strange fatigue in his voice. Could be because he's getting older, but it's there.

The musicianship on the album is top notch and so are some of the compositions, but I feel like something's missing. But I have little doubt that the next studio album will be great again. As long as they don't call it 'Land Of The Free III'...or 'Somewhere Out In Space II'...well, you catch my drift.

The Greatest Maiden Tribute Album Ever - 90%

Hidius, August 19th, 2008

Purely because I enjoy pissing people off, I’m going to start with a story about a nu-metal band. (Don’t worry, it has a point.)

There is a band called Avenged Sevenfold that illustrates a great point through their lousy music. I don’t know if this is nu-metal or screamo or rock or what, but it’s laughably bad. Their early material had a lot of impact but only while it was playing. It was not memorable music. As they went along they attempted to add beauty to their music, but as they did, they lost their impact. So their music remained unmemorable because it meandered all over the place and dragged on through really boring passages, with the occasional attempt at reliving the hardcore days. The point is that, in order for a song to be memorable, it has to have impact and beauty at the same time.

That brings us to this album, Land of the Free 2. What this album does musically is to take everything from Killers, Powerslave, Somewhere in Time, and Seventh Son and synthesize it into a single hour-long package. Yes, there are other influences to hear in these songs, but these are the primary ones. Each of those albums by Maiden had a different sound, because they never did the same thing twice, but on this Gamma Ray album you can hear it all at once. Into the Storm has some Killers-style guitar parts and some “Woah” type singing followed by wild solos. It’s as rousing an opener as Aces High was. From the Ashes continues with a rousing chorus and some more wild guitar solos layered over a Maiden-ish gallop. It even has more sing-along “Woahs.” When the World has obvious Powerslave riffing. Opportunity listens like a new age Maiden song but has a few ideas from the old days packed in for variation, notably harmonies and solos from Somewhere in Time and acoustics from Seventh Son.

But the greatest song here is the epic Insurrection. This is better than the epics from the Keepers albums, because there seems to be more variation as the song goes along. The old Keepers epics had a sense of, for lack of a better phrase, “sameness throughout.” This is one of Kai’s best songs altogether, and it functions well as a closer to such an immense Maiden tribute. It has massive riffs under soaring vocals, even more of that “Woah” type singing, a memorable chorus, and energetic solos that crisscross. If you think it’s not hard to sit through, that’s because you don’t sit while you listen to it. The songs that came before it get you up, and this one keeps you up until the album ends, at which point you say, “What?” because you want more.

This is one of the most exciting albums I’ve ever heard. These songs have all the beauty of Iron Maiden’s work but this combines with Gamma Ray’s own unique impact to leave a lasting impression. You remember the music, and you want to hear it again. Avenged Sevenfold fails to write good music because they fail to combine beauty and impact in any meaningful way. When they’re not slamming you with garbage, they’re wandering around with it aimlessly. Apparently, in the United States, that’s the way to conjure up a fanbase.

Furthermore, they claim to be influenced by Iron Maiden, like Gamma Ray. But their music does not do their influences justice. Gamma Ray does a far better job of paying tribute to their influences. This is the power metal version of Maiden’s particular style of NWOBHM, and I must say it comes off much better than anything else I’ve ever heard claiming to be Maiden-influenced. (Perhaps I’m biased because I happen to live in the heart of “Kid Rock Country” where the best music comes from sloppy bands like Avenged Sevenfold. Thus, I can’t help but compare the good stuff to the sludge available in America.)

Finally, many accuse this album of being not a tribute, but outright plagiarism. I can only say that Iron Maiden didn’t write this album, Gamma Ray did, and whether or not they intended it to be a tribute, that’s certainly how it functions. I couldn’t be more satisfied with this album. This is power metal, not classic metal, not NWOBHM. However, it is probably the best all-out tribute to Iron Maiden you’ll ever hear.

They can do better. - 50%

alexxhighlander, July 21st, 2008

Gamma Ray have built a respectable career by now, and deservedly so. I myself consider Kai Hansen one of the greatest guitar players in metal and one of the most influential musicians overall, and this only contributes to the way I feel about this release as I will explain.

First of all, let's face it, writing a sequel for a seminal album like Land of The Free is no easy task, and I don't know of any bands that have truly pulled it off. Kai's former band, Helloween, tried it with that thing they dared call Keeper of The Seven Keys - The Legacy, and failed miserably. The only reason the Keeper of the Seven Keys part I and II albums managed to do it successfully was because they were recorded at the same time, as one album, and later released as two for commercial reasons. Other than that, I can not remember any case where a band truly managed to write a sequel to a great album with the same impact and success.

Land of The Free Part II is a great album, and it would be even better by some other name. Nobody in power metal put anything out in 2007 that comes even close to this album. It definitely sits at the top of my list. But the problem does not lie on the choice of title alone, as this release has several other flaws that justify my low rating for it.

Up to Powerplant the band had been releasing fairly original material with their distinct brand of power metal. The songs were powerful, direct, fast, very catchy, and immediately recognizable as the Gamma Ray sound. Then something happened, as Kai himself maybe tried to steer away from the repetition that was plaguing the genre in the late 90's, like some other bands did, going for a sound more heavy metal oriented as an alternative since everybody was basically sounding the same.

The problem is, the band lost their creativity and, above all, originality in the process, and started repeating themselves and sounding like some older bands after a while.

The point is, what draws the line between influence and just plain ripping off? What is the limit? Because, from No World Order on, Gamma Ray's songs began to showcase parts that clearly sounded like some other band's songs. Riffs, verses, choruses, sometimes an entire chunk of a song. Being a fan of Kai Hansen's since the Helloween years, that was very disappointing to me. Of course Kai came out and readily told everyone those were on purpose and were supposed to be some homage to his heroes and so on, but come on, at this point in their career and at his age?

Land of the Free Part II is full of such examples of supposed 'influences' and 'tributes' to older metal bands. You can find Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and even Rush, right there, in your face. It may be appealing to some, especially younger fans, but it only pisses me off for I know these guys can do better. This is Kai Hansen, people! This guy practically invented power metal as we know it! And now his band puts out an album, a supposed sequel to one of the greatest albums ever, and you can hear Iron Maiden's “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” in the middle of a song?! What the hell? Judas Priest's “The Sentinel” pops up in the middle of another? And then Rush!!! And those are only the few examples I can remember right now, as the album is full of them. I believe there is not a single song on this album that doesn't rip off some earlier work by some metal legend. Kai even rips himself off, copying melodies off old Helloween stuff and Gamma Ray's as well.

And what is this anti-religion thing all of a sudden, coming from the man who wrote lyrics such as "The Guardians of Mankind" and "The Saviour", actually the entire Land of the Free album, and now he decides he wants to say there is no God, just to sort of pray to the 'father of this earth' in the very next song? I mean, I don't care what people believe in and whether they have a religion or not, but just try to show some character and coherence is all I ask.

So, does the album kick ass? Yes, it does. The band plays incredibly and the songs are exciting. But it lacks originality in every sense, and that is a very serious flaw to me, especially coming from this band, fronted by this living metal legend. Other bands should be ripping them off, and they do, and not the other way around. Put out a tribute album and get it over with, or maybe it’s time to call it a career and hang the guitar picks.

This is how a Part II should be done! - 98%

Black_Metal_Elite, June 26th, 2008

Yeah I know, I shouldn't just give out stupidly high reviews-- but this album really deserves it. Everything about it kicks ass, and I can listen to any song on this album at any time of the day and completely enjoy it. Sometimes I even listen to it before I go to bed, when I could be listening to Tomhet (for example) to help me sleep.

Why does it kick ass though? Well, just think of the perfectly crafted song. The backing riffs are solid and "metal", Kai's vocals fit perfectly (yeah I know he doesn't hit those high notes as often but his choice of melody in this record is ideal), the bass is audible and adds to the environment of the album as most Gamma Ray albums tend to encompass nowadays, and the reason it lost 2% is because Dan Zimmerman decided to continue to the NWO and Majestic idea. Seriously, he is an amazing drummer and can kick all of your asses any day of the week, and I'm going to assume Kai Hansen just doesn't want him taking the spotlight or anything (but he did make Cosmic Chaos on the SOIS album, so I really don't know anymore). Besides, he keeps the rhythm throughout the album; while adding those correct beats in at the proper moment. I guess anything technical on this album would seem out of place... since we're dealing with some 'in your face kickass power metal'.

Kai's solos, while predictable (ex: twiddling around on a 4 note scale, then going all out) is still enjoyable. The rhythm lines still tear up the place regardless and the fluidity of this album rapes your face so both eye sockets are a big gaping hole. Listening to "Rain" made me feel like I was playing Duke Nukem. The production on that song for the guitars is so heavy I can't even use a dictionary to form the correct adjectives to describe it. The closest I can come to it is "Otherworldly", or "Fantastic". Now, the song Empress takes some shots; but the vocals are the key addiction there. Get into the song, think of the tale of Macbeth or anything-- it makes me feel like I'm in medieval times.

Land of the Free 1 was done justice. Kai once again, goes upward. Well, he always goes upwards (except for Genius and Insanity...), though I can't imagine what the next album would be like. I hate listening to Gamma Ray because it just dominates my playlist, and is too much of a contrast between my Black Metal and Power Metal. I mean, try going from Arthemesia or Abruptum to Gamma Ray. It’s awkward... regardless listening to LotF 2 is like eating sugar. I'm sure you can connect the dots there.

Recommended for buying!
Top 3 personal song choices: Rain, From The Ashes, any other song goes after these because they're all equally kick ass.

Gamma Ray at their best once again. - 95%

paralyzedpiet, March 6th, 2008

I can't understand all the bashing that's been going on with this album. This shows Gamma Ray at their very best again and a worthy successor to the good old Land of the Free.

After the old school sounding New World Order album and the darker, but not all too innovative Majestic, this album finally manages to sound innovative again without actually inventing anything new. This might sound weird, but it's what it is. It wasn't as obvious on NWO, but especially Majestic lacked almost all the little musical gizmos that used to make Gamma Ray songs so unique. Don't get me wrong, Majestic is not a bad album at all, but I have come to expect only and nothing but the best of Gamma Ray, and Majestic just didn't live up to that.

On LotF Pt.II, the band and especially Kai Hansen seem to be back to form. This album just has it all, blazing highspeed metal anthems like To Mother Earth, stomping hard rockers like the opener Into The Storm or Real World, darker songs like Empress and Rain (which is interspersed with some little happy metal parts - the contrast does actually fit the song very well) and even the 10 minute epic Insurrection, one of the best songs on this album which is right up there with classics like Rebellion In Dreamland and Armageddon.

As on most of the last Gamma Ray albums, there are riffs and melodies on this album that are clearly ripped off from other songs, but not in a bad way. It seems to be more of a running gag that Kai includes little parts from Maiden, Sabbath or Priest classics here and there. What's wrong with that? It doesn't make anything sound unoriginal because there's so much awesome other stuff written around it and these little parts are clearly Kai's way of a tribute to the old heroes.

There's some stuff on this album that is very different from anything Gamma Ray have done before yet sounds so much like them you'll recognize it by the first chords (Empress), then again there's typical stuff like Real World or From The Ashes, songs with catchy melodies, strong choruses and awesome solos, but if you listen to them a couple of times, you'll find a lot of little cool things going on which keep them from sounding "awesome-yet-nothing-new," a problem many power metal bands suffer from. For example, there's a lot of bass ass kickery going on on this album, which is clearly audible, but really helps the songs to develop to their full potential instead of being pure wankery. There are some guitar parts like the little Mark Knopfler inspired riff in the background during one verse of Real World that seem to be very minor, yet add tremendously much to the general feel and really make almost every song something special, as does the variety of different guitar tones used on this album.

Gamma Ray have always been known for great musicianship, and they live up to all expectations here. The bass work is great, not much needs to be said about Dan ZImmermann's drumming, the guitar solos are superb (seems like there's a tad more feeling in them than on other albums) and the keyboards are not too prominent, but always there where they are necessary.

Only reason I don't give this album the full 100% rating is the chorus of Leaving Hell... really not that great, especially if compared to the rest of this album and even the rest of the song.

All in all, if you're looking for great European power metal that manages to sound fresh and inspired without inventing the wheel again, Land Of The Free Pt.II is the way to go.

They got their edge back. - 91%

hells_unicorn, February 10th, 2008

Gamma Ray exemplify the standard by which power metal is measured, which is an unashamed devotion to the ideals first laid out by the melodic speed and traditional outfits of the 80s in spite of all the nonsense going on in both radio and music television. Like most of their younger brethren, they are mostly derided for a sense of unchanging loyalty to the style and all of it’s clichés that comes across as obstinate. But this stubborn tenacity is precisely where the band’s power lies, for once a band sets forth its sound its purpose is then to maintain a fan base.

“Land of the Free 2” is largely similar to the 1995 breakthrough album that saw the return of Kai to the vocal helm, albeit there are some differences in the sound aside from the absence of the Michael Kiske guest vocal slots. The production is very similar to that of “Majestic”, although the songs are far more coherent and memorable. Dan Zimmerman’s drumming is equally as insanely fast and precise as it was when he lit up the kit on “Somewhere Out in Space”, Henjo’s leads are extravagant yet reserved in their duration, and Kai’s vocals have lost none of their raunchy edge.

Although structured similar to the first installment of this 2 part story, the pace of the album is a good deal faster. This owes heavily to the long winded epic being the last song rather than the first. Ironically enough, “Rebellion in Dreamland” was the greatest song on that album, while “Insurrection” proves to be one of the least memorable on the bunch here. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of a truly bombastic backing choir during the chorus or just a general sense of flatness from start to finish, but something about the song just screams anti-climactic.

Be that as it may, the rest of the album just kicks out the speed and fury without a trace of mercy. Crushing speed anthems like “From the Ashes” and “To Mother Earth” rival a good deal of their 1990s equivalents, and outshine them in terms of production. If you hear the chorus of “From the Ashes” and don’t immediate start shouting along with it, you are obviously not going to like anything in the power metal genre. Heavier speed tracks like “Rain” and “Opportunity” rely more upon heavy as hell guitar grooves that interchange with up tempo riff happy sections to change it up a bit, but robs nothing from the consistency of the album.

Although very fresh as a whole, we do have a couple of obvious throwbacks in this collection of amazing tracks. “Real World” is yet another in a long line of “I Want Out” variations, probably having the most in common with “Rich and Famous” off the “Sigh No More” release. Essentially if you liked the original Helloween classic you’ll likely enjoy this. “Empress” has a large amount of Accept influences in its riff and vocal approach, although the heavily present keyboards do make it distinct from their German traditional metal forefathers.

It is recommended that newcomers to Gamma Ray look into the first “Land of the Free” album and “Somewhere Out in Space” before buying this, but this is one of the best things to be released in 2007, which has proven to be a year of mostly moderately good albums by the power metal elites, save one or two gems from younger acts. I’d give a slight edge to Helloween’s “Gambling with the Devil” over this, but I recommend it very strongly to anyone who is a fan of fast melodic metal in the vain of Judas Priest and Accept.

Not bad at all, but far from awesome! - 75%

TheOnlyMAD, January 26th, 2008

Remember when Gamma Ray used to write awesome, original and catchy riffs? Well, that time is long gone... They always used to sound like some other bands, but with this album its even worst!

I've listenned to the album four times and right now I think its pretty good, but damn, I don't think I've ever heard an album with as much recycled and 'ripped off' riffs than this album... Some riffs sound exactly like some of Priest's, Helloween's and Maiden's riffs. There's even a part in one song that doesnt only sound exactly like the slow part in The Sentinel from Judas Priest, but that also has almost the same lyrics! Of course, some riffs are great, but most of the riffs sound recycled... A good exemple of a great riff is the intro riff from From The Ashes. Awesome riff clearly influenced by Maiden!

Anyway, the best song is probably Insurrection. This one's a bit original atleast. Ok, like in every song you can find a couple of unoriginal riffs, but the chorus is very catchy and is probably the best part of the entire album! I don't think there's any weak song on the album, but some songs like Leaving Hell sound pretty uninspired... The chorus from Leaving Hell is a typical power metal chorus and I think I've heard it atleast 20 times before... The other songs are all pretty good, but most of them are all very typical and sound like songs any power metal band could write... I guess the album would be a lot better if it wasnt a Gamma Ray album... I mean they used to write awesome original songs... Oh well...

I don't think I need to talk about the musicianship... If you know Gamma Ray then you already know that they are great musicians... Well, I guess I should mention that some of Richter's solos are really great! Some of his solos on this album are filled with fast tapping techniques and simply sound great.

If you forget how unoriginal the album is, I guess its pretty catchy and pretty nice to listen to...

Overall, a pretty good album, but far from awesome... I'm being pretty nice because I usually can't fucking stand unoriginality!

I don't want to sound negative, but honestly, I don't think Gamma Ray's next albums are gonna be very good... Their last 3 albums (including this one) all have been pretty unorignal and uninspired... Not bad, but just nothing special... No World Order and Majestic were filled with Priest's riffs and this album is filled with Maiden's riffs and etc...

Anyway, here's a list of some of the 'ripped off' parts I noticed:

-'To Mother Earth' at 0:36 and 'How Many Tears' from Helloween at 0:47.

-'When The World' at 2:23 and 'The Longest Day' from Iron Maiden at 1:33.

-'When The World' again at 0:00 and 'Flash Of The Blade' from Iron Maiden at 0:00. Ok, its not really similar, but it starts exactly the same way with the same exact drumming and etc... and even the first verse starts a bit in a similar way!

-'When The World' AGAIN at 4:40 and 'The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner' from Iron Maiden at 3:25.

-'Opportunity' at 3:32 and 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner' from Iron Maiden at 7:41.

-'Opportunity' again at 4:19 and The Clairvoyant from Iron Maiden at 0:38 (That's the most obvious one).

-'Insurrection' at 0:19 and 'Out Of The Shadows' from Iron Maiden at 0:46.

-'Insurrection' again at 0:50 and 'Second Love' from Pain Of Salvation at 0:44.

-'Insurrection' again at 7:03 and 'Exciter' from Judas Priest at 3:36.

-'Insurrection' again at 1:15 and some part from a Gamma Ray song I can't remember for now, but I'm sure about it.

-'Empress' at 3:42 and 'Balls To The Wall' from Accept at 3:28.

-The beginning of 'Real World' and the beginning of 'I Want Out' from Helloween are structurally similar.

-'Real World' at 4:15 and 'The Sentinel' from Judas Priest at 3:11. (Musically and lyrically)

If those parts were removed from the songs, I think I would rate the album 10% higher, but what can I do? I guess Kai wanted to give tribute to Maiden and Priest because some riffs sound just way too similar to some of Maiden's and Priest's riffs to be coincidences.

Are they even trying anymore? - 61%

Empyreal, January 18th, 2008

Ah, Gamma Ray; one of the founding fathers of the Power Metal genre as it is today. They've been around for going on 20 years and have put out a solid line of classic albums, and they've put out quality material through several crippling waves of MTV trends - a commendable feat indeed. In 2005, they put out Majestic, which was a noticeable step down from their excellent No World Order album, but it still had some quality songs and an overall domineering sense of Power Metal mastery shining through the mediocrity of some of the stuff on it, and now we have Land of the Free II in our hands...

So what is the verdict on this one, you ask? Sadly, this is yet another nail in Gamma Ray's coffin, and I think it's time we ask ourselves how much longer Kai and his motley crue can keep up the charade. They've been doing this a long time, and it should've been expected that they'd start to lose that youthful flare that made their earlier albums so great, and that seems to be happening here, whether we like it or not.

But I won't get ahead of myself yet. The biggest problem on this disc is that it's just not very inspired. Yes, all of the pieces are in place for this to be an excellent album - Kai's trademark wailing, the punchy, speedy riffage, the Power Metal soloing, and the double bass frenzy from the drum kit - but it's just lacking, and it's a grueling chore to listen to from start to finish. Aside from the closing epic "Insurrection," the songs on this disc are fairly typical Power Metal fare, and that is all we ask for from this band anyway, but where's the fire? Where's that charismatic spark of personality that was so present on the stomping metal maelstrom that was No World Order and the epic landmark Somewhere Out in Space? There are no truly bad songs here, but I'd be lying if I said that Gamma Ray were not just going through the motions here. Fuck, a lot of the time here Gamma Ray is doing little more then riding on the coat-tails of bands they influenced themselves!

It's not all uninspired dreck though, as there aren't any truly bad songs here; just bland ones. "To Mother Earth" is a volleying display of Power Metal goodness, and although it'd be a B-side on any of the better Gamma Ray albums, it's still a fun listen and is catchy as Hell to boot. "Opportunity" and "Real World" are quality songs as well, almost up to par with what I expect from Gamma Ray, with heavier and more challenging arrangements and catchier choruses. "Insurrection" is the closer, and Kai has obviously worked harder on this track than on the rest of the stuff here. It's an 11 minute epic, and while not quite as good as epics in years past from the band, it delivers and is generally the best song here - choirs, balls-to-the-wall riffage, soaring leads, epic arrangements and all.

Gamma Ray's light may be burning out, and they may not have too many more albums left in them, but they've left a legacy behind, and if this is their last album, then at least they went out with their dignity intact. I can think of many worse ways to go downhill then simply becoming weaker and uninspired. This isn't exactly a quality album through and through, but if you're a Gamma Ray fanboy, you will likely find something of interest here. Otherwise, you can avoid this one.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

Freedom Still Rules - 91%

GuntherTheUndying, January 5th, 2008

It seemed continuing a concept album by writing another record that had common poetic themes to the original release was an impending disaster for many metal bands trying to tick off their fans. Mistakes like Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime II” stripped away important qualities of prototypical divisions until dignity lied in ruins; it was essentially loaded all with bark and not any bite. Yet in irritation’s awakening comes Gamma Ray’s proper descendant to their highest achievement in which another chapter was written flawlessly: “Land of the Free II.” Kai Hansen and crew made this effort enjoyable by simply following Gamma Ray’s natural distinctiveness without attempting to rewrite the band’s magnum opus, which results in what sequels should represent. Don’t harbor worry for “Land of the Free II,” because these power metal legends once again punch out expected standards and rise above with such a brilliant display of jubilant heaviness.

Gamma Ray vented into multiple semi-experimental directions with discs like “No World Order,” yet that chirpy power metal vibe found on the band’s earlier material is finally tapped again here after years of absence. Hansen and Henjo Richter portray cunning speed riffs and solos pumped with more speed, technicality, and charisma than the longtime duo has ever offered, even after years of doing so. Paralleling this rapid approach is Dan Zimmermann’s blitzing percussion along with a keyboard attack that guards the instrumental background to avoid becoming a conquering figure; it stays at higher altitudes for effects, not dominance. The musical atmosphere is very upbeat, energetic, and chorus-orientated without floating into repetitive waves or redundant rocks, and such a distinct cry paves mighty formations only Gamma Ray could produce. They might have gone insane when using Iron Maiden riffs that boarder on plagiarism, but it’ll be like chasing spirits if you begin hunting for other negatives.

Technically speaking, there is a faster montage present on each member’s behalf, which leaves room for bolting speed throughout this record’s duration. Hansen once again parades around another flawless vocal show of high-flying singing and wonderful pitch control that tastefully melts in with the rapid madness. Still, the whole CD just has bold qualities within and around every tune without any dead weight or failing additions. It all rules, but “Insurrection” comes away with top-honors as it really exposes that ballsy might of “Rebellion in Dreamland” by expelling multiple musical arrangements filled with thirteen minutes of puncturing riffs and Kai’s beefy voice; it’s bound to be a classic amongst Gamma Ray fans. Best conceptual sequel ever? Quite possibly, yes.

Born again is the masterful ideology of energetic power metal found on “Land of the Free,” and revisiting their roots so nicely makes this conceptual epic Gamma Ray’s best album since revolution’s soundtrack in 1995. Forging a second edition of a respected CD was rather risky as an entire legacy was on the line, but these Germans proved coming full-circle can always have its rewards if done right. Obviously, “Land of the Free II” looks somewhat lacking in comparison to its previous installment’s absolute potency, but that doesn’t stop Gamma Ray’s ninth full-length record from earning a coat of golden caliber that shines with valorous might. Isn’t freedom beautiful?

LotF - Lots Of Tragic Fail - 30%

Darth_Roxor, November 16th, 2007

At the start, I would like to point out that I had high expectations for this album, because Gamma Ray is one of the very few bands that still play the "by book" version of power metal, combining speed, melody and ass-kicking in a perfect way and still manage to sound like they haven't lost their genitals in Vietnam.

Unfortunately, it would seem that with Land of the Free II, Gamma Ray hit the dirt. The sad truth is, that the band managed to produce an LP that is very, very, very weak, boring and uninspired. Have you already got used to catchy, melodic but yet sometimes quite aggressive songs accompanied by Hansen's widely scaled vocals such as Eagle or Heavy Metal Universe? Alas, on this album you won't hear any such a song and this is the first (but not the biggest) flaw of the CD. Among the 12 tracks you won't find anything absolutely outstanding, no masterpieces, everything is just plain... boring. I don't think I noticed my foot moving up-and-down to the tempo a single time.

However, the greatest problem of LotF2 is the fact, that it recycles really many riffs from previous albums and there are some rip-offs. For example, listen to the track "Empress" (especially the part starting at 3:30) and then try Dark Lunacy - Forlorn or launch "Opportunity" and then Iron Maiden - The Clairvoyant - I think the similarities are just obvious. Also, while listening to the album you have that weird "deja-vu" feeling nearly all the time and you start thinking "I think I heard that riff before...", because there are LOTS of riffs that were once used. In one track (unfortunately I can't quite remember in which one though) I am sure I heard the riff from Damn the Machine.

Another negative point are Hansen's vocals. Maybe he is getting old or he has had a very nasty lung disease during the production but his vocals are just dull. On all previous albums, Kai's vocals were largely varied, from very high to raw and he managed to shift between them spontainously. Here however, he doesn't achieve the higher scales, nor does he even have any variety in the singing! I might even say that his singing is totally stripped of any passion or emotion that we all know and like.

The only song that has some potential is Insurrection, I even enjoyed some of its parts (and it's the only thing that keeps me from giving a score lower than 30) but the other songs sound almost all the same, not to mention that they don't have the catchy and powerful choruses like in "Fire Below" or "Anywhere in the Galaxy". All the choruses sound just bland and are somewhat... well, non-manly to put it this way.

To sum up, this is the worst album Gamma Ray has ever produced. I just hope that it's a momentary crisis and it's the last disappointment from these talented musicians. If you are new to Gamma Ray - Get Powerplant or No World Order. If you're an old fan - do yourself a favour and avoid this abomination at all cost.

Album of the year! - 99%

MasterRocking, November 7th, 2007

Well, I’m sure that when many of us heard that Gamma Ray would release “Land of the Free II” we all thought the same thing… oh shit, they’re going to fuck this up worse than “Operation: Mindcrime II”! Well, shame on me for not having faith in a band as totally awesome as Gamma Ray. If I had simply remembered that one of Kai Hansen’s pinky fingers holds more musical talent in it than that of the current combined lineup of Queensrÿche… well, then I wouldn’t have been so worried. Rejoice, for Gamma Ray has delivered the goods! This is the album of the year, closely followed by Helloween’s superbly solid and totally awesome “Gambling with the Devil”.

First of all, does the album actually sound like “Land of the Free”? Yes it does. Regardless of whether or not the album is good it would be rather silly if was a sequel to “Land of the Free” but sounded nothing like it. I don’t know if everyone would agree with me but I really think that each Gamma Ray album has a totally different sound to the others (I’m talking song writing here, not production… although whilst on that topic the production on this Gamma Ray album is good as always). Of course there are similarities between all the albums like with any band but if you know what I’m talking about then the point I’m trying to make is that this album sounds a lot like its predecessor.

What we have here is an extremely consistent album, more so than “No World Order” and “Powerplant”… and sorry if that opinion pisses people off since everyone seems to love “Powerplant”! I like the album a lot too but it’s got some really annoying songs on there and the same thing goes for “No World Order” in my opinion!

Without going into too much detail or describing every song I’ll say that each song on the album totally rules. We have the simple but effective “Into the Storm” with totally fucking awesome shred solos. “From the Ashes” is just absolute typical Gamma Ray and totally awesome. “Rain”… where the fuck is my superman outfit? That does it for me. Kai Hansen can sing anything and make it sound awesome! “Empress” might get shit from some fans for its ‘weird’ chorus. Well, whatever, I thought it kicked ass like the whole song and sounded very haunting. “Real World”, Jesus H. Christ this song rules so much! Slower tempo and it’s the kind of song that a stadium should be moshing and singing along too… and combine that with lyrical mastery:

God is an illusion and there ain't no paradise
and there is no underworld below
Out there is no Heaven and there ain't no Antichrist
Welcome to the real World
and the show!

“Insurrection”… sorry, this song is not as good as “Rebellion in Dreamland”. But hey, it’s hard to make a song better than the best song ever, right? Nevertheless, don’t be too disappointed that this song doesn’t beat another song… be happy that this song fucking rules! A near 12 minute Gamma Ray epic… need I say more? While on the subject of comparing this album to “Land of the Free” part 1, I’ll say the original gets 100% and it was slightly better than this, so 99% for part 2.

Outstanding song writing, awesome lyrics, shred-tastic guitar solos and insanely good Zimmermann drumming… all as usual. Gamma Ray is truly a band that can do very little wrong in my opinion… even when they had Scheepers if you can believe that! If you’re a long time fan then we all know you’re already going to buy this album and you’ll be glad you did. If you’re a first time listener then buy “Land of the Free” and “Land of the Free II”… and buy the rest of their albums too if you want insanely awesome German power metal! “Land of the Free II”, 65 minutes of power metal bliss.