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1200 Cigarettes and A Time to Kill - 88%

BastardHead, May 29th, 2018

(Total rewrite. Original shitty version posted November 1st, 2007)

Gamma Ray had been on one hell of a streak by the time 2001 rolled around. Starting in 1995 when Ralf Scheepers mercifully left and Kai Hansen returned to his rightful place behind the mic, they started churning out classic after classic, ultimately ending in a streak of five phenomenal albums before Kai's endless Kai-isms started stinking up the joint. No World Order! stands as the fourth entry in that streak, and it'll always hold a special place in my heart for being the reason I ever broke away from my dumb thrash-only mindset of my early teenage years and embraced the speedy melodicism of power metal. The high pitched vocals and endless double bass had finally stopped being a turnoff when I heard "Dethrone Tyranny" for the first time as a 14 year old and promptly had my entire cerebral cortex blown off.

And honestly, No World Order! is a great introduction for people who are new to the genre, provided they're coming from a mindset that values thrash and trad metal above all else like I did. It may not be quite a perfect representation of the clash-of-two-worlds of the cover art, but it is indeed a healthy blend of several influences wrapped up neatly into an accessible package. It manages to balance stomping vigor on tracks like "Damn the Machine" and the bridge of "Dethrone Tyranny", uptempo brutality in "Heart of the Unicorn" and "Solid" (though the latter is an extremely obvious example of Kai's proclivity towards borrowing riffs a little too blatantly, this time being Judas Priest's "Rapid Fire"), light hearted catchiness in "Heaven or Hell" and "Follow Me", and some just damn solid heavy metal swagger in "New World Order" and "Eagle".

The quick rundown up there doesn't really do the album justice though, because there's a prevailing sense of chainsmoking attitude that roughs up all the edges just enough to give the album an identity that is uniquely Gamma Ray. The album's truest strength is simply extremely fucking solid songwriting, with excellent hooks behind every corner, but the crooked-toothed sneer that it's all presented with makes the songs stand the test of time if you ask me. Take a look at the quasi title track, "New World Order". On the surface, it's just a good, hooky heavy metal song, but there are a lot of tiny little quirks that make it unforgettable. The pre chorus that begins on a hard left turn, going from the fairly standard palm mutes of the verse and shifting abruptly to a snarling stomp, surely inducing involuntary headbanging, and culminating with the huge background scream that leads into the chorus, that's the kind of shit that just sticks with me. The chorus itself is great as well, but that attitude just can't be held back, with Kai's relatively smooth vocals occasionally breaking into deafening badassitude (And ya know it's gonna beeee for-EV-AHR).

It's sort of a dumb comparison, but I think the anecdote that most perfectly encapsulates Gamma Ray to me is a short little clip from the Hell Yeah!I! The Awesome Foursome DVD. They're on the road, about to load up the tour bus and head out on tour, and Kai stops the cameraman to show him what he's bringing with him on tour. He opens his bag to reveal several cartons of cigarettes and a Duke Nukem game. That's Gamma Ray in a nutshell. Sixty packs of smokes and Duke Nukem.

The album isn't perfect however, "Fire Below" is a very clear filler song, a midpaced hard rock/heavy metal tune that offers absolutely nothing other than an extra five minutes of album runtime, and "Lake of Tears" continues Gamma Ray's tradition of writing really terrible ballads. This time it's at least at the end of the album, making it easy to ignore, but on the other hand it means a fist pumping anthem-generator of an album ends on a weak bunny fart. "Eagle" was a great closer already, combining Helloween and Iron Maiden in great fashion (albeit a bit cliche, but Gamma Ray are OG so it's not quite so annoying), we didn't need that lameass ballad at the end jacking up the album's mojo.

Those are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things, because from the pulsing choir of "Induction" up until the apex of "Eagle" is a nearly unbroken string of classic power metal tracks, full of great hooks and loads of attitude. No World Order! may not be as immediately impressive as seminal records like Somewhere Out in Space or motherfucking Land of the Free, but it's really not far behind, and it's one of the best albums of 2001 without a doubt.


Originally written for Lair of the Bastard

BEWARE! ALL DEAD! NO LIGHT? ALL DEAD! - 86%

TrooperEd, December 22nd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2001, CD, Metal-Is Records

How does Gamma Ray ring in the new millennium? The same way they rung in 95, 97, and 99 with the necks of wallet chains and posers! I must admit it's the weakest of their streak, but when this thing is on...Lemmy have mercy there are Jaegerbombs less lethal.

There are no epic numbers to be found here, nine short and sweet rockers and one rather useless ballad (Kai never did figure out how to work those damn things properly) that for the most part, bang heads as if up from the dead. The caffeine freaks who think anything less than 200 bpm is false metal will consider Dethrone Tyranny their national anthem. One could write dissertations on the songs effectiveness seeing how it's been 15 fucking years and still haven't quite gotten around to it yet, but this ain't political-ramblings.com. The fact is, if metal was around in 1776, this would be the song to eviscerate the bourgeois. Then, in the middle of the album, there's a spot on cover of Rapid Fire. Not sure what's with the different lyrics and chorus though. Must be one of them awkward German to English translations. I mean Ripper added in a cho.....wait what? It's not a cover of Rapid Fire? It's an original song called Solid? Oh. Well, this awkward.....

Moving on, while this album isn't a concept album in the sense that it tells a story, a big theme that permeates throughout are conspiracies, the New World Order (hence the title), aliens and other such unsolved mysteries. It's not executed in a such a pretentiously alarmist manner like they were in Megadeth's Endgame. Rather, more like a romp of speculation. Such things tend to happen when you take Alex Jones seriously. Going all the way back to Land of The Free, fantasy-themed social consciousness has always been a big part of Gamma Ray, but here it's very transparent. Such is the case with Heaven Or Hell, which takes the point of view of a hacky, slick-talking politician who seeks to become a high ranking government official through public approval.

But the best part of the whole thing has to be The Heart Of The Unicorn. You look at a title like that and think to yourself "Oh Jesus Kai fell in love with Sonata Arctica didn't he?" But there's not even a flowery intro to give you a false sense of sellout as this thrash number mutilates the crowds of Ozzfest with that brilliant British Steel sensibility (those damn colonialists!). YOU THINK THAT'S BAD, well then Kai Hansen comes in out of nowhere with the most electrifying vocal performance of his career. The un-nurtured, inexperienced Kai of Walls Of Jericho is long gone and in his place is a glorious feline furnace of a throat. This damn sure ain't no song about wishing for soothing rain and wishing to dream again, this is a song about corporate greed ripping out the heart of the American dream and the human boot stamping on it's face forever. To say nothing of it's tasteful use of half-time and breakdown rhythms. Most would simply be too stupid to speed it up, preferring to just ride that groove and the anemic Pantera wave which was played out in 96, let alone 01.

Rack up another power metal win for Kai and the boys. Despite some questionably slick production (I like the drum triggers personally), as well as a couple of "homaged" riffs (Rat Bat Blue anyone), Gamma Ray proves that old ideals still work with very good reason.


Recommended songs:

The Heart of the Unicorn
Eagle
Dethrone Tyranny

Believe - 98%

gasmask_colostomy, May 28th, 2015

There’s a big difference between thinking that you can do something and knowing that you can do something. The thing that makes that difference is belief, and Gamma Ray had it in spades when they recorded 'No World Order'. Somebody - and all eyes are on Kai Hansen here - knew exactly what to put in and exactly what to leave out to make this album a success, and he took no prisoners in doing so. I ask you to please search this album for the parts that are unnecessary or ill-judged and throw them onto the burning heap of rubble that adorns the artwork, where they can conflagrate and smoulder along with the mockery of governors, leaders, and society that the concept seeks to dispose of. This is a fucking great album.

There was not much wrong with any of the three preceding Gamma Ray releases, but 'No World Order' makes everything a little tauter, a little tighter, a little heavier, and brandishes it in your face just to prove what can be done with power metal at its best. There are many traditional power metal traits on these songs, like speedy riffs, energetic, upbeat drumming, screaming leads, and wailing vocals; however, tradition is met by innovation, enthusiasm with anger, and cheese with aplomb, rendering many of the age-old power metal criticisms redundant. The basic formula for modernising power metal could be seen in the last couple of Gamma Ray albums, as well as that of their rivals Helloween, whose 'Better Than Raw' achieves its success in a similar manner to 'No World Order'. The heaviness and modern influence is very important, since every song punches hard, while songwriting formulas never become too convoluted, allowing a small amount of experimentation and frills to keep each song distinct and with an average length of about five minutes.

As it turns out, five minutes is ample time for Gamma Ray to blow your socks off and then reload: 'Dethrone Tyranny', in particular, crams so many ideas (and ideas of great quality at that) into four minutes that the first time I listened to it I was certain it had run over into the next song and, when I checked the track, there was still enough time for a last melody to wind down in style. And, unbelievable though it may sound, that blistering opening is nowhere near the best thing the band has to offer. 'Heaven or Hell' is one of those songs you will be forced to sing aloud in public places; 'Lake of Tears' is a truly climactic closing ballad with awesome key changes; 'The Heart of the Unicorn' scorches with white-hot fury and blazing guitar work, and it still can't quite beat 'Eagle', which is the highlight of this band's career, simply put. Hansen does seem to have an obsession with the bird of prey (it also crops up in the chorus to 'Solid'), but there is something magisterial about the image of an eagle soaring at unreachable heights that seems fitting for a song about freedom, the riffwork, solos, and hooks of which put it far beyond the ability of most bands. There are some slower songs that make use of hard rock rhythms, balancing out the speedier numbers and providing simpler catchiness at the cost of a little excitement and skill. The only song that falls short is 'Damn the Machine', which attempts something different - and succeeds - but feels restrained and lumbers rather compared to its more energetic brethren.

If anyone had given any less than an accomplished performance, this album would probably have fallen on its arse. Thankfully, there are four men on fire who nail all of the tempo changes, interludes, licks, harmonies, fills, and the extra quirks that make this album so joyful. Just listen to the swell of 'Follow Me' as it cruises through its last two minutes: it's a very melodic song, without much in the way of riffing, yet the shifts that split up parts of the solo, build drama, and then set up the chorus are impeccable and leave you wanting nothing more. Therefore, imagine what the doubled effect of that precision and timing is when the more forceful and exciting songs rain down around your ears. 'Eagle' is Gamma Ray's masterclass, as well as an entrancing song, since Dirk Schlachter keeps everything going in the verses with limber basslines that get doubled up by the rhythm guitar, Dan Zimmerman is all over the transitions between bridge riffs and solo parts, scattering fills across the duelling guitar part, there's that that riff (you'll know which) and a couple of others, plus Hansen is singing absolutely out of his fucking skin on every note, not just on this song, but on the album as a whole. It is his belief in his singing ability that pushes a song like the aggressive 'The Heart of the Unicorn' past the usual standards of power metal to a more visceral and consequently a more emotional experience, outstripping what we thought was possible and making us too believe that we can try harder, and go further, and do better. That's what heavy metal is all about - belief.

The Greatest Anti-New World Order Hymns - 100%

WishmasterTheDark, October 24th, 2011

New World Order is a huge problem, and sworn enemy to mankind. You may laugh at will, but that's what they want. They want you to believe that New World Order is a fairytale. You may believe in this or not, but New World Order is a not so well-known fact. Since the early beginnings, in his first band Helloween, Kai made songs with the same lyrical content - brainwashing the people, taking human lives at will, starting wars in order to reduce human population, spreading diseases etc. In the early Gamma Ray albums, that topic is still present, but it was more Gulf War oriented, which is also part of New World Order's game. Kai is back with his anti-New World Order songs.

Not just No World Order album stands for Kai's beliefs, but almost entire discography of Gamma Ray. Kai and band members tell problems of globalization, and bastards who want to take control of this planet. Madness, personal beliefs, religion, hope, genetic engineering, hypnotized masses, brainwashed people, reduction of human population, and the most important one - freedom. This is the lyrical content of this album. But besides them, here you will find song Lake Of Tears. It is strong touching ballad, full of powerful emotions. Not just because of the lyrics, but because of ambient of the song, and its structure. Combination of slower tempo, acoustic guitars, distorted guitarist with great power chords, amazing guitar solo, excellent drum rhythms and Hansen's amazing vocals. That's the key combination to make this perfect song. Besides the Lake Of Tears, there is another one song, which doesn't belong to this group of anti-New World Order Songs. That one is called Trouble.

It reminds me a lot of classic rock songs, done with strong and dominant keyboards, amusing song rhythm, excellent drum work, rough soaring vocals, tasty guitar solo and lyrics which don't have any serious meaning. The short intro song Induction, and these two songs are the least heavy songs from this album. There's nothing wrong with that, but they are so different comparing to other songs from the album. Induction is short choral opener for Dethrone Tyranny. Other songs are much fierce, heavier, and some of them are much faster. When band members combine high pitched vocals and screams, fast heavy riffs, fast drum work, intelligent lyrics, enchanting guitar leads, technical and fast guitar solos, you get an amazing product: Dethrone Tyranny, The Heart Of The Unicorn, New World Order, Solid and Eagle. Other songs are done with mid tempo, still heavy and not less blazing riffs than songs I already mentioned, with excellent song structures, lesser tempo changes. Mind-blowing guitar solos are trademark of Gamma Ray, so they are present in every song.

Even though every song is perfect, not all of them are that memorable after the first listen. Induction+Dethrone Tyranny, Heaven Or Hell, Eagle, Lake Of Tears, Trouble and Solid are songs which will instantly occupy listener's attention. Mostly because of unbelievable refrains, strong and powerful riffs, fast tempo, this ballad because it is so damn well done, and last track of the album because of its classic keyboard driven rock ambient. They put in shade other tracks from this album, but after few listens other songs will start to shine too. When that happens, you will realize how perfect this album truly is. Gamma Ray is the power metal elite, and each of their albums is pure gold. They never seem to fail.

Good sides of this release:
Slower, mid and fast tempo songs. Insane refrains, blazing, powerful, heavy, original and creative riffs. Incredible lead guitars. Technical, tasty, and fast guitar solos. top-notch creativity with lesser progressions. Soaring, strong and powerful vocals, with high-pitched screams. What else do you expect from heavy metal band? This is an absolute classic, and a masterpiece album. I highly recommend this album for every metalhead.

Bad sides of this release:
None.

Highlights:
Every song.

A Gamma Ray Through Your Brain - 90%

Flamos, October 8th, 2008

Gamma Ray is constantly involved or compared to Helloween, due to the fact that Kai Hansen was one of the original members of Helloween is in Gamma Ray. I get annoyed with it, but that’s how it’s going to be. This is seventh full-length release from Gamma Ray, is it up to snuff?

Well, yes it is. The intro has a bunch of chanting that leads to Hansen singing are his very unique voice. “Dethrone Tyranny” is the first real song on the record, and it’s also one of the best. The vocal layers in the chorus give the song a nice atmosphere. The riff is awesome and gives the song some backbone. “The Heart of the Unicorn,” yes it is a very lame name for a metal song, but oddly enough it’s still a good one. Kai’s voice gets amazingly high here, which is something many will like or dislike. “Heaven and Hell” is great with a catchy chorus, which seems to be Gamma Ray’s staple.

The track “New World Order” is becoming a live favorite for Gamma Ray for good reason. It’s got a sing-along vibe to it, which is great for the fans. Cool solos fill this track as well. “Damn the Machine” is a mid-tempo song, the only real one on the album in my opinion. This is kind of bland, but it’s nothing bad. “Solid” is the best track on the album. Fast paced, piercing vocals, and catchiness. This song has everything and delivers, one of Gamma Ray’s best. The next two tracks aren’t really anything special, the only filler tracks. “Eagle” is also fantastic. It’s too bad it ends with “Lake of Tears,” the song isn’t bad or anything, I just wished it would’ve ended with something more exciting.

Overall, this is one of Gamma Ray’s best. Only two tracks feel like filler, the rest is fantastic. If you’re just discovering Gamma Ray this is a good album to start with. I’d also like to mention that the cover art is unbelievable. This doesn’t effect my score, I just thought I’d mention it.

A tried-and-true metal kick in the teeth! - 89%

Empyreal, October 11th, 2007

Gamma Ray really let loose on this album, a lot like how Judas Priest didn't really start blazing all of their guns until Painkiller. This band was always a superb power metal outfit, with their climax undeniably being Somewhere Out in Space, but this is what would happen if you took that album and sped it up to about 3x its normal velocity, and then handed it two machine guns, a katana, and a battle tank to ride on the whole way. Quite simply put, No World Order is a fist pumping, ass stomping heavy metal behemoth that won't fail to disappoint fans of the band or of metal in general. In layman's terms, it fucking rules.

The unsuspecting Gamma Ray fan will put this album into his CD player when it arrives in the mail, and he will be hit with a soft, choral introduction piece. Lulled into a false sense of security, he will sink back into the comfortable, velvet-lined chair that was purchased mostly by his parents (fucking moocher). The introduction track ends, and then "Dethrone Tyranny" fires up the engines with a heavy, driving riff reminiscent of Iron Savior's work, and the poor, unknowing Gamma Ray fan will be caught in the middle of a deadly crossfire, his frail, weak body blown to bits by a powerful firestorm of riffs that just scream "MEEEEEETTTTTTTTTAAAAALLLLLLL!", and all the while, he hears the demonic intonals of metal aficionado Kai Hansen, who has never sounded better in all his 20+ years of singing. Killer cuts like "Heart of the Unicorn" and "Solid" are deeply rooted in a tasty Painkiller-esque acidic brew that will grind his bones into dust, as the hellishly hooky "Heaven or Hell" and the title track melt his flesh into a slushy, steaming nothingness with snappy, kinetic, well-placed hooks and spot-on songwriting that will never grow old. He is finally given a breather with the somber, pummeling ballad "Lake of Tears", although by then, his body is completely unrecognizable - the victim of a full-fledged metal assault.

This isn't be Gamma Ray's most articulate release, and the songwriting is not quite as stellar as on Somewhere Out in Space. The tracks here are pugilistic and straightforward, preferring to rip your face off with speed and intensity magnified tenfold, instead of dazzling you with instrumental brilliance and tight songwriting, as the band did on the aforementioned album. There is a certain sense of deja heard here as well, because although the songs kick an obscene amount of ass, you'll swear you've heard that riff or that chorus line before. Gamma Ray doesn't hide their influences, instead wearing them proudly on their sleeves like war trophies, but sadly this isn't the most original album. And lastly, Gamma Ray need to get a medical checkup, as they are seriously suffering from a case of Oceans of Time syndrome. They blow all their good ideas on the first half of the album, and then things get redundant with weaker cuts like "Eagle" and "Fire Below." Mixing up the tracklist would've helped a lot.

Despite a few flaws, this is a stellar album, showcasing Gamma Ray at their peak. Fans of Paragon, Twisted Tower Dire, Judas Priest and Iron Savior will find a lot to enjoy here, as this is an endlessly replayable and catchy album of German heavy metal that will leave a serious boot print in your ass long after it stops rotating in your CD player.

Near-Perfect Power Metal - 97%

NecroWraith, February 11th, 2007

First of all, I must point out that this album IS different from previous Gamma Ray releases. But this change is not necessarily bad. In fact, I like the new turn the band took. They shed some of their speed metal elements that could be heard on most of their previous releases, and added more power metal with the likes of classic Keeper-era Helloween.

True, a little bit of self-plagiarism is evident here. A lot of the songs contain traces of songs Kai Hansen wrote before for Helloween. But around 95% of the elements found here are all original. This is power metal at it’s finest.

Let me start of by complimenting Kai’s voice. It is simply amazing, and fit in flawlessly with the music he writes. He has several different singing styles, and can sing both lower, as well as higher and more operatically like Bruce Dickinson of ‘Iron Maiden’ fame, and Rob Halford of ‘Judas Priest.’ His voice seems to be new and fresh at each song, and it never fails to amaze me. Great job, Kai.

The guitars on here are another great success. Both the solos and riffs are extremely catchy, and although (as mentioned before) rip off Helloween from time to time, I never really found that to bother me. They can be both melodious and power-metal-ish, such as at the beginning of ‘Heaven Or Hell,’ (which I find to be one of the best track-openers of all time), or they can be fast and pounding crunching riffs, like in ‘Dethrone Tyranny.’

Drums and bass are also a great plus. They match perfectly, and add a lot of power to the music. The playing (percussion, especially) is highly sophisticated and definitely not boring. I noticed often how newer power metal band releases have boring drum-works that sound like something a five-year-old could play. This is definitely no the case with Gamma Ray. As on much of their previous releases as well, the percussion is a great plus.

Another quality I feel is important to mention about this album is the production. It is great, and makes each part of the album clean and a great listening experience. You don’t hear the guitars drowning out the vocals, which is a common problem, but instead it is mixed in such a way that they only bring more power into Kai Hansen’s already-amazing voice.

The opening to ‘No World Order’ is arguably one of the best openers for a metal CD. ‘Introduction’ is a 59 second song that begins with dark, heavy pounding drums and occasional heavy riffs that create the perfect dark atmosphere. Operatic vocals follow up, adding even more to the already-amazing listening atmosphere, and eventually the song transforms into the second track, ‘Dethrone Tyranny.’

The only obvious flaw in this album is the ending. The beginning half is power-metal-glory. When the album reaches ‘Follow Me,’ the third to last song, it is clear to see the song is filler. The next song, ‘Eagle,’ is another amazing Gamma Ray track, but in my opinion doesn’t compare to any of the first songs. The album finishes of with ‘Lake Of Tears,’ which is a ballad. I have nothing against ballads, and although this one is pretty well done, definitely above the average metal ballad, is it lacking something, and doesn’t provide that strong of a closing to such an amazing power metal work of art.

Gamma Ray DID change, but the change is for the better. Not only an essential release for a power metal fan, but a fan of any style of metal. Amazing songwriting, great guitars godly vocals, ‘No World Order’ has it all. Hail Gamma Ray!

-Marcin C.