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MushroomStamp, January 27th, 2011

Wanting an endless supply of godly bands, we on this imperfect Earth have to suffice with great numbers of less than awe-inspiring albums to keep us entertained. However, there are times when almost all metal seems like irritating, imbecillic noise and only the very best handful stands out as enjoyable. When the thought of another hour of merely tolerable music is intolerable, there is yet a place for this double CD in my heart and mind.

Why this live album and not one of their hit albums from 1995-98? Well, here you have in one package many standout songs from that era and an abundance of their best moments from other albums – Land of the Free II does not suffer frequent listening in its entirety, but the band had the sense to feature the excellent sing-along Real World on this live collection. Similarly, while No World Order from 2001 leaves me yawning, The Heart of the Unicorn and New World Order are very good picks here. And then there is that expected cavalcade of Somewhere Out In Space – Land of the Free – Rebellion in Dreamland etc. etc. Fans of the Scheepers era might be disappointed, but there are a couple of songs for them as well. Considering the band’s extensive discography, the track listing is phenomenally well balanced.

The band performs with passion and integrity. While retaining reasonable precision (the backbone courtesy of Mr. Atomic Clock Zimmermann), the members seem to be having fun, especially evidenced by Hansen’s furious “FUCK YEAAAH! AWESOME!” ad lib ending to Send Me A Sign. Far from a lifeless replica of album versions, the live set is vibrant and energetic and, as a welcome bonus, Henjo presents many guitar fills and “lead riffs” that have either been buried in album mixes or not in the originals at all. Some examples to point out would be from Land of the Free: Man on a Mission and the title track are ever more glorious as the two-guitar arrangement is given adequate attention. Unfortunately, the bass is far too low in the mix, which weakens the overall sound a notch and hides the potential of Mr. Schlächter.

That complaint aside, this is a fierce, fiery live album, recommended for just about any moment in life. I cannot stop loving the energy here – this has actually grown to be my favourite Gamma Ray. Take a look at the DVD version as well.