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Lousy Production, a few gems. - 47%

hells_unicorn, March 1st, 2008

There has been a good deal of chat amongst the casual/occasional Gamma Ray observer that this is an underrated album, to which I respond, if you listen to the other albums this band released you’d have a hard time continuing to hold this view. This is actually one of the most poorly produced power metal albums that I have every heard in my tenure as a fan. The drums are way too fucking loud for starters. I admit that Uli Kusch is an amazing drummer, but there is such a thing as having too much reverb on the percussion kit. The guitars are extremely thin sounding, and the bass is also a bit too loud. But in addition to the obvious problems with the production, there is also a good deal of trouble with the songwriting on here.

Suffice to say, Kai Hansen himself had stated that he planned on hanging it up after recording the music of the first Gamma Ray album, as he intended only to get the remaining songs of his early Helloween days out of his system. By a rather unsurprising twist of events (the debut album was very well done), Kai’s phone was ringing off the hook with requests for more of his unique brand of fast melodic metal. Unfortunately, Kai decided to overdo it on his second studio effort and ended up with a heap of almost completely unrelated songs that somehow are supposed to carry a theme of world unity and peace.

We have some solid power metal tracks on here that are obviously worthy of praise. “Rich and Famous” is a rather lyrically humorous and musically catchy rocker that bears a bit of similarity to the Helloween classic “I want out”. “As time goes by” is an amazing speed fest that features some of Ralf Scheepers’ most extravagant vocal acrobatics, as well as some solid guitar riffing. “One with the World” is also a solid metal anthem, although it is one of many tracks on here that suffers from an overloud drum presence. “Start Running” features some amazing bass work, and yet another set of inspired guitar riffs and some decent solos. “Dream Healer” is somewhat of an eastern influenced epic that has some very dramatic moments, although the vocal tracks tend to drown out the rest of the music at times.

The rest of the music on here is all over the place, as it seems that Kai Hansen and the others were intent on trying to create something progressive, and failed miserably in the process. “We won’t stop the war” has to be one of the goofiest sounding 80s rock songs I’ve ever heard, owing mostly to the cliché blues riffs and the thin guitar production. Hey Kai and Uwe, Aerosmith called and they want their B-side songs back. “Changes” meanders all over the place, not to mention having an extremely uninspired chorus that can’t really be separated from the verses. “Father and Son” features some quasi-inspired acoustic guitar wankery, but ultimately doesn’t go anywhere. Fortunately on subsequent releases Gamma Ray elected to leave the acoustic guitar driven Power ballads to more capable bands in that department such as Angra. “Countdown” is an utter bore fest that drags down the pace of the album between 2 of the better songs on here. And the grand finale “The Spirit” completely falls flat, in addition to having extremely corny lyrics, the boys of Gamma Ray decided to end the album with a slow fade out of a cheesy and completely generic chorus. You will take note that no Gamma Ray releases post Scheepers end this way, and for good reason to.

To prospective buyers, this is one Gamma Ray album that I am not particularly proud of owning, it was almost a complete waste of money. If you go for good music and can get past the production flaws, I could value this at perhaps $5. But for production savvy folks, I suggest either steering clear of this release and picking up Blast from the Past (which has most of the better songs on here completely re-recorded) or acquiring it for under $3 and utilizing the skip button often.