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Over the years that I have owned this single my perspective on its importance has shifted many times. At first I merely saw it as a collection of the 2 best songs from my favorite Gamma Ray album, as well as a couple of rather exceptional bonus perks, one of which led me to discover yet another amazing German power metal outfit in Iron Savior. However, since the huge resurgence of power metal throughout Europe and now, hopefully also in the States, my conclusion is that this was one of the major catalysts that helped spread awareness of the genre.
In the simplest terms, “Somewhere out in Space” was the perfect hybrid of the Kai Hansen ear of Helloween with high tempo madness and riffs galore to the Kiske era of melodically driven and majestic intrigue. If you can picture a “Walls of Jericho” speed track such as “Ride the Sky” with a greater keyboard presence, dense vocal harmonies, and a brief piano section then you can picture the intricate wonder of speed that is the title track of Gamma Ray’s 5th album. Likewise, if you can picture “I Want Out” injected with an epic feel, a more complex lead break section, and a fuller atmosphere then you can comprehend the genius at work on the title track of this single.
The Judas Priest cover is solid, which is to be expected from a group of musicians that spent their lives modeling their style after the one that Halford and company pioneered. The Iron Savior song “Watcher in the Sky”, by contrast, was something more unexpected for me. The version on here is mixed differently than the one found on the Somewhere Out In Space LP and has a slightly different ending, but both versions feature Piet Selick, who brings an interesting twist into the mix. Kai Hansen dominates most of the song, handling the verses and choruses alone on vocals, but during the break down between the two guitar solos the steroid injected twin of Peter Wagner lets loose a series of raunchy yet tuneful notes.
In retrospect, “Watcher in the Sky” was the perfect way to introduce Gamma Ray and Helloween fans to Iron Savior. I bought the first Iron Savior album expecting to hear a whole album of Kai Hansen and sometimes Piet Selick, but in actuality I got the mirror opposite, and it worked perfectly. Although a lower ranged and rougher style of singer, Piet Selick has a unique ability to harmonize his voice and was able to basically bark the hell out of the verses and still provide something extremely consonant for the choruses. Any fan of Gamma Ray who owns the Somewhere Out In Space LP or this single will no doubt either already know about Iron Savior or be curious as to what else they’ve done, and those fans would be well advised to check out all 6 of the albums put out under that name.
Some seeds were planted with this single, as well as the full length album that followed it. The significance of both that LP and the one before it “Land of the Free” can not be emphasized enough as they are heavily imitated today and stood almost alone at the time that they came out. If you have the SOIS full length, the cover of “Victim of Changes” and the cover art make it a worthy purchase for fans and completists alike. This single set into motion the most stable band line-up that Kai Hansen has been associated with, and 10 years later that same outfit is still pumping out great music, as is the case with the side-project that Kai helped get off the ground before leaving.