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Upon listening to this, I was astounded at how fucking awesome it is. However, something didn't seem right... until a few minutes later, when I realized what it is. I wasn't listening to Gamma Ray -- Powerplant, I was listening to Iron Maiden -- Powerslave. I was listening to Manowar -- Louder Than Hell. I was listening to Judas Priest -- Painkiller. I was listening to Iron Savior. I was listening to Yngwie Malmsteen -- Marching Out. But I wasn't listening to Gamma Ray.
Sure, the Ray (and Kai Hansen by extension) have always been ones to wear their influences on their sleeves. But this is ridiculous. Several times I recognize riffs from other albums, sometimes I recognize riffs that have been changed around slightly, and other times it just sounds like the particular riff wouldn'tve been out of place on an album by one of the veterans mentioned above. Of course, there are several moments where it is original Gamma Ray, where Kai Hansen finds his voice. But those moments are fleeting. Somewhere Out In Space was way more original, with anthems that beg to be sung along to and riffs that are unmistakably Gamma Ray. But not on Powerplant.
That being said, this album rocks, with a flawless production (like usual) but even more cutting and heavy than usual. Kai's singing is improving from album to album, and on here, it gets to the professional level where a singer like Ralf Scheepers is unnecessary. As well, there are fast songs, epic songs, and slow songs, nice variety, and every song (except a couple) shines in its own way.
A few songs stand out in particular. One is Heavy Metal Universe, but not in a good way. Kai, your name is not Eric Adams, and you have no business writing and singing a song that is a blatant ripoff of "The Gods Made Heavy Metal" off of Manowar's Louder Than Hell. Kai's vocals do not suite the style at all, he should stick to power/speed, that's where his strength is. On a more positive note, Garden of the Sinner and Hand of Fate were clear winners, making my fist pierce the air whenever they came on. Epic, marching, and righteous, they mark a more serious, epic sound for Gamma Ray as opposed to the more flippant style of yesteryear. Short As Hell is a heavy metal song that works to Kai's advantage, relying on the darker, more evocational sound rather than the upfront ballsy sound of Heavy Metal Universe, which Kai's vocals sound totally out-of-place. The least he could've done would've been to have Eric guest sing on Heavy Metal Universe.
All in all, Powerplant is indeed a rewarding listen, and is done quite competently. However, I can't give as many points as I'd like to, because of the blatant artistic robbery. I liked Somewhere Out in Space and Land of the Free because Gamma Ray had an unmistakable sound on those, whereas here it's hard to distinguish Gamma Ray from their influences, not counting Kai's singing, which is easily recognizable. The bad news is that it never gets better, which is a shame, because this new sound is indeed more rewarding than their old sound. Too bad it's stolen.
In 1999 the genre of metal struck back from it’s apparent grave, introducing throngs of new bands to bring the speed and melody of Power Metal to a new generation. However, one of the greatest albums of the year came from Gamma Ray, who has been on the scene for quite some time now.
Powerplant is lauded as the greatest album of all time by some, and dismissed by others, but after listening to this album on and off for a few years I can’t agree with either viewpoint completely. There are truly some amazing songs on this album, and nothing strikes me as mediocre, but this album is definitely not spectacular enough to outshine “Land of the Free” or “Somewhere out in Space”.
The subject matter of the song has gone more in an apocalyptic and somewhat biblical direction, almost becoming preachy at times. Songs like “Garden of the Sinner”, “Short as hell”, and “Armageddon” all prognosticate doom and destruction for humanity. “Razorblade Sigh” and “Send me a sign” are more like descriptive storytelling sorts of songs. “Heavy Metal Universe” sounds lyrically like it could be off a Manowar CD, while many may be turned off by this, I don’t mind it.
Musically this album is a bit different than the last one. We see a lot more mid-tempo rockers such as “Razor Blade Sigh”, “Send me a sign” and “Heavy Metal Universe”. “Short as hell” sounds a lot like Enter Sandman, so much so that I thought it was a parody at first. “Gardens of the Sinner” and “Hand of Fate” are basically mini-epics with some rather abrupt changes.
But rest assured, there are some great fast tracks here. “Anywhere in the Galaxy” and “Strangers in the Night” are both rather simply structured cookers that sea slow intros, but little contrast once the speed starts. “Sad Wings of Destiny” is most going at warp speed. But varies a bit more, and carries a very complex set of change-ups reminiscent of “The Winged Horse” on the last album. But the greatest track of them all is “Armageddon” hands down. Basically Kai Hansen has written himself a mini-metal opera about 1 year before Tobias Sammet gave us Avantasia. Killer guitar solos, rapid tempo charges, and neurotic vocal gymnastics all come together into one solid classic.
P.S. - The covers of the Pet Shop Boys “It’s a sin” and Rainbow’s “Long Live Rock and Roll” are both excellent. The latter being a faithful tribute, the former being an innovative re-arrangement of an 80s new wave song.
Here is how the tracks break down scored wise:
Anywhere in the Galaxy - 9/10
Razorblade Sigh - 8/10
Send me a Sigh - 10/10
Strangers in the Night - 10/10
Garden of the Sinner - 9/10
Short as Hell - 8/10
It’s a Sin - 9/10
Heavy Metal Universe - 9/10
Sad Wings of Destiny - 10/10
Hand of Fate - 8/10
Armageddon - 10/10
Long Live Rock and Roll - 9/10
In conclusion, this is a great album, but it is not quite the magnum opus that everyone is making it out to be. Gamma Ray has been releasing consistently good material since 1995, and this album is obviously no exception. I recommend this album to Power Metal faithful everywhere, as this band is the standard by which others are measured in the genre.
Okay, so here's the story...it's the year of 1999 and Gamma Ray has a history of releasing awesome records. Yours truly knew that and went out and bought their new release 'Powerplant'. So far so good. Yours truly put on the CD and was surprised by the awesome opener 'Anywhere In The Galaxy', a great and energizing song. That was promising for the entire album! After that came the track 'Razorblade Sigh', an okay track, but "okay" is not what I'm used to with Gamma Ray, Kai's vocals are also terribly out of tune at some parts of this song, but that happens more often, so I just ignored that, as well as the incredibly stupid lyrics and waited for the next couple of songs. It seemed like that waiting was worth while; 'Send Me A Sign' is easily one of the best Gamma Ray songs even and the following tracks 'Strangers In The Night' and 'Gardens Of The Sinner' are actually very decent too. The hope for the rest of the album was good.
Oof! Painful penalty there! 'Short As Hell' is a weird track, sounds like Kiss is playing this: stupid lyrics and a way too simple composition. That intro riff is repeated way too long. A pretty bad track. The following Pet Shop Boys-cover 'It's A Sin' is acceptable, in fact it's a lot better than the original (not that that is hard, but that's beside the point).
But then...'Heavy Metal Universe'...Kai...what the hell has gotten into you by making such a boring and stupid Manowar-ish track? Joey DeMaio is laughing at you! And that's pretty bad! The music is boring and predictable and the lyrics...well...sorry Kai, but..."Heavy Metal is the only one"??? "Heavy Metal is our promised land"??? My God! Please write about outer space again, that's getting predictable too, but at least that's a lot better than this...This song works pretty well live, but on the album, it's nothing but a filler, skip it!
'Wings Of Destiny' is a cliché Power Metal track with an awful chorus which doesn't fit with the rest of the song and am I the only one who hears Slayer's 'Dissident Aggressor' in 'Hand Of Fate'? And what's up with the lyrics of that chorus?
Luckily the album is closed off in style with 'Armageddon'. Okay the lyrics to this song are pretty cliché too, but the music is really awesome and actually very surprising too. That piano part near the end of the song is just brilliant and both Kai and Henjo play beautiful solos in this song.
Well, I'm sorry, but I still can't see why this is the favorite of so many Gamma Ray fans. 'Powerplant' is a boring and predictable album, with parts that sometimes sound unbelievably familiar, I'm quite sure many parts of the album are recycled from other Gamma Ray albums or albums from other bands. If you get their compilation 'Blast From The Past', you'll have the best three songs off the album. See if you can get 'Strangers In The Night' and 'Gardens Of The Sinner' somewhere from someone and you're done. What a piece of crap from a band which once released the wonderful 'Land Of The Free' album...
Whatever we may think of Kai Hansen and his apparantly jumbo-sized ego, there is no denying that he is a huge force in the metal world. Gamma Ray, his handmade band, has proven their worth, and although they sound suspiciously like Helloween, they have Good Things happening in this album.
Highlights here are many. The first track, Anywhere in the Galaxy, is the real high-speed masterpiece on the album and features a fantastic guitar solo from Mr. Hansen. Razorblade Sigh has some very great riffs, although does anybody else hear Number of the Beast in there besides me? The Pet Shop Boys cover, It's a Sin, is very well-done and adds a new dimension to the sound (though I suppose we have the Pet Shop Boys to thank for that, no?).
Powerplant is Speed/Power Metal to an extreme, and while that's good in many respects, it falls a bit into the trap that claims many Speed Metal bands: many songs sound the same, and the album blends together a little.
You'll notice I used the phrases 'a bit' and 'a little.' That would be because there are enough different songs in here to keep the album interesting, which is a great sign, although many of these songs are covers. Heavy Metal Universe might as well have Manowar stamped all over it, but it really fits in well and adds some variety to the album. Armageddon stands out here because it's so fucking fast that everything else sounds like a Barry White marathon in comparison. A While in Dreamland, one of the bonus tracks, is certainly different (it's a slow piano solo with Kai singing), but it's different in the fact that it's R&B and doesn't belong on the album. The real gem on here, though, is the bonus track Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, which is a Rainbow cover, thus officially establishing the fact that Rainbow's songs are so fucking good that other bands can improve the quality of their albums by 100% by simply making a cover of their shit. It's incredible.
Kai knows his music, and this is an excellent Speed/Power album. It's worth adding to the ol' collection, because it features a lot of good ass-kicking music and quite an assortment of covers. Fun for the whole family. Huzzah.
This is the definitive Gamma Ray album, simply because it starts to rock, and then never stops again. There is no filler - no silly ballads, no goofy interludes, it just totally owns you from beginning to end, refusing to let you go until it has turned you into a quivering mass of assorted carbonic byproducts.
Highlights. Oh dear, all of them. [insert song title here] is totally good speed metal. There is even a Pet Shop Boys cover, "It's a Sin", which is made so it totally doesn't stick out. "Heavy Metal Universe" is complete Manowar worship, complete with Gods-Made-Heavy-Metal bludgeon riff. "Wings of Destiny" has to be some kind of Judas Priest tribute (though not as overt as, say, "Solid" from the next album!) "Armageddon" closes the album and is an epic smashing number, with an amazing series of guitar solos.
In short, this album can do no wrong. A classic of German speed metal, almost as good as the legendary Walls of Jericho.