Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Watch out for references - 91%

gasmask_colostomy, June 28th, 2016

Sometimes, a short introduction at the start of an album can give the listener a chance to leave behind the cares of their everyday life and slowly relax into the music before the real songs begin and they have to concentrate. However, having already made their fans wait 4 years since the peerless 'No World Order', Gamma Ray decided that they were not going to waste even a second in getting 'Majestic' started, ripping into life with the utter chaos of 'My Temple', the speed metal introduction of which is one of the most invigorating openings to any album I know.

That point made, Gamma Ray proceed to do what they do best, and that is craft catchy, anthemic songs that should make it difficult to sit still when they really start to cook. There is a similar balance to the music that appeared on the preceding album, with some out-and-out speed metal parts, plenty of lead-infused power metal, and then a few more basic rocking tunes. The big difference as far as I can tell is that 'Majestic' has a much bolder speed influence that really looks to Running Wild and Agent Steel instead of Helloween, meaning that the riffs of 'Hell Is Thy Home' bolt away from the power metal vocals with rapid precision, lending an unpredictable edge to the combination. Added to that, the sonic palette is rather wider than it had been in the past, including some groove stylings (almost nu metal on 'Condemned to Hell') and epic touches that allow 'Blood Religion' and the title track to evolve in their own directions.

Something here that sets Gamma Ray apart from most other bands - as well as 'Majestic' from other Gamma Ray albums - is the overriding sense of nuance and reference that keeps the songs not only unpredictable but actually layered, so that there are moments that work on several levels. In the first place, there are a lot of small touches packed into the compositions - licks, breakdowns, change-ups, added verses - that make most of the songs feel very full, though since the majority of the album is going by at quite a lick it's difficult to notice all of them at first. Added to that, those broader influences give a more densely packed experience, since the same song tends to include parts from different sources and some end up more complicated than one could possibly imagine.

Secondly, there's something else that is very weird for a band as experienced as Gamma Ray, and that's references. It's understandable that Kai Hansen still fucking loves Iron Maiden, but he pinches a melody for about 20 seconds at the end of 'Strange World' (remember that song title from anywhere?) that totally comes from the 'Somewhere in Time' album, though I'm forgetting what song right now. The opening to 'Blood Religion' also borrows heavily from 'Hallowed Be Thy Name', plus the chorus line in the same song that goes "Screaming for blood...Blood red vengeance", which almost, almost makes you go looking for a certain Judas Priest album. Then the bass introduction to 'Majestic' has a certain 'Hand of Doom' feel to it, although the majority of the song is packed with epic keyboards, huge vocals, and plundering riffs. Just to make sure you know it's all deliberate, you listen to the album again and on 'My Temple' hear the "Waiting for tomorrow" verse and start thinking of Black Sabbath again: you dismiss it as only coincidence, but when it comes back it has a much slower riff with it and appears in the line "Waiting for tomorrow, the saviour never comes / To save us from the future, the world has come undone" and your mind leaps immediately to the 'Paranoid' album. I can only assume this was something that Kai et al decided to include for fun, since those moments are very memorable and intriguing, yet they are such obvious steals that even the newest metal fan would notice the familiarity. The most humorous one for me is the band stealing their own theme from 'The Winged Horse' for the introduction of 'Revelation'.

As such, it would seem as though after the unbeatable 'No World Order' the band changed their approach. It would have been very difficult to top the brilliance of ideas and songwriting from that album, so the four Germans opted to adjust the genre settings and make a more capacious album that picks the best parts from metal's past instead of continuing to forge ahead and make another benchmark for power metal. Most of the songs on here are completely excellent, with great choices for riffs, melodies, and solos, plus a dense feeling of drama. The best are the two openers, the title track, 'Spiritual Dictator', and the exuberant 'Blood Religion', while only 'How Long' seems generic or dull, and 'Condemned to Hell' takes a risk with the groovy riffing that doesn't totally come off. Probably the best way to avoid a disappointment, 'Majestic' delivers some of what one would expect and a lot of what one doesn't, maintaining Gamma Ray's great streak of creativity and quality that characterized the middle period of their output.