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With 1990's Heading for Tomorrow, Kai Hansen continued crafting the well liked power metal sound he had helped innovate. There was little change in the formula he used, and as a result, it sounded very similar to Helloween's Keeper albums. Gamma Ray had a successful tour after the album was released, and decided to stick around a little longer. In 1991, the same year Helloween recorded their first post-Hansen record, Gamma ray released their second effort, Sigh No More. The album was not exactly praised as much as Heading for Tomorrow, and today the jury seems to be out on the album. Some call it one of the band's best works, while others label it as boring and forgettable. In my opinion, it fits somewhere right in the middle.
In a way, Sigh No More was still alike Helloween's Keeper albums, and in a way, it grew to become different. While past elements are still present on the album, while listening to them, they feel stronger and more thought out. As should be expected in Kai Hansen's writing, there are plenty of melodic passages, where he and new guitarist, Dirk Schlachter, can impress listeners with creative and fun riffs that have become the standard of the band. Songs like Dream Healer show that the band can incorporate many changes to the music without making it sound sloppy or boring, as both songs effortlessly change from slower, lighter tracks, to powerful speed metal cuts, and back. In other songs such as, As Time Goes By and The Spirit, Gamma Ray takes a more straight forward attempt at power metal, and is very successful.
Unlike some of the past few records that Kai Hansen has been involved with, Sigh No More does not contain an epic like Halloween, Keeper of the Seven Keys, or Heading for Tomorrow. Instead, we have a more varied album, with more attention being placed on the rest of the album. Instead of one mega-epic, Gamma Ray has decided to craft shorter songs that add more depth to the album. Yes, Sigh No More feels more like a complete album than Heading for Tomorrow, and the listening experience is that much better. Another thing I liked about Sigh No More is the humor is a lot more subtle. Unlike Heading for Tomorrow, there are no "money-money-money-money-money-money" moments that ruin the song.
While vocalist Ralf Scheepers sounded great on the debut, on Sigh No More his singing is even better. His vocals give off less of a happy go lucky feeling than on Heading for Tomorrow, and the music feels a lot darker here, than it does on former cuts like Heaven Can Wait. Scheepers' sounds a lot more like Judas Priest vocalist, Rob Halford on this release. Be it his screams during the chorus of Dream Healer, or his cleaner singing style, he sounds almost dead on at times. Of course, this definitely affects Gamma Rays music. As Ralf sings with a lot of authority in his voice, which when combined with the aggressive vibe the guitars are showing, makes the bands sound very powerful. As Time Goes By is an excellent example of this quality, especially during the catchy chorus.
Though metal historians (if such people exist…) will not likely cite Gamma Ray's Sigh No More as a very important album, it certainly deserves your attention. The album takes Gamma Ray's established sound and gives it a harder edge, as seen in songs like (We Won't) Stop the War, or Dream Healer. Overall, Sigh No More is a more focused effort from the then German quintet. I'm not so sure how easy it is to find, so if you see it in stores, make sure you pick it up.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)