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The killing streak continues... - 89%

TrooperEd, December 19th, 2016

I ignored this album for the longest time for so many years for reasons. Some valid, some dumb. Kai was beginning to fall into his pattern of ripping off classic bands and not realizing it and that was a tainting for some. Well, I feel like the biggest fucking idiot for ignoring it for 10 years because this is the best thing they've made since Somewhere Out In Space!

Let's get this out of the way right now. That main riff to Blood Religion is Queen's Tie Your Mother Down. Somebody really should have pulled Kai aside and told him this, because its not as though its a deep cut from Hot Space that no one remembers, its one of Queen's well known rock staples (it seemed to be played every goddamn time on the Vh1 metal hour). I will give it this though, there is a little bit of a difference in groove execution. Tie Your Mother Down is of course that kickass party shuffle swagger that Queen pull off so well (well let's be real here, they pull off EVERYTHING WELL), whereas Blood Religion is slightly slower and has more of that spike through the head death march. And to Gamma Ray's credit, its not as though they start off with that riff and it does go through a few time changes that DO have original riffs (at least as far as I know they do). But yea, shenanigans like this is why Kai got a bit of a rep for ripping off the classics in later years (To The Metal Gods anyone). And yes there's also that vocal bridge in My Temple which bears a striking resemblance to the legendary vocal bridge of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. In Kai's defense, he has admitted this similarity in an interview that it was an accident (which again reaffirms my belief that they need a riff encyclopedia-ist (is that a word? it shouldn't be) on hand to make sure they aren't lifting anything. To be fair, every metal band should probably have that these days. 40 plus years and with only so many notes on the guitar neck and so many ways to execute them, unintentional duplications are bound to occur. Anyways, it is for these reasons that despite my ranting and raving about how amazing this album is, it doesn't go above 90.

Creeping "influences" aside, did you like Land of The Free? Did you like No World Order? Did ya like the two albums in between? You'll like this. All the claims that they got too "experimental" on this album are complete rubbish. If anything, they step outside the boundaries about the same amount as they did on the previous 4 albums. The biggest point of contention seems to be Condemned To Hell with its de-tuned, nu-metal intro. But there's nothing to really worry about as the song only rides that groove for about 8 measures or so before kicking into typical Gamma Ray speed and mannerisms. Plus, Kai Hansen quotes Duke Nukem! Ain't nothing wrong with that!

How Long is another weird case. At a cursory glance, one might consider this song to be a total failure. The opening riff sounds like somebody noodling around on a piano for the first time, like maybe its missing a scale note or something. But then the keyboard kicks in, then the drums and harmonies kick in. A minute or so later we get HOW CAN WE GO ON FROM HERE IF WE DON'T STOP THE WAR? The outro chorus with Kai singing STOP THE WAR over the top is the piece de resistance. Any other band would have fumbled the ball horribly here, and I'm not going to say Gamma Ray can turn every piece of shit into gold, but goddammit, they make this thing work, and I'm a little annoyed its not a hit in their catalog. I can see how people can hate this song, but as a personal preference, I think this should have been pitched to the American market as a single. Why not? Stranger things have happened (and dumber riffs have become more successful).

As for the rest? See the questioning sentences two paragraphs above. This is Gamma Ray continuing to fight the war against a refusing-to-fucking-die-already-you-posers Slipknot, Dimmu Borgir, metalcore suckery and the laughable NWOAHM Pantera knockoffs. There are some complaints that maybe it wasn't worth the four year wait. My response to that is they were doing a fucking tour and live album with a setlist consisting of fan voted rarities! Learn to develop patience, young asshopper.

Recommended Tracks:

Spiritual Dictator
Fight
How Long
Strange World