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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?