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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.