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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