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I ignored this album for the longest time for so many years for reasons. Some valid, some dumb. Kai was beginning to fall into his pattern of ripping off classic bands and not realizing it and that was a tainting for some. Well, I feel like the biggest fucking idiot for ignoring it for 10 years because this is the best thing they've made since Somewhere Out In Space!
Let's get this out of the way right now. That main riff to Blood Religion is Queen's Tie Your Mother Down. Somebody really should have pulled Kai aside and told him this, because its not as though its a deep cut from Hot Space that no one remembers, its one of Queen's well known rock staples (it seemed to be played every goddamn time on the Vh1 metal hour). I will give it this though, there is a little bit of a difference in groove execution. Tie Your Mother Down is of course that kickass party shuffle swagger that Queen pull off so well (well let's be real here, they pull off EVERYTHING WELL), whereas Blood Religion is slightly slower and has more of that spike through the head death march. And to Gamma Ray's credit, its not as though they start off with that riff and it does go through a few time changes that DO have original riffs (at least as far as I know they do). But yea, shenanigans like this is why Kai got a bit of a rep for ripping off the classics in later years (To The Metal Gods anyone). And yes there's also that vocal bridge in My Temple which bears a striking resemblance to the legendary vocal bridge of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. In Kai's defense, he has admitted this similarity in an interview that it was an accident (which again reaffirms my belief that they need a riff encyclopedia-ist (is that a word? it shouldn't be) on hand to make sure they aren't lifting anything. To be fair, every metal band should probably have that these days. 40 plus years and with only so many notes on the guitar neck and so many ways to execute them, unintentional duplications are bound to occur. Anyways, it is for these reasons that despite my ranting and raving about how amazing this album is, it doesn't go above 90.
Creeping "influences" aside, did you like Land of The Free? Did you like No World Order? Did ya like the two albums in between? You'll like this. All the claims that they got too "experimental" on this album are complete rubbish. If anything, they step outside the boundaries about the same amount as they did on the previous 4 albums. The biggest point of contention seems to be Condemned To Hell with its de-tuned, nu-metal intro. But there's nothing to really worry about as the song only rides that groove for about 8 measures or so before kicking into typical Gamma Ray speed and mannerisms. Plus, Kai Hansen quotes Duke Nukem! Ain't nothing wrong with that!
How Long is another weird case. At a cursory glance, one might consider this song to be a total failure. The opening riff sounds like somebody noodling around on a piano for the first time, like maybe its missing a scale note or something. But then the keyboard kicks in, then the drums and harmonies kick in. A minute or so later we get HOW CAN WE GO ON FROM HERE IF WE DON'T STOP THE WAR? The outro chorus with Kai singing STOP THE WAR over the top is the piece de resistance. Any other band would have fumbled the ball horribly here, and I'm not going to say Gamma Ray can turn every piece of shit into gold, but goddammit, they make this thing work, and I'm a little annoyed its not a hit in their catalog. I can see how people can hate this song, but as a personal preference, I think this should have been pitched to the American market as a single. Why not? Stranger things have happened (and dumber riffs have become more successful).
As for the rest? See the questioning sentences two paragraphs above. This is Gamma Ray continuing to fight the war against a refusing-to-fucking-die-already-you-posers Slipknot, Dimmu Borgir, metalcore suckery and the laughable NWOAHM Pantera knockoffs. There are some complaints that maybe it wasn't worth the four year wait. My response to that is they were doing a fucking tour and live album with a setlist consisting of fan voted rarities! Learn to develop patience, young asshopper.
Sometimes, a short introduction at the start of an album can give the listener a chance to leave behind the cares of their everyday life and slowly relax into the music before the real songs begin and they have to concentrate. However, having already made their fans wait 4 years since the peerless 'No World Order', Gamma Ray decided that they were not going to waste even a second in getting 'Majestic' started, ripping into life with the utter chaos of 'My Temple', the speed metal introduction of which is one of the most invigorating openings to any album I know.
That point made, Gamma Ray proceed to do what they do best, and that is craft catchy, anthemic songs that should make it difficult to sit still when they really start to cook. There is a similar balance to the music that appeared on the preceding album, with some out-and-out speed metal parts, plenty of lead-infused power metal, and then a few more basic rocking tunes. The big difference as far as I can tell is that 'Majestic' has a much bolder speed influence that really looks to Running Wild and Agent Steel instead of Helloween, meaning that the riffs of 'Hell Is Thy Home' bolt away from the power metal vocals with rapid precision, lending an unpredictable edge to the combination. Added to that, the sonic palette is rather wider than it had been in the past, including some groove stylings (almost nu metal on 'Condemned to Hell') and epic touches that allow 'Blood Religion' and the title track to evolve in their own directions.
Something here that sets Gamma Ray apart from most other bands - as well as 'Majestic' from other Gamma Ray albums - is the overriding sense of nuance and reference that keeps the songs not only unpredictable but actually layered, so that there are moments that work on several levels. In the first place, there are a lot of small touches packed into the compositions - licks, breakdowns, change-ups, added verses - that make most of the songs feel very full, though since the majority of the album is going by at quite a lick it's difficult to notice all of them at first. Added to that, those broader influences give a more densely packed experience, since the same song tends to include parts from different sources and some end up more complicated than one could possibly imagine.
Secondly, there's something else that is very weird for a band as experienced as Gamma Ray, and that's references. It's understandable that Kai Hansen still fucking loves Iron Maiden, but he pinches a melody for about 20 seconds at the end of 'Strange World' (remember that song title from anywhere?) that totally comes from the 'Somewhere in Time' album, though I'm forgetting what song right now. The opening to 'Blood Religion' also borrows heavily from 'Hallowed Be Thy Name', plus the chorus line in the same song that goes "Screaming for blood...Blood red vengeance", which almost, almost makes you go looking for a certain Judas Priest album. Then the bass introduction to 'Majestic' has a certain 'Hand of Doom' feel to it, although the majority of the song is packed with epic keyboards, huge vocals, and plundering riffs. Just to make sure you know it's all deliberate, you listen to the album again and on 'My Temple' hear the "Waiting for tomorrow" verse and start thinking of Black Sabbath again: you dismiss it as only coincidence, but when it comes back it has a much slower riff with it and appears in the line "Waiting for tomorrow, the saviour never comes / To save us from the future, the world has come undone" and your mind leaps immediately to the 'Paranoid' album. I can only assume this was something that Kai et al decided to include for fun, since those moments are very memorable and intriguing, yet they are such obvious steals that even the newest metal fan would notice the familiarity. The most humorous one for me is the band stealing their own theme from 'The Winged Horse' for the introduction of 'Revelation'.
As such, it would seem as though after the unbeatable 'No World Order' the band changed their approach. It would have been very difficult to top the brilliance of ideas and songwriting from that album, so the four Germans opted to adjust the genre settings and make a more capacious album that picks the best parts from metal's past instead of continuing to forge ahead and make another benchmark for power metal. Most of the songs on here are completely excellent, with great choices for riffs, melodies, and solos, plus a dense feeling of drama. The best are the two openers, the title track, 'Spiritual Dictator', and the exuberant 'Blood Religion', while only 'How Long' seems generic or dull, and 'Condemned to Hell' takes a risk with the groovy riffing that doesn't totally come off. Probably the best way to avoid a disappointment, 'Majestic' delivers some of what one would expect and a lot of what one doesn't, maintaining Gamma Ray's great streak of creativity and quality that characterized the middle period of their output.
Kai Hansen and mates continue to express their hate and anguish which were caused by the New World Order. Kai continues the lyrical topic started on Helloween's Walls Of Jericho aeons ago, a topic which was present in past Gamma Ray's releases, but that was the main topic of the No World Order and this release. This is one in a row of bad-ass studio albums by this perfect band. I have heard of Gamma Ray when I seriously got into heavy metal music, but I never paid enough attention to them. After few years, after some serious listens for short time I became addicted to this band, and they became one of my top favorite bands from heavy metal music. This release is somehow much more unique comparing to other studio albums, 'cause it combines passion and aggression with a bit darker tone.
My Temple, Fight, Hell Is Thy Home, Spiritual Dictator and Hellfire are examples of excellent fast songs. They just know how to make kick-ass songs made of fast, blazing, heavy riffs, enjoyable rhythm, tempo and ambient of the songs, excellent lyrics with deep meaning, powerful refrains where these songs slow down and excellent sung parts. Maybe it sounds like a weak pattern, or easy formula, but they always know how to surprise, and they posses huge amount of creativity, so their songs don't sound the same, nor much similar. They know where to slow down, how often should they do that, they find a way to make slower parts, almost you can't notice the tempo change. These are small, but precious progressions. Some might say that Hell Is Thy Home's intro sounds like Judas Priest's Leather Rebel. Well, if you listen to Helloween's Victim Of Fate which is done by the same person - Kai Hansen in 1985, then it's obvious who stole what. Kai made few changes, instead of water splash in the beginning or something like that, from Victim Of Fate, he put crack in Hell Is Thy Home, and then starts similar blazing guitar riff.
Excellent, but slower songs are Blood Religion, Condemned To Hell and Majesty. Slower doesn't mean less interesting, these songs prove that. Blood Religion is a massive, very complex and progressive song. Clean guitars in the beginning and soft singing followed by cymbals, then come distorted guitars with monster heavy riffs, lots of rhythm changes, mind-blowing refrains, slow tempo with mysterious chants before the guitar solo, suddenly starts fast tempo, and one of the best guitar solos, or the best guitar solo ever starts. Also, Condemned To Hell starts with killer rhythm, the sexy mix made of tasty bass guitar lines, drums follow the same rhythm, and squealing guitars appear, and what else do you expect? Killer rhythm, some faster parts come, excellent lyrics, excellent vocals, powerful refrains, tasty, technical guitar solos etc. Song Majesty has really dark ambient which comes from slower tempo with faster part before, during and after the guitar solo, doom metal riffs and powerful chorus. It's much different song than any other from this studio album because of its killer structure.
Weaker moments of this studio album are songs Strange World, How Long and Revelation. Strange World is not bad song, in fact it's very good. The main problem is because that song is complex and progressive, and that didn't work very well here. Slow part of the song which lasts first 2 minutes, before the guitar solo and in the end is what makes this song a bit boring. Between slow parts comes fast work which actually makes this song, and gives it insane amount of power. How Long is very good mid tempo song, with great lyrics with deep meaning, cool riffs and power chords, tasty keyboard melodies from to make better ambient, but the song lacks energy and refrain parts could have been better. Singing part is very unusual, it has kick-ass intonation, really interesting part. Henjo Richter tried to imitate Kai Hansen and make another kick-ass song about the end of the world, but this song doesn't come even close to Armageddon from Power Plant. Revelation is long and complex, but it has only great technical, fast and beautiful guitar solos and few great fast riffs.
Good sides of this release:
Gamma Ray prove that they are power metal elite, and this is another regular excellent studio album. Kai Hansen showed his excellent vocal ability, and did amazing guitar job with Henjo Richter, bassist Dirk Schlächter and drummer Dan Zimmermann made killer rhythm sections. This release has fast and slower songs, full of blazing, heavy, monster riffs, manly, soaring, high-pitched vocals, well-written lyrics with deep meaning, tasty, technical and fast guitar solos, enjoyable rhythms and ambient of the songs. Interesting thing is that they didn't make any ballad here.
Bad sides of this release:
Only weaker parts in Strange World and How Long. They are enjoyable anyway. Revelation is their really weak effort. Who cares, there are lots of other excellent songs.
My Temple, Fight, Hell Is Thy Home, Blood Religion, Condemned To Hell, Spiritual Dictator, Majesty and Hellfire.
Gamma Ray max out here. It took four years, but the finally created the ultimate power metal album. It’s not ‘perfect perfect’, but pretty much the top of the genre. Solid riffing, total speed, insane solos, ripping chorus’, and a solid length with no fillers. At first I thought there would be tons of fillers, but really each song is amazing in its own way. Some stand out better than others, and some just take a while to get used to.
While being on tour for four years, something must’ve pissed them all off in some way. They did make the best live album in history called “Skeletons In The Closet”, but other than that, all the creative energy built up. You can see almost every band member contributed to the songwriting. Henjo is finally allowed to shine too! Kai gave him the spotlight on the solo’s now. It seems to be a new formula that has emerged. Henjo does a fuck load of shredding, while Kai does the more melodic passages and the vocals. By now, it’s obvious Gamma Ray has the best voice tone any power metal has ever attained. Of course Lost Horizon is just as amazing... but something about Kai just sells itself to you. He was born with melodic veins.
My Temple is difficult to get used to at first. It starts off blazing and slows down into a mid rocker. Gamma Ray show dynamic in terms of song structure now, since most of the songs were either slow or fast only. With alternating speeds, one can enjoy the speed up’s and slow down’s more appropriately. This appears in many other songs, like Spiritual Dictator, Strange World (which is easily Razorblade Sigh Part II), and Blood Religion. Regardless of any song though, all the instruments come through clear as a bell. You can distinguish which cymbal Dan is hitting, what fret Dirk is using and what scale Kai/Henjo are soloing on. Nothing on this album collides with anything at all, which is a beauty in itself.
Some melodies that exist on these albums breathe new life into the band’s songs. By now, most people run out of steam. Look at all the bands that have been going for more than 10-20 years. Kai Hansen has been making songs since Walls Of Jericho in Helloween. That is a LONG TIME... and he manages to come out with majestic? Stunning to say the least. The vocal passages on songs like Strange World and Spiritual Dictator are uber catchy. The same formula is followed on How Long, but from a more *rocker* angle. I would almost say it is something you could find on Judas Priest’s Turbo album. Speaking of Priest, Hell Is Thy Home sounds very similar to Leather Rebel. It really isn’t, it just seems that way because the intro shreds off in the same direction; Dan follows Scott Travis’ fills too so it doesn’t look good on them.
Past huge songs have always been epic. By this I’m referring to Armageddon, Insurrection (LotF II), Shine On, and Heading For Tomorrow. The ending song Revelation is just as good. It doesn’t really follow in the same path and tends to end on a bit more of a drier note; though compensates perfectly with the general melody and rhythm that is driven forward by the band member. Symphonic instruments and vocals are utilized in an appropriate fashion, and the theme of hell is driven further. The entire album is based around hell... especially if you listen to the title song Majesty. There is no hook there; yet it is the most powerful song on the album.
Whoever wrote that has some nice satanic worshiping going on. This would easily...without a doubt... fit on ‘In The Nightside Eclipse’ by Emperor. Of course the vocals would have to be Ihsahn’d, but the lyrical content is totally early Emperor. Throw some tremolo’ing in fuzz it up, and you have a perfect song for them. Now of course, with Kai singing it... the worship thing feels weird, but damn! The imagery! Just listen to the lyrics... the solo complements it in an unorthodox way (he could have at least used a Phrygian scale or something darker) but all comes together to be one of the darkest songs Kai has ever written.
I can see why people all over the world sort of don’t cling to the album very much. Being a metal site it fits the mood perfectly. I’m not saying all metal is evil and satanic, but the execution of this album is on a whole other level. Most people outside of Metal Archives listen to Gamma Ray due to their positive energy. That energy is absent here, and is filled with mal-contempt and anger. I doubt the band itself was actually angry when they wrote this, but something negative was brewing. This album is how to channel that energy right, and has songs for everyone. This is the prime power metal album—and no I do not give it my highest rating because of the darkness. I give it the rating it deserves based on all the factors. No fillers, no boring moments, tons of perfectly done solos, and something in every song to keep you wanting more. This is genius. This is, majestic.
Oh, Hellfire sort of sucks. If it was not a bonus track I would have reduced the rating.
Once you think about Gamma Ray’s discography, there seems to be a lot of uncharacteristic experiments bouncing over Kai Hansen’s offspring: the galactic touches on “Somewhere out in Space,” or those semi-progressive tints coloring “Insanity And Genius.” However, during discussions about endeavoring onto uncharted territories, “Majestic” is an obtuse recording focusing on power metal’s sinister side, much like Helloween’s praised opus entitled “The Dark Ride.” Now setting aside the ironic similarities these two bands have shared, Gamma Ray’s eighth full-length finds them entwining much more aggression and duskiness than anyone could have ever thought, especially upon comparing similar efforts; it’s every power metal fan’s personal vortex into nocturnal shades.
Being stamped “dark” power metal can really have vague results, yet “Majestic” truly lives up to the label from the usual catchiness Gamma Ray has consistently buckled down alongside heavier guitars, mid-paced sections that crush your skull, technical musicianship, and lyrical matter typically treading into anti-religious/Hell-themed subjects. Most noticeably, the riffs seem to be not only faster when bringing up Gamma Ray, but much lower as well. Indeed, there is no denying speed riffs dominate nearly all portions of “Majestic,” as seen by rushing tunes like “Fight” or “Spiritual Dictator.” As for soloing, I can safely say this CD has some of the most chaotic leads I’ve ever experienced on a speed/power metal, which definitely summons a pair of thumbs way in the sky. Hell, one of the bridges on “Hell is Thy Home” sounds so intact with Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” that I actually thought Kai Hansen had cleaned the power metal idea for something heavier and faster; ironically, it’s what equated “Majestic.”
But for all you individuals expecting total difference on a musical perimeter, “Majestic” keeps Gamma Ray’s core intact much like their previous efforts alongside this different approach. Fellow buffs on the prowl for catchy choruses, epic solos, and upbeat tracks will shortly become full after feasting upon numerous instances in which such activity hovers around your earphones, keeping signature ammunition stuck in the clip. Especially towards the disc’s ending, positive notes pop out rather intelligently, kind of reverting back to Hansen’s original pattern for Gamma Ray, and that’s not even mentioning how fantastic all those songs are primordially. I mean we always have uppity tunes like “Fight” leading us back upon those Helloween-era attitudes, so where are all those complaints coming from? I only see an album that can truly appeal to a spectrum of persons, almost benefitting all metal fans regardless of taste.
And of course, Kai Hansen still does his mighty voice wonders throughout the multiple arrangements like changed never occurred. The well-aged vocalist has had his share of exercises involving that smoked-up larynx, but Helloween’s former singer accurately portrays great range across numbers both blistering and moderately paced; regardless of atmosphere, Hansen delivers impeccably. To better understand the vocal performance, one must analysis how experimental this album is for such a group, and there’s no doubting everything falls together like a confusing movie that unwraps toward its conclusion. He can maneuver during chirpy anthems like “Revelations,” or revolve intelligently when attacking “Blood Religion” and its down-toned grooves; there’s several faces shown here, and they connect too blissfully for our own good. That’s my Gamma Ray!
The majesty led by Kai Hansen continues to shine valorously around Gamma Ray’s blackened masterpiece in ways unbeknownst to a grand majority of power metal squads; it’s a savage and bloodthirsty record unlike anything you could ever picture. All ten epodes successfully please expectations in every instrumental spectrum, and the album’s direction drives it beyond typical slabs of predictable junk, making “Majestic” rather enjoyable. I’m flabbergasted by all the negativity Gamma Ray fans usually pour on this album for whatever reason, because at sunset, all I hear is fantastic heaviness laced in a stellar silk of darkness; that really all this blackheart could ask for. “Majestic” is, without question, a release of majestic proportions.
This review was written for: www.leviatan-magazine.com
Okay, maybe it's because I became a Gamma Ray fan less than a year before this came out, but I find this to be an album worthy of bearing then name. If I had been a fan for years and years before this, I could understand the kind of bittersweetness about the record, what with taking four years. It's not perfect, that's obvious, and it doesn't stack up to Somewhere out in Space or Powerplant, but can you really expect it to?
Majestic takes a.... different approach. It's hard to explain, but it seems heavier in a sense. Maybe darker would be a better word, but it's noticeably different in that sense from No World Order. My Temple and Condemned to Hell are doubtlessly heavier than Heaven or Hell or Fire Below from the previous album. What I think I'm trying to say is that there are more dark songs on this one, less of the optimism of Follow Me and more of the paranoia from Damn the Machine.
People say this album is uninspired, and I can see what they mean, but I just tend to disagree. Sure, I'll be the first to admit that 3:02 into My Temple they blatantly rip off Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, but that seems to be the only spot I can point out where originality would be a problem. Otherwise I believe that this is a top notch Gamma Ray record that deserves to be lumped in with the previous four.
Alright, the last two tracks suck pretty hard, How Long actually made me throw up once, no joke. It's a shitty 80's hard rock sounding arena song that just plods on and never gets cool. And this is also pretty much the only Gamma Ray songs in which the lyrics were actually cringe worthy (keep in mind I haven't heard any of the Scheepers material yet). Revelation... not much needs to be said. It's boring. It's not like the other epics.... Rebellion in Dreamland and Armageddon are genuinely interesting the entire way through (although the latter meanders a bit too much for it's own good). It wouldn't be too bad if it was either shortened or chopped into two different songs. It just doesn't have enough ideas to span eight minutes.
But the first half of the record is amazing, and is just as good as any of the other GR albums that preceded it. My Temple is a blazing fast number that will get stuck in your head, guaranteed, it's been proven by Harvard scientists. Strange World is annoying, as the beginning and end sound like newer Iron Maiden, something I abhor more than colon ulcers, but there is an extremely awesome power metal number in the middle (Here come the riiiders of the REEEVOLUTIOOOON!). Why couldn't the whole song be like that? Hell is thy Home is fast as fuck, as is the bonus track, Hellfire, which I am including simply because it is too badass not to mention. Both of them also have the trademarked Gamma Ray chorus. Anybody who's ever heard what could be considered a "good" Gamma Ray song knows exactly what the Gamma Ray chorus is. Kai Hansen just has a knack for writing exceptional choruses, even back in the Helloween days.
Blood Religion needs to be pointed out purely because of the oh so gruesome lyrics. Most people would never expect such graphic depictions of vampire violence coming from this band. "The priest has raised his hands up to the final execution / shouting out in agony 'fear the cross!' / I'm digging my claws into his neck raising him to the ceiling / gritting my teeth I smell the blood YOU ARE LOST"
Otherwise, most of the tracks are standard Gamma Ray fare, and I mean that in the most positive way I can. I can understand some of the negativity, but Majestic is just as good as No World Order, and some people need to realize that. I understand it all boils down to personal preference, but My Temple is one of those songs that is just too great for somebody to call mediocre, typical, or generic. Majestic earns a B, the main detractors being How Long and Revelation, which frankly suck a big fat cocksicle.
When metal bands first assemble and begin making music they generally do so with a lot of energy and vigor. Black Sabbath released an astounding six albums in six years, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden not far behind in their early years, and even among the post 80s Power Metal there is a general tendency to put an album out every 1 or 2 years. Often when bands get older they tend to put out material less frequently, and unfortunately the phenomenon of a maturing sound can often rob the band of its youthful spirit, not to mention that both original and good ideas can become scarcer.
Gamma Ray’s “Majestic” parallels Metallica’s Black Album in several areas, although thankfully not in the speed department. The songs sound processed, uninspired, and at times resemble filler, which is unheard of in the albums of a band of this caliber. Dan Zimmerman’s songwriting on here really fell flat, turning out a generic version of “Heaven or Hell” off the last album in “Condemned to Hell” and a forgettable Judas Priest homage in “Spiritual Dictator”. The chorus of the former is uninspired, as are the riffs, and the latter does not stick in the memory at all.
Other songs on here have some incredible moments, but then lose their way in a series of misplaced contrasting sections. “My Temple” starts out fast and furious, then dies down to a moderately fast groove and hardly picks up the pace again. The title track “Majesty” sounds like something off of Priest’s British Steel at times, but doesn’t have any great hooks for the listener to grab onto. “Hell is thy home” and “Strange World” are stronger, the latter having a memorable chorus, but they don’t make me want to get up and prance around like a kid with ADHD the way “Somewhere out in Space” and “Dethrone Tyranny” did. “How Long” is a bit down tempo, but catchy enough and ornamented with some tasteful keyboard work.
Although this album is substandard based on previous releases, there are some pearls in what is otherwise a barren oyster bed. “Fight” takes the crown in the speed department, featuring some solid blast beats, plenty of over-the-top soloing courtesy of song writer/lead guitarist Henjo Richter, and some up lifting lyrics that thankfully are devoid of the pseudo-political nonsense that Kai and Dan seem obsessed with on this album. “Revelation” is the long track for this release and features plenty of asymmetrical formal changes and virtuoso guitar work. The mystical theme in the lyrics is a bit more optimistic than other songs on here, and a bit more consistent in their general message. “Blood Religion” is the best track on this album, and stands tall amongst the rather sizable collection of past Gamma Ray classics. It mostly borrows from Accept’s “Balls to the Wall”, including a similar chorus chant section in the middle, but Kai’s vocal performance actually is even more insane than what Udo Dirkschneider would normally do.
To my fellow Gamma Ray fan boys, I can’t endorse this as strongly as I have previous works by the band, but it is not necessarily bad. I’m personally not impressed with the lyrical direction the band has taken here as it reminds me way too much of the nonsense that went on with “Sign no More”, which may be part of the reason why the music seems to be a bit neglected on here, as was the case on that release. Hopefully Kai has gotten all the angst out of his system, Dan will pull his eyes away from the all day news stations, and the band will spend less time on tour and more time creating more good music. Shop for this release at $8 or less, that is the approximate value of 3 classic songs and a couple of decent ones.
When Gamma Ray released No World Order in 2001, they started to fuse their own variation of power metal with the classic metal style played by metal juggernauts such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The sound they opted for met some mixed reactions from fans, but many agreed that the album was excellent, if a tad unoriginal. After releasing No World Order they went on tour, eventually coming out with their second live album, Skeletons in the Closet, but for whatever reason, the band had a lot of difficulty putting the album together, and the process lasted longer than it should have. Skeletons in the Closet was released in 2003, and after another year of touring, the band finally announced its eighth studio album, Majestic, which was to be released in October of 2005.
The music found on Majestic draws comparisons to No World Order. Again, the band fused power metal with classic metal and, again, the result is an excellent platter of metal. With Majestic, Gamma Ray put a lot of emphasis in melody and heaviness, and they don't waste any time getting started. The opening track, My Temple, is an excellent example of what you'll hear on the album. As you would expect from Kai Hansen and crew, the album's riffs and choruses are extremely catchy. No two riffs sound the same on Majestic and the album remains fresh for over 55 minutes. Majestic's production is top notch, making the riffs crisp and easy flowing. Some of Majestic's most impressive moments come from the riffs that make up each of the songs.
There are many factors that make up the success of Majestic. One of them is the band's performance. Each member performs to the very best of his ability throughout the entire album and rarely, if ever disappoints. Kai Hansen, the bands vocalist since Ralf Scheepers (now of Primal Fear fame) left before 1995’s Land of the Free, has a very strong showing on Majestic. Kai is a very talented vocalist who helps make the songs more enjoyable with his unique voice. Gamma Ray's singer is solid at all times throughout the album, with excellent showings on Revelation and Fight. Kai Hansen, along with Henjo Richter, makes up Gamma Ray's twin guitar attack. Each of them trade off appropriately placed solos throughout the album. Their skill as guitarists is well represented by Majestic's catchy leads and power metal anthems. Gamma Ray's heartbeat, Dirk Schlachter and Dan Zimmermann, provide the powerful support needed to back up the guitarists. Dirk's relentless bass is not overtaken by the guitars, but inside sticks out and holds up the song. Dan's drumming is excellent. His energetic drumming does not just keep the rhythm up, but also adds a thunderous presence to each of the songs.
Unlike Gamma Ray's previous albums, Majestic is more of a grower. When I first bought Majestic I wasn't really impressed with what I heard. But after repeated listens the album's true colours were shown. Save for maybe the album's opener, My Temple, Majestic has no overwhelmingly powerful standout tracks (i.e. Rebellion in Dreamland, Somewhere Out in Space, or Armageddon), but what's found on this album is still superb. Songs such as Strange World, Hell is Thy Home, and Blood Religion are great examples what the band is capable of. Everything a power metal fan could ask for can be heard on Majestic with the exception of a ballad. I've grown fond of Gamma Ray's ballads and I feel one of the weaker songs, How Long specifically, could have been ditched to make room.
It took the band four years, but Gamma Ray has finally released Majestic. The album's catchiness and keen sense of melody will be stuck in your mind for days. Majestic's crushing riffs stand out as some of the band's best in their discography and are very enjoyable. Majestic definitely deserves more attention than it's gotten, as it was one of the better power metal albums of 2005 and deserves a place in your music collection.
Originally written for Sputnikmusic
I was so excited about finally hearing a new Gamma Ray album after such a long wait since "No World Order". I just knew this would turn out to be my favorite album of 2005 even before I heard a single note. Thankfully I was able to purchase this one at my local Best Buy. From the opening track "My Temple" right up to the final abrupt conclusion of the epic "Revelation" I just love everything about this album. Gamma Ray will always be Gamma Ray and not alter their sound too drastically; but there was just something different about this release. As I listened to it I felt a haunting presence as if Kai was expressing his frustrations, anger, and rage. This just could not be true since Gamma Ray is often referred to as "Happy Metal" by other jealous musicians, who have not taken the time to remove Gamma Ray from the thousand contenders to the throne. I always enjoyed Gamma Ray's positive outlook in their lyrics; but this time something just felt different. I could not wait to put on my headphones and listen to the album with the lyric booklet in hand.
My friend had already played his copy several times and prepared me for the overall style; but, once again I really wanted to read the lyrics and see what Kai was alluding to with such vitreolic contempt. Just like their previous album, the music really demonstrated their influences from blatant Priest & Maiden then to Sabbath and Accept this time; so I loved each song from the initial listen, but when I read the dark brooding lyrics, at first glance, I must admit I was shocked. I thought that I had overcome my fixation on lyrical themes, but this was Gamma Ray saying, "Satan"; something Kai had not referred to since "Victim of Fate" with Helloween. So why the dark lyrics this time around? After several listens with the booklet on hand I finally understood the meaning behind each song and its overall concept, and realized that this time Henjo was the positive dreamer and Kai the bitter misanthrope; but that was alright by me because this time the music was angrier and more intense. Kai's spirit and mine were one again as I just felt in my heart what he was so vividly expressing.
My favorite song on this album by far is "Blood Religion", but I just love every song sincerely. At this time everyone was praising Helloween's new "Keys" release which I enjoyed but not as much as the new Gamma Ray. Once again ten years later Kai and company had succeeded in senders shivers of pure delight throughout my entire body for weeks to come. Once I placed the CD in my car stereo, my wife would not let me take it out for a month straight. I love metal, but some bands just get boring after the 15th listen, not the new Gamma Ray or Hibria for that matter; each new song is still written on my heart presently.