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The Insanity of King Kai Knows Its Boundaries - 82%

bayern, June 8th, 2017

I guess the world felt relieved when Kai Hansen announced his withdrawal from Helloween; I was a big fan of The Pumpkins all the way to the second “Keeper”, but when said album started smelling cheese and sleaze I knew something unsavoury this way was coming. The band were simply too unnaturally fixed upon the American market even more intently than Scorpions, Judas Priest, and Accept put together. A sad, really sad turn of events after such a strong first chapter…

Although reportedly the reason why Hansen split from his colleagues was the very busy touring schedule, I personally thought back then that he merely wanted to continue bashing the good old speed metal, and since this was no longer possible with Helloween moving away from it, he had to leave in order to embark on a new career and continue raising the flag of the old school. Consequently I, and I believe quite a few other metalheads around the world, were awaiting the Gamma Ray debut way more eagerly than The Pumpkins’ next instalment. However, “Heading for Tomorrow” wasn’t exactly the speed metal “beast” I was expecting, and it took quite a bit of time before I warmed up to it. Then the “Heaven Can Wait” EP followed which was a much better effort with more coherent musicianship, and things started looking a bit better, but only after one had managed to put his/her mind to rest that speed metal all the way for Mr. Hansen was a foregone conclusion.

1991 was an important year for both acts as they released their new works within mere months from each other. Since “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” was more or less an embarrassment (well, worse things were coming for Helloween, but still…), there wasn’t exactly a battle witnessed between the two as “Sigh no More” was a far superior offering. It was also way better than the too friendly and poppish debut as the guys now felt more confident producing a really fine collection of classic power/speed metal hymns. With the growing influence of the grunge/groovy/aggro movement apprehension rose in the air regarding any future showing on the field, but the album reviewed here was another really good affair for the Hansen team who was very lucky to have such an outstanding vocalist like Ralf Sheepers in his ranks. As the axeman wasn’t playing as flashily here as on the early Helloween opuses, Sheepers sometimes had to carry quite a bit on his shoulders always going away with more than just a few “laurels”.

“Tribute to the Past” is an excellent beginning for the “insane” saga, a prime speed metal anthem with soaring melodies, a superb catchy chorus, and more interesting progressive build-ups; a nice reminder of Helloween’s early exploits also bringing hopes for another fierce speed metal carnival. Well, the latter never takes place, but “No Return” is an awesome galloper keeping the hard-hitting guitars and the memorable choruses flying, also keeping the listener fairly entertained. When “The Last Before the Storm” follows a similar hyper-energetic pattern, one can’t help but think about Helloween’s roots over and over again, and Hansen has to find a way to pacify the audience if he isn’t ready for another high velocity showdown. And he does it with the 7-min heavy metal cut “The Cave Principle”, a much mellower piece than the opening trio, the guys moving at a sleepy rate even attempting something scarily groovy consequently dissipating all hopes for a full-blooded aggressive affair.

The roller-coaster goes on unperturbed afterwards, though, with “Future Madhouse”, a rousing speedster of the uplifting, optimistic variety with a few light-hearted additives. “Gamma Ray” slows down again, but remains an intriguing progressive opus despite the softer keyboard-ornated passages, and the somewhat modern-ish vibe and the commercial gimmicks. The title-track is an assured dark power metal cut with a bigger pace alternation and nice melodic undercurrents some of them coming from the keyboards again. “18 Years” is the obligatory ballad pulled by Sheepers with the requisite pathos and attachment before the man steps down for “Your Torn is Over” replaced by a guest singer named Dirk Schlächter on this sharp curt power metal piece which sees the guy providing a bit rusty hoarse timbre, much less melodic and more limited than Sheepers' siren. “Heal Me” is a really cool semi-ballad with Hansen himself practicing his vocal bravado this time, ruling the environment which becomes quite poignant at some point including on the memorable epic chorus. For the closing “Brothers” he gives the mike to Sheepers again who wraps it on with style although this epitaph is just a merry heavy rocker with great melodic leads.

This is a diverse, not very homogenous recording not far structure-wise from its predecessor, the band looking for the right ways to stay relevant on the flippant 90’s arena. Still, kudos should be paid them for staying firmly on old school ground for most of the time, not attempting anything unnecessarily adventurous, attitude that Hansen managed to retain for the future showings to a fairly positive effect. Sheepers had to go after this one, and I guess his departure had already been scheduled during those recordings hence Hansen’s return behind the mike towards the end. There can be no polemics as to who the better singer is, but I believe the guitar wizard wanted tighter control over the proceedings without too many egos interfering in the creative process.

With Andy Derris joining Helloween in the mid-90’s, things took a turn for the better in their camp, and Gamma Ray has... sorry, have had a distinct competition from The Pumpkins all these years. No complaints whatsoever; the music world can only benefit from healthy rivalry between insanity and genius both fractions fighting for domination amidst lethal X-rays and ghostly visitations, and not only on All Hallows’ Eve.

Nice reissue but average album - 75%

kluseba, July 26th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, 2CD, earMUSIC

Insanity and Genius is Gamma Ray's last studio release with Ralf Scheepers on vocals and the third studio effort in the series of re-issued records to celebrate twenty-five years of heavy metal from Hamburg. The entire back catalogue of the band was supposed to be released within a year but it took nearly a year between the first reissue and this one which is regrettable. Let's hope that the next reissues will be released much quicker.

As always, this reissue includes a few new nice gimmicks. The cover artwork is much better than the ordinary original. The booklet features extensive liner notes, a few nice pictures and lyrics for all new songs on this release. The first disc includes the original album in a nicely remastered version while the second disc comes around with eight rare or previously unreleased tunes. The brand new live in studio recordings with the new line-up are quite energizing. The extended version of the song "Gamma Ray" is better than the edited version on the original studio album. The demo recordings with Ralf Scheepers have a powerful vibe and prove what a gifted and underrated singer he is. The cover of Judas Priest's "Exciter" shows that Ralf Scheepers was much inspired by Rob Halford. It's no coincidence that the first three Gamma Ray records have a more traditional heavy metal vibe while the other albums are generally inspired by European power metal.

While the second disc is diversified, dynamic and interesting to listen to, the original record is only of a good average quality at best. The album is solid and has a coherent and powerful heavy metal vibe but the big hits, experiments or emotions are somewhat missing. There are neither killers nor fillers on this record and I would only recommend this release to faithful collectors of everything Gamma Ray has released and to fans of heavy metal in the key of Judas Priest in the eighties. Tracks like the straight opener "Tribute to the Past" or the powerful "Last Before the Storm" are among Gamma Ray's heavier tunes but also somewhat exchangeable and don't really offer creative song writing. Tracks like "No Return" or "Brothers" sound like pale copies of songs from Gamma Ray's first two studio efforts. In general, this stagnating album is lacking creativity and mostly saved by its energizing heavy metal spirit and an excellent performance by vocalist Ralf Scheepers. Among the more interesting tunes, one should note the slower and slightly psychedelic "The Cave Principle", the title song "Insanity and Genius" with its Middle Eastern folk vibes in the chorus and one of Ralf Scheeper's most diversified vocal performances and the slightly progressive power ballad "Heal Me" that has some Queen vibes but even these highlights need a few spins to really unfold.

In the end, faithful collectors and fans of heavy metal from the early and mid-eighties should give this record a try. Occasional listeners can skip this effort. Potential new Gamma Ray fans should start with the band's excellent debut album Heading for Tomorrow, the greatest hits release Blast from the Past or the live record Hell Yeah !!! The Awesome Foursome and the Finnish Keyboarder Who Didn't Want to Wear His Donald Duck Costume - Live in Montreal. In the end, even in its enjoyably reissued form, Insanity and Genius clearly isn't among Gamma Ray's best efforts.

Their Weak, But Still Awesome - 85%

WishmasterTheDark, December 11th, 2011

When you compare this studio album with any other from their discography, you can clearly notice that this is their weaker effort. But does that fact make this studio album suck? Not of course, this is very, very good one, but not excellent like others before and after this one. This studio album is the last from their early hard 'n' heavy Gamma Ray era ('cause their first 3 studio albums contain lots of classic/hard rock songs and some classic heavy/power metal songs as well). This is the last studio album with godlike vocalist Ralf Scheepers. But after his departure Kai Hansen continued excellent job as a singer and guitarists, because these two guys are in the same league if we talk about their vocal abilities.

Tribute To The Past clearly shows how songs become memorable thanks to his vocals. Refrain of this song is so catchy, although he was not the only one who contributed creation of this song. Thomas Nack made insane rhythms, just listen to the beginning of this song, and the rest as well, but that intro is incredible. And despite well-written lyrics, and excellent rhythm and guitar solo parts, this one is not excellent, but very good song. There are backing chorus, and song has slower part before the end, and these were not necessary at all. Also great highlight of Ralf's singing is No Return. That song had to grow on me, but beside that fact it's an excellent one. Insanely catchy refrains, excellent lyrics, orgasmic melodic lead guitars, faster tempo, and enjoyable rhythms... what a perfect harmony.

Last Before The Storm and Your Turn Is Over are two the most fierce and blasting power metal songs, made of blazing and raw riffs, powerful vocals, faster tempo and excellent guitar solos. These are excellent songs along with Insanity And Genius, 18 years, Brothers and Heroes. The main difference is these songs are not as fast and fierce as Last Before The Storm and Your Turn Is Over, but perfect on their own way. All of them have excellent vocal parts, riffs, melodies, but they are very different. Heroes is the demo version of the song Changes, which was released on Sigh No More studio album, and this one is listed as Japanese bonus track for this studio album. Lyrics are totally changed in Changes, but the ambient and majestic, epic, neoclassical guitar solo are left untouched.

18 years is complex and a bit progressive ballad. The mood changes from calm to some aggressive parts, and faster tempo in the last minutes of the song. Insanity And Genius is the only very dark and complex song. It has doom metal feel, but with faster tempo, and tempo varies constantly. They wanted to show you how insanity exactly sounds like, and they did it well. Brothers is one of the best sing-along songs which can be classified as classic/hard rock, because it's made of hard riffs, not heavy, distorted riffs. Their less creative work is notable in Future Madhouse. It has insane guitars and drum work at the beginning and very fast tempo, great lyrics, Ralf has some great moments, but besides that this song has nothing special at all. Unfortunately that's not the only mediocre song. Why did the even bother to make so goddamn boring slow song like The Cave Principle, or chaotic song like Heal Me? Kai Hansen sings for the very first time in Gamma Ray, and he sings really bad song.

That is complete mess made of piano driven parts followed with his high vocal range, then some aggressive parts with blazing riffs, and that changes constantly. Some lazy piano parts come again, then some really slow parts, the whole thing is a really bad mess. Kai sang much better on Helloween's Walls Of Jericho, and in Gamma Ray's work which followed this release. This is probably the only band in the world which has cover song with the same name as a band. Song is very good, but not outstanding, and I think Kai had enough time to make his own song, and name it Gamma Ray.

Good sides of this release:
Lots of excellent songs made of killer vocals, intelligent lyrics, insane guitar solos and powerful hard 'n' heavy riffs. This is very good release, and recommended for all Gamma Ray fans. I would not advise this studio album for people who want to get into this band. Newcomers should try out their later work, but they can also start with first two albums, not with this one, 'cause it's really weird.

Bad sides of this release:
Although band members are really skilled and talented individuals, they didn't work well together in some mediocre songs like The Cave Principle, Future Madhouse and Heal Me.

Highlights:
No Return, Last Before The Storm, Insanity And Genius, 18 Years, Your Turn Is Over, Brothers and Heroes.

Gamma Ray’s ‘Risk’, As Dave Mustaine Would Say... - 52%

Black_Metal_Elite, September 20th, 2008

I know the score looks terrible, but there is two to three amazing songs on here that just blow my fucking mind. Gamma Ray should have just released those three songs as a demo and not made a CD. This is Kai Hansen’s worst album ever. In fact, Kai Hansen isn’t even bad! His guitar kicks ass, and he never fails. It is the band that failed him. I must say the band did obviously try a stunt here by naming their album insanity, and genius. The idea probably was “We are insane to release this, but there is a chance it could be genius and go gold!” Well, it didn’t. They did a live DVD tour in support of this album (why?!) , and it turned out to be more for collectors. This part is Gamma Ray’s low point, and it is best just to get Blast from the Past.

Let me start by saying “Last Before The Storm” rips your face off and buries you. The entire song clicks. Now Dan Zimmerman did do way better drums in his cover, but the rawness of this release is unheard of. Everything about this song screams metal and does it in a really 'anthemic' way. As much as that isn’t really a word, it sums up the attitude of the song. One thing does get on my nerves though, and that is the guitars. While Kai Hansen is amazing, who tuned those guitars? No, wait. Who set them on Crunch mode? The guitars sound very, very crunchy. To those that don’t play guitar, it is a setting on the amp, or a description of a sound that you just have to experience. This setting puts the guitar in the background (this is bad), and leaves it there (this is worse). It takes away from the balls of the album, and sounds a bit raw and harsh at times. The intro to Last Before the Storm can take some people off guard at first as it rips through in a really loud abrasive fashion. After adjusting, it proceeds to kick your ass, but whoever produced it should have done a better job.

One song that blows my mind is The Cave Principle. There is something so unique about this song, that it brings to life the feeling. The song itself is not the best, but the emotion and vivid images it evokes compensate for this and bring it to a new level. I feel like I am actually a cave man on the ground, crawling to an open hole out of my cave to a grey rainy day under palm trees. This is best suited for listening to before or in bed to get the full effect. Other than that, listening to it in the car may not help. Getting through to this song may be a bitch as well, and this is why I gave the album such a low rating: The songs on here are 90% filler. The first few songs suck terribly. They are done for the sake of doing things. The magic is nonexistent, and so are the hooks. You don’t need hooks to be good... but this is power metal. It feels like totally re-hashed material put together with really bad glue. The only other track that is semi-decent is Heal Me, and that’s for the ballad lovers. If you do not like ballads, you are shit out of luck.

That is all there is to it. I have nothing else to say but they are fillers. There is nothing to draw you in, besides one kick ass song. It was hell to get to the end, though there is one majestic masterpiece. That song is GAMMA RAY! Yeah, the self titled song done totally right. I do not consider this their song (it’s a cover), though the video for it along with the fun aura it creates is terrific. Just try singing along, you’ll have a ball. Uli shines on the extended version of this song, so if you want a half-drum solo... get the extended version. Other than that... this is for completists only.

Experimental, but solid. - 78%

hells_unicorn, October 17th, 2006

This album has pretty much been beat up as being either sub-par for the band, and a few have even labeled it as being terrible. All I can really say is that I have no idea what everyone is talking about, I put the CD in the player, and it fucking rocks the whole way through. All though there are a few weak sections in a couple of the songs in the middle, overall I can’t really say there is anything on this album that can be categorized as either throw-away tracks or mediocre.

Ralf Scheepers has been the subject of much ridicule in many quarters, and while I admit that his voice has a heavy Rob Halford tinge to it, there is nothing either revolting or overtly unoriginal about his singing style. When you are in a band that plays within the power/traditional metal genre, you want someone who can hold his own in the higher registers. This results in 4 primary sounds: the sleazy sound of traditional metal singers like Jeff Scott Soto and Dio, the husky falsettos of Michael Kiske and Geoff Tate, the forced high notes of normally baritone ranged singers such as Blaze Bayley, or the mock-opera tinge of Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson. Every singer in this genre can be categorized as either possessing one of these sounds or a combination or two or more. Furthermore, singers tend to sing in the style that is most comfortable and suited to their range, so this nonsense that someone is automatically a clone of another artist because he sounds similar to them is utter garbage. Scheepers admires Halford, and sings similar to him in part because of this admiration, but he is his own man and his music is an original creation of his talent and his mind.

The overall feel of this album is that of Power/Prog, one could even argue that this album is something of a pioneering effort in merging the two genres. Tracks such as “Gamma Ray”, “18 Years”, and “Heal Me” all possess influences of such older Prog. Rock acts as Rush, Pink Floyd, and even a tiny bit of electronic music in the case of “Gamma Ray”. “Heal Me” actually sounds almost like a self-contained homage to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon with a few well placed heavy riffs. “18 Years” sounds almost like a quasi-Queen influenced track during the quiet sections, while the harder sections remind of the material off of GR’s debut.

We have some perfectly crafted power metal classics in the mix as well. “Tribute to the Past” is a fast and furious barrage of incredible riffs and has my pick for Ralf Scheepers’ second best vocal performance with Gamma Ray (his best being the title track of GR’s first release). “Last Before the Storm” and “No Return” are also highly catchy and loaded with memorable guitar riffs. “Future Madhouse” and “Your Turn is Over” are so fast and riff driven that they could almost qualify as thrash tracks. The latter is sung by Dirk Schlachter, whose voice has a heavy German accent and a somewhat punk attitude to it, although when he hits the higher notes he almost sounds exactly like Piet Selick of Iron Savior.

The remaining tracks are mostly slower rockers. “The Cave Principle” and the title track have their share of fast sections, but are mostly driven along by slower drum beats and Deep Purple inspired guitar parts. The closing track “Brothers” is a metal anthem in the Twisted Sister/Accept variety, loaded with lyrical references to the faithful of the metal genre. It’s a bit cliché at times, but still a load of fun.

As stated earlier, there are a few flaws in this album that need to be addressed. Although it’s an interesting idea, the fact that we have 3 different singers on this album does throw off the consistency of the album a bit. Each song that is handled by a singer other than Ralf does a decent job, but it’s not something that necessary makes for a good regular practice unless you have some sort of album concept to justify it with. And although I did like the track “Gamma Ray”, the chorus’ lyrics are a tiny bit hokey, the title of the song is just repeated a few too many times.

In conclusion, this is not Gamma Ray’s weakest album, that honor goes to it’s predecessor the lackluster “Sigh No More”. But it does take the back seat to the debut and all of the post Scheepers material. It’s not a matter of how bad this album is, but how amazing the others are. However, due to it’s mixed approach to style, it may not sit well with fans of the more consistent sound that Gamma Ray now has. Fans of Primal Fear may want to check this release out for Ralf Scheepers’ great vocal work. And fans of Prog. Metal will find things to like in here. Recommended highly to said parties.

Their worst, and that says something - 76%

Lennert, May 4th, 2006

Apart from Gamma Ray and Insanity & Genius there are no really bad songs to find here. In fact, Tribute to the past, No return, Last Before the Storm and Heal Me are instant GR classics and should be hailed (in my humble opinion) as some of the best songs they ever wrote. Songs like The Cave Principle, Future Madhouse, 18 Years and Your turn is over (which is in fact a really fun song) and Brothers aren't bad either, but don't really disserve to be called 'really great'.

The production is not as good as Sigh no more, but this raw sound gives an extra touch. At first I didn't like Ralf Scheepers vocals (Kai Hansen is THE power metal God to me), but after listening Sigh no more I changed my opinion. He is in fact a great vocalist and is quite capabel in singing the old Gamma Ray songs. Still I was more than happy to hear Kai sing again on Heal Me, which is by far the best song on the album with it's Queen influences and some of Kai's best screams in years. The first three songs are just great German power/speed metal songs.

Still: the album is the worst Gamma Ray, it just isn't able to compete with the earlier Scheepers albums and is by no means equal to the albums which are sung by Kai. But on the other hand, Gamma Ray remains Gamma Ray and I am still more than happy to be able to listen it. Case closed.

Hmm...half-decent I'd say - 62%

Agonymph, August 3rd, 2004

UltraBoris was the only guy to review this album before I did and he made a perfect description for the most of the songs on Gamma Ray's third album; they just don't live up to their potential. Too bad, because there really are some songs on this album which could have been good.
'Insanity & Genius' kicks off greatly with the first class Power Metal tracks 'Tribute To The Past' and 'No Return', perfect Gamma Ray blueprint tracks. I used to think 'Last Before The Storm' was really good, but when I heard the re-recorded version on the 'Blast From The Past' album, the one on 'Insanity & Genius' was kind of weak in comparison. Still good, but this is a perfect example of that it's not living up to its potential; it does on 'Blast From The Past', it's just more "alive" on there.
'The Cave Principle' takes a little while to get into, but once you did, you realize that it's a great song. The insecure atmosphere of the lyrics ("where is humanity going?" is a pretty usual question in Kai Hansen's lyrics) is pefectly portrayed in the music. Not really your typical Gamma Ray track, but maybe that's just what makes the song so good. Along with the tension in the atmosphere of the song.
'Future Madhouse' seems like a lyrical sequel to 'The Cave Principle', but apart from that, it's got nothing in common with that song. 'Future Madhouse' is a typical Gamma Ray Power Metal track. Fast, melodic and powerful are the keywords.
Okay I've been rather positive about the album up until now. And that has a good reason. What follows is the song 'Gamma Ray'. UltraBoris said it before; tracks with the same name as the band usually shows the band in its optimal form, it's usually a blueprint of their sound so to speak. Nothing of that here. 'Gamma Ray' is a cover of the Birth Control song. Anyone remember Birth Control? That incredibly annoying band? Well, the same with this song. Annoying and too long.
Next up is the title track of the album. It's a rare case, since Kai Hansen has not (co-)written the song. The music is written by bassist Jan Rubach and the lyrics are written by drummer Thomas Nack. This results in a track which has some very cool and unusual rhythms, but is surprisingly weak on melody. Too bad, usually the title track is something good.
Another non-Kai Hansen-composition follows. '18 Years' is written by Dirk Schlächter and Ralf Scheepers. The song they wrote on the previous album, 'Father And Son', was a ballad and this track is too...sort of. I'd say it's a psychedelic ballad. It takes really long to get into the track, but once you do, you realize it's a very good song with brilliant lyrics.
What? Yes! Another non-Kai Hansen-composition. 'Your Turn Is Over' is written (and sung!) by guitarist Dirk Schlächter (he's bassist of the band now) and he actually did that very good. 'Your Turn Is Over' is a punky kind of Heavy Metal song, which kind of reminds me of Iron Maiden's first two albums. Pretty good headbanger. Funny detail...Dirk does the high backing vocals nowadays, but his vocals on this song are nothing like that. They're raw and hysterical!
Kai comes out again. Even though most of 'Heal Me' is written by Dirk Schlächter (Kai has only co-written the lyrics), Kai does lead vocals on the song and even though he does them a lot better on the re-recorded version, he does them pretty well. A lot better than how he sang on Helloween's 'Walls Of Jericho' of course! 'Heal Me' is a strange song, which reminds me of Queen a lot when it comes to the structure of the song. And that is a good thing! 'Heal Me' is by far the best song on 'Insanity & Genius' if you ask me. The piano part near the end is strange, but a piece of compositorical brilliance.
Another disappointment! Closer 'Brothers' is a weak composition with even weaker lyrics (the stupidest on the album).
If you get the re-release of 'Insanity & Genius', you will be treated with a long version of 'Gamma Ray' (whoopie...), a Judas Priest cover ('Exciter', which hardly sounds any different than the original) and a decent live version of Helloween's 'Save Us' by this lineup of Gamma Ray.
Like I said before 'Insanity & Genius' could have been a good album, but it isn't, even though there are a couple of top notch songs on it.

A bit better, but still stuck in feces-land - 41%

UltraBoris, August 14th, 2002

This album sounds more like the debut than the previous album, but is still mired in songs that are either utterly bad, or just not living up to their potential.

"No Return" and "Last Before the Storm" are both decent, and the title track has a nice ripping chorus, but the verses are just a bit dragging. Then, "Heal Me" suffers from Virtual XI syndrome, in that the chorus is repeated way too often.

As for the disappointing category, there is a song here called "Gamma Ray", and when usually there is a song that is the same title as the band name, the song tends to reflect the band's general attitude perfectly: Black Sabbath comes to mind. This song has some really shitty verses, and then a chorus that comes out of nowhere, blows your mind, and then is never to be seen again.

Okay then again that does describe the first three Gamma Ray albums.