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Rape! Murder! It's just a shot away! - 92%

TrooperEd, December 19th, 2016

its just a shot away in the Valley of the Kings! when the storm breaks loose again
Then the gods will spread their wings, and you want to, you can bleed on them etc. etc.

Out go Thomas Nack and Jan, and in come Dan Zimmerman and Henjo Richter. With their powers combined, they shall form Gamma Ray! Superheroes from space sent to protect heavy metal from chain wallets, DJs, masks, grooves and Fred fucking Durst. This would be a lineup that would begin a glorious (if a bit pantomime and absent minded) 10 year killing spree in the name of heavy metal! Yes folks, this time ze Germans are invading from outer space, and if you thought they were pissed the first time, Ho-leee Shit.

Of course most fans were wondering whether Dan and Henjo could step up to the standard that Kai had established with Land of The Free, and Beyond The Black Hole excels at the unenviable task of putting worries to rest at warp factor fuck you. 12 years later Ride The Sky gets a sequel and its name is FLY BEYOND THE GATES OF SPACE AND TIME ANOTHER UNIVERSE IS MINE AND I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW. One of speed metal's finest hymns. Yet the already astronomically high bar is raised even further with the head-banging fury of Men, Martians & Machines, a song so lean that Kai only sounds marginally silly singing "He's gonna get you, he's ga-ga-gonna get you." But its like, fuck dude, he is coming to get you, and he's coming to skin you alive.

There are still the usual chinks in the armor, i.e. too many stupid interludes, and the album being just a little too long in general (Damn the Machine. Specifically the one that let CDs carry up to 80 minutes of music and force artists to put even more filler on their albums. People had enough trouble trying to make 40 minutes of "quality" music). But it's nothing a little trimming on the iTunes playlist can't handle. Still, the Iron Saviour song[s?] make this a little fatter than it should be, and while Watcher In The Sky and Lost In The Future are fun in the usual Gamma Ray way, it's just much sleeker to go from Winged Horse to Shine On Rising Star.

Speaking of Shine On Rising Star, Jesus raping Allah on the cross what a fucking song this is. When some old timer tells you power metal is too flowery for their tastes, you show them this. This is the broadway musical show-tune every Pantaloon on 8th and Broadway has been trying to write for burly, lumberjack men and failing miserably. There's even a Queen-esque piano breakdown near the end which you think wouldn't work, but all it does is built up a brilliant sense of drama and finality to close out the album proper before one final round of choruses and fists. If there's any song that could take the top spot away from Rebellion In Dreamland, it's this.

Henjo and Dan fit right in terms of songwriting as well. They don't have a whole lot contributions, but Henjo's "Winged Horse" a seven minute hopelessly depressing yet soaring power metal epic about the vicious cycle of power always doing what it wants easily takes the silver medal for best song on here.

Somewhere Out In Space is easily the greatest metal album of 1997 and where heavy metal started to pick up the shattered pieces of American monkey business and get back to flying the flag of Tony Iommi, Lemmy, Rob Halford and all the other metal greats. Anyone who says that metal had no quality music in the 90s needs their veins ripped open with a piece of this albums broken vinyl. Actually wait, that would be a horrible waste of this record. Better to make like Jackie Gleason and send those retards to the moon.

Recommended songs:
Rising Star/Shine On
Somewhere Out In Space
The Winged Horse
No Stranger (Another Day In Life)

Punishing power - 90%

gasmask_colostomy, December 15th, 2015

It's a well-known fact (though some would argue not known widely enough) that Gamma Ray had what in sports terms is called an "unbeaten run" between 'Land of the Free' in 1995 and 'Majestic' in 2005, which is actually one of the most exciting and bizarre in metal, since that run came about after firing the singer. All 4 albums in that 10 year period are quite simply top-drawer efforts from a band inspired and buoyed up by the resulting energy. What remains impressive is that all of those albums bear rather different marks, none trying to imitate the last. 'Somewhere Out in Space' followed yet more line-up changes and purports to be a concept album about extraterrestrial stuff (I admit I haven't been enticed to go much deeper), the artwork and title of which strongly reference the golden period of Iron Maiden's history - in their own unbeaten run of the 80s - that produced 'Powerslave' and 'Somewhere in Time'. And, in the first place, that's quite an ambitious target, but Gamma Ray didn't miss.

Despite the name of power metal being ever-present, the first thing to hit the listener about an album like this or the following ones is the sheer bruising weight of it. There are melodies, fun rhythms, and group vocals, but Gamma Ray also know how to connect with the fans like a boxer connects with his opponent. Dan Zimmerman must have been hitting the gym a lot, since his performance on drums is all about power and pace, smacking the skins like naughty children for at least 50% of the songs. He is bolstered by an up-front production that favours impact to subtlety or emotion, while his bandmates tend to play with strong resolve and boldness, rather than sheepishly hiding behind one-note speed riffs and neo-classical fills. There is one moment particularly, when 'Beyond the Black Hole' completes its second chorus and arrives at its solo section: the ragged machinery of Dirk Schlächter's bass drags across a short interlude before the vocals build up with operatic fury; then, at 4:05, a sound of guitars and percussion erupting with a vehemence that would terrify Japanese city-dwellers of a certain age, which is the start of a fiery lead break that leaves no choice but submission. There are a fair few of these tooth-damaging parts and several songs that follow this precedent, namely 'Lost in the Future', 'Men, Martians and Machines', the title track, and the aforementioned 'Beyond the Black Hole'.

If you aren't a big fan of having your hair ripped out, there is plenty of more melodic fare on offer. 'Valley of the Kings' - for whatever reason - plunges out of space and into the pyramids, though leaves one of the most instantly memorable and catchiest impressions, while 'Men, Martians and Machines' has a distinctive stop-start rhythm powering the chorus. Though surprisingly long at 7 minutes, 'The Winged Horse' is probably the definitive exercise in power metal melody both for Gamma Ray and for others: it has a dazzlingly light guitar tone that twinkles and plays wonderfully with speed and restraint, surging forward in a (predictably) galloping rush that will make anyone with legs paw the ground in desire for the chase. As usual with these guys, a few songs go into lighter territory, with 'No Stranger (Another Day in Life)' settling for catchy mid-tempo rock and 'Watcher in the Sky' displaying some brooding verses, as well as one and a half ballads, which sounds confusing but isn't when you hear it, because 'Shine On' has a great transition from cooking speed metal into end-of-album sentimentality. The full ballad 'Pray' is somewhat of a disappointment, sounding a little bare and cold amongst the strong playing and emotion elsewhere.

The failure of 'Pray' highlights the success of the rest of the album. Where that song strives too earnestly for emotional enlightenment and "huge ballad" conventionality, the other performances actually manage to provide an emotional impact from their intensity, particularly the faster tracks when Kai Hansen's vocals achieve exceptionally ball-aching heights without resorting to cheese. Sometimes, his white-knuckle sincerity makes those high-pitched vocals sound incensed or impassioned, whereas there are contrasting moments of operatic whimsy and even pure silliness, such as the bizarre bridge of 'Lost in the Future', which sees Hansen whooping and ululating like an insane boy Scout. The moments that take a bit of that intensity and a bit of the madness make the otherwise overbearing experience much more unpredictable and enjoyable. Hansen screams and Henjo Richter screams back with his guitar, so the shrillness of the leads are well balanced by the starker riffs and percussion.

'Somewhere Out in Space' isn't the best album from Gamma Ray's unbeaten run, but it is a great listen, even if I'm sometimes a little tired at the end of an hour. The intensity is all there, yet the band would put some finishing touches to the formula on 'No World Order', uniting the catchy, melodic, and vicious elements of their sound for an overall more satisfactory package. A lot of great stuff here, and a storming bonus track in 'Return to Fantasy' if you get the chance to pick it up.

Style, substance and the madness of it all - 75%

Empyreal, May 15th, 2014

I’m just going to come out and say it: Kai Hansen has never been that great of a songwriter.

Don’t get me wrong – he’s good; he can write some entertaining, fast speed metal. But it’s just never really beyond that into anything that really captivates me. Maybe it’s just a personal preference thing, because it really just comes down to what you want out of music as a whole. I want music that is not only entertaining, but keeps me coming back to it over the years, revealing new layers of the sound as I listen and my tastes mature. That’s the mark of a great album to me – one that keeps you coming back time and time again.

Gamma Ray didn’t do that for me. As a power metal fan, I discovered them way back when and liked them, but they haven’t really held up over the years. I was confused a long time as to why that was, but I think I’ve finally got it – music needs to retain some sense of mystery to it, some sort of pull or draw to keep you coming back for more. But wait, I thought: what about simplistic music like Motorhead or Saxon, traditional stuff that you wouldn’t ever describe in a million years as layered or complex? Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to decry the simplicity of this music and hail the simplicity of those other bands?

Well, it really just comes down to the quality of the songwriting. Motorhead and Saxon are simple, but they also wrote incredibly clever, well done songs, that have held up over time and are just as good today as they were when I first heard them years and years ago. With Somewhere Out in Space, that didn’t happen – the songs, while pompous, flashy and fast, didn’t end up really remaining interesting.

I think the reason for a lot of this is that it’s not just about compositional complexity – it’s not about how many parts a song has or how much variation there is between songs. The songs on Somewhere Out in Space aren’t really that simple from a pure songwriting point of view; they’re fast and contain lots of different riffs and keyboard parts and vocal bits. They careen along pretty well and the band seemed to have fun just cramming in all these different riffs, solos and vocal harmonies – with the end goal of making something so cheesy and over the top that it becomes enjoyable and fun.

Indeed, songs like “Beyond the Black Hole” and the Helloweenish “Guardians of Mankind” are probably a blast to play when speeding down a highway at night. They’re packed with high pitched vocals, anthemic choruses and speedy guitars and keyboards. In terms of generic power metal, these songs pretty much epitomize their entire “school” in the genre – add in some sci fi lyrics vaguely hinting at some kind of social commentary, and you have a veritable “how to” of frilly Euro power metal. Tracks like “Valley of the Kings” and “Shine On” represent Gamma Ray pretty much at their best – triumphant and proud power metal with strong choruses and build-ups.

Like I said though, I don’t really think most of these songs are really that great. They’re all style and surface gloss and no real substance. As fast and frivolous as they get, there isn’t really any mystery or intrigue to the songwriting. There’s no complexity or subtlety that I can keep hearing new things in and the songwriting, underneath the blitz of different sounds, is strictly orthodox – not bad, but not great either. Just having a jamboree of different guitar parts and high pitched vocals doesn’t constitute meaningful music – for all the things happening here, not a lot of it is substantial or has much weight to it. But then, I've never really cared how many fast guitars or screams you can put into a song - those things aren't what metal is strictly about for me.

And I know exactly what you’re thinking – oh, here’s another pretentious internet critic who hates everything fun and wants everything to be some kind of deep conceptual progressive masterpiece. No – fuck that and fuck anyone who tries to use that strawman bullshit argument. Why can’t we have something fun AND well done, mature and complex? I don’t think “fun” music really has to mean just goofy, disposable bullshit without any real musical value or depth to it. Maturity and fun aren’t mutually exclusive.

The album takes a huge nosedive after “Valley of the Kings,” too – “Pray” in particular is an absolutely horrible song. A wretched ballad with a lot of sappy keyboards, some high pitched vocals that aren’t very interesting and lyrics about how “all we can do is pray” to top it all off. What kind of bullshit is that? All we can do is pray forever for things to change? How is that a metal attitude at all? I’d rather my metal songs take a more active stance and actually talk about doing something rather than something useless and meaningless like praying. Eugh. Why not make a song about how awesome going to church is, too?

“The Winged Horse” is overly long and has some really irritating drum parts – technically impressive but not pleasant to listen to. The overly keyboardy chorus is pretty irritating too. “Cosmic Chaos” follows, more flashy drum work – and mostly pointless. “Lost in the Future” is solid, despite the incredibly goofy middle section where they do the “Oh Susanna” melody – it’s not a great song, but you could do worse in Gamma Ray’s discography. “Watcher in the Sky” is a good song, and one of the better ones here, but it’s an Iron Savior song; I don’t really count it into the album’s score at all.

I hate people who take classics like this and say they’re absolute shit, or that they don’t understand why people like it at all, so I won’t do either one. Somewhere Out in Space is a flagship album for European power metal, and I can totally see why everyone likes it so much. It’s got everything the genre is famous for and influenced tons of bands in years to come. However, I personally just don’t think it’s all that great. You can do that, you know – dislike an album while still acknowledging the impact it had on the scene and why people like it.

Me, I think this is all pretty well done for what it is, but what it is is purely surface gloss and shallow in terms of depth. Kai’s songwriting, while serviceable to the genre he helped pioneer, never rises above strictly orthodox and becomes captivating. Lyrically it’s all pretty bland and doesn’t have much to say, and the performances, while good, can’t really make it much more than what it is. This is competently done music that reveals everything to you on the first listen. I understood everything about this album back when I was 15 and just getting into metal. Now, after years and years of listening to all kinds of metal and other music, Somewhere Out in Space hasn’t yielded any hidden qualities or depths – it has already shown me everything it has and thus I am bored with it now.

This album lays everything on the table for you and doesn’t have any kind of subtlety to it – subtlety which would make this a more endearing and interesting work in the long run. As is, this sounds good at first, but there is absolutely nothing else to it once you’ve heard it a few times. When music is as straightforward as this is, you really have to have the songwriting chops to back that up and create melodies that people want to hear over and over. This album doesn't do that and the songs, while initially fun, just get kinda embarrassing in the long run with how silly they really are - as this is such a long album, after all. For all its excess and the “more is better” ethos, Somewhere Out in Space is a bit of an empty experience.

A unified and defining classic - 97%

The_Ghoul, October 4th, 2008

When you're in a band, the general goal in songwriting is to funnel all your influences into a singular, coherent, sound. A lot of bands fail at this task, either shoving a mishmash of styles down our throats with no sense of coherence, or they ignore 90% of their influences and make a derivative, one dimensional sound. Either way, the result is a misfire of sorts, and it detracts from what would usually be enjoyable songs.

Gamma Ray don't do that here. What we're delivered here is almost 80 minutes (with the bonus tracks) of pure speed/power genius. There's a few hiccups here and there (Pray, like nearly every other Hansen-penned ballads, is a clunker) but overall this is a work of art. It's chock full of songs you KNOW Hansen and co. are gonna perform live. There's Beyond the Black Hole; Men, Martians and Machines; Somewhere Out In Space; Guardians of Mankind; Valley of the Kings; The Winged Horse; Lost in the Future; Watcher in the Sky (although that's technically an Iron Savior song) and Rising Star/Shine On. Nearly every song here is instantly memorable, but continues to please the ears after repeated listens. Here, as the title would suggest, the lyrical themes are mainly space.

However, what really makes Somewhere Out In Space shine is the coherency. There is a definite sound to this album that distinguishes it from its predecessor, Land of the Free, and from its antecessor, Powerplant. Whereas half the time Powerplant was content to subtly copy artists such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Manowar, Somewhere Out in Space charts a territory of its own, and stands out on its own merits, not as a tribute to other metal giants. This establishes Gamma Ray as a force on their own, a metal giant of their own right.

Of course, the lineup kicks ass. This is the first album with the lineup that Gamma Ray has to this day, and boy, they sure do rip it up. Henjo Richter is a much better suited lead player than Schlacter was (no offense to Schlacter) and has a definite style, so much that when you listen to him in other bands (like Avantasia) you can still tell it's Richter. Dan Zimmerman rips it up on the drums, throwing in more variation than the usual "doo-doo-tsch-doo" of power metal. And of course, you can't mention Gamma Ray without mentioning Kai Hansen. He sings as Kai sings, and his riffs are very solid, every riff is completely memorable.

Overall, Somewhere Out in Space functions both as an album and a collection of songs. As I've mentioned before, the individual songs are instantly likable on their own, but as an album, it's a real whopper. It's nearly 80 minutes of speed/power metal, but it never gets boring. Furthermore, it defined power metal from that point on. Every single power metal CD made from 1997 on has a bit of Somewhere Out in Space in it. This is the fodder that many unoriginal power metal bands blantantly rip off, this is the source of much modern power metal. Helloween might've done a primitive take on early power metal with the Keepers of the Seven Keys, but this exceeds the keepers albums. It's the touchstone of power metal. It IS modern power metal. And it belongs in your stereo, and it should never leave.

Unique - 91%

Black_Metal_Elite, September 20th, 2008

Apart from the catchiness of almost every song on this album hits home in some fashion, drawing you back for more. It’s obvious the new band had a vision; and that vision is created.

One thing I would like to point out here is how Dan Zimmerman actually plays properly here. He really tanks it on later releases with his drumming... going into Freedom Call mode. On Somewhere Out In Space though, he seems to pump out complex and fun drumming rhythms for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, it is not rocket science to play his drums (we’re not discussing Cynic or some tech-death band here) but the variation is tremendous. The band itself isn’t afraid to try off time signatures like at the beginning of Beyond The Black Hole, and Dan isn’t afraid to mix it up with No Stranger and The Winged Horse. Kai does ridiculous solos, and I’d like to see someone try playing them. If you want to see Henjo shredding like nuts, go see the Korea version of “Somewhere Out In Space live”. Kai Hansen has found the perfect members here when you think about it. Dirk is amazing on the bass, Kai is self explanatory, Henjo is a guitar god (even more-so than Kai?!) and Dan is a drum teacher who knows so many varieties it pisses me off when he releases a straight-forward linear drumming tracks on later albums.

The first six songs are perfect, and easily in Kai’s favourite lyrical territory. He loves space, and conveyed that properly within all of these songs. Besides Land Of The Free, his song writing skill has gone through the roof some more. Of course he cranked out some cheese on some songs, but they’re all pretty damn good. Speaking of cheese, I was quite annoyed with the guitar tone. It sounds very castrated. You can make out the solos and the riffs, but the balls have been left behind. There is a wavelength, probably a lower frequency one, which has been left out/removed. You have to listen to it to understand, but it really takes away from the overall strength of the album. The melody makes up for it, and shares the guitar equally with the bass. Dirk has 5 years of playing guitar (and leads!) with Gamma Ray live, so he knows exactly how to make bass lines for the music. This really adds to the album because the lines complement the guitar riffs appropriately.

A new experience of genius is Cosmic Chaos. Dan Zimmerman is now doing a semi-drum solo. Someone actually tabbed it on Guitar Pro... so I assume it’s not that hard. For myself, I’ve not tried playing it on my drums... though it doesn’t sound easy. Besides the difficulty factor, it adds atmosphere to the album. The images of asteroids colliding are quite prevalent if you really get yourself into the mood. This song sadly leads into one of the more filler songs: Lost In The Future. I don’t find anything really interesting about this song. It sort of goes on... and on... and on without really going anywhere. The cowboy breakdown in the middle is sadly the only reason I don’t click the forward button; simply due to the hilarity.

Every song on here besides the one I mentioned is amazing. It ends on quite the unique note, while being ideal for space-themed fanatics. I myself enjoy most of it, and if there was more “balls” to the album... this could have been a 100% album.

The excellence just continues - 95%

morbert, April 17th, 2008

Even though the album features two new members and one switching instruments, it sounds like a logical follow up to Land Of The Free. Most notible difference however are the leads of Henjo Richter which make the over all sound slightly more melodic.

There are two mighty speed / power metal songs here that continue where “Man On A Mission” had left off. Opener “Beyond the Black Hole” and titletrack “Somewhere Out in Space” are fast songs with lost of changes in pace, key and both with very catchy vocal lines, melodies and a great chorus.

This time there’s that pounding sing-along metal anthem as well. “Valley of the Kings” has become Gamma Ray’s “I want Out” (or “Future World” for that matter). The song is classic! “Men, Martians and Machines” follows the same path but is slightly heavier.

“Guardians of Mankind” and “The Winged Horse” both are fairly faster songs but the emphasis is on melody mostly. Resulting in two beautifully crafted power metal compositions. Most notible epic track with fast parts here however is the magnificent “Shine On” which truly is a highlight.

I should also mention that I do like the little country joke in “Lost In The Future” but to be honest I do think the song would have been better without it. Without that joke it is easily one of the heaviest songs on the album. Unfortunately there’s also a cheesy ballad here. “Pray” is just as bad as “Farewell” on their previous efforts and honestly I do wish they’d stop doing that.

My version has the Uriah Heep cover “Return to Fantasy” on it and contrary to “Look At Yourself” on the debut, this version is worthy. In fact it’s so worthy, I’m often having a hard time choosing which version to play. So, my compliments gentlemen!

Before I forget. Love the artwork! Of course it refers to Powerslave with a hint of Stargate thrown in (The album title obviously refers to another famous Iron Maiden album). But who cares. It looks marvellous!

As said, Richter brings more melody to the material and new drummer Zimmerman plays his parts with ease. Remarkable musicians even though their predecessors were already very good! Just like “Land Of The Free” the album has a few flaws but many, many highlights to compensate. The second classic Gamma Ray album in a row!

Power metal at its finest - 95%

Mikesn, December 19th, 2006

With 1995's Land of the Free, Gamma Ray proved to the metal world that they were a force to be reckoned with. The soaring vocals of Kai Hansen; the heavy, aggressive riffs; the memorable song writing; the powerful soloing; everything went their way. But despite this, change was in the air for the Gamma Ray camp. In a musical chairs of band members, bassist Jan Rubach and drummer Thomas Nack left the band. Guitarist of the time, Dirk Schlachter picked up the bass guitar and the Rays found a man by the name of Henjo Richter, who took Dirk's vacant position. Finally, Drumming duties were given to Freedom Call drummer Dan Zimmermann. This has proved to be the most stable line-up in the band's history, as the line-up has not changed ever since. 1997 rolled around, and with it came the newly renovated band's first chance to prove themselves. The album, titled Somewhere Out in Space, once again failed to disappoint.

This time around, Gamma Ray expands on the approach the used on Land of the Free. The elements that made Land of the Free so good are once again found on this album, only this time there is more focus on melody than aggression. Harmonies and leads are even more evident on this album. Like you would expect from a Kai Hansen lead project, these melodic elements are second to none, the kind of material that influence a generation of similar bands. A big part of the album's sound comes from the lyrical subjects. The main themes of the album deal with Sci-Fi inspired stories and as a result, the music has that epic, space-ish feel to it. Two very obvious examples of this come in the form of songs Somewhere Out in Space and Beyond the Black Hole. Both tracks are energetic outings that perfectly define Gamma Ray's musical style.

With their fifth album, Kai and friends seem to have discovered a new interest. Space. Many of the album's lyrics deal with the topic of space in one way or another. Whether it be Star Trek inspired story of insanity during a space mission in Somewhere Out in Space; traveling through black holes in Beyond the Black Hole; space colonization in Men, Martians, and Machines; and so on. However, some tracks such as No Stranger (Another Day in Life) or Pray, the band's lyrical approach turns its gaze towards real life subjects similar to earlier Gamma Ray albums. While you couldn't exactly call Gamma Ray excellent writers in terms of lyrics, for a power metal band, they are satisfactory. They don't destroy the competition, yet at the same time, they don't disappoint.

With Somewhere Out in Space, Kai Hansen shows that he will only get better as the years go by. With Land of the Free, I felt he had a very strong performance, positively affecting the band in ways that former vocalist Ralf Scheepers couldn't dream of doing. With this album, Kai delivers an even more powerful effort. Sure, he doesn't top performances in albums like Majestic, No World Order, or Blast for the Past, but his singing is still top notch. Definitely one of the most enjoyable listeners in the genre. Hansen spends a fair bit of time singing in mid range, but he can hit the high notes with relative ease. During the choruses (and pre-choruses) is where he really shines. Gamma Ray writes some of the catchiest vocal lines in metal, and Kai is the perfect vocalist to sing them. Listen to just about every track (especially the single, Valley of the Kings), and you'll have it stuck in your mind for days at a time.

Along with Land of the Free, Somewhere Out in Space is an excellent representation of the elements that make up the German power metal scene. With Powerful riffs, mind-blowing soloing, heavy double bass, and strong singing, Gamma Ray once again creates an album which reaches standards which only the greatest of bands ever match. I definitely recommend this album to both newer and…not so new listeners to metal, as it is very enjoyable and there is very little to dislike.

Originally written for Sputnikmusic

The Best from the Rays!!! - 97%

arkbath, November 3rd, 2005

This is for much the best Gamma Ray album to date. I don’t know why, maybe the settlement of the new, best and actual line up of the band. Kai Hansen has always been a musical genius and this time his companions have amazing abilities, Dirk Schälchter’s bass playing is stunning, Dan Zimmermann hits the drums with patterns and Henjo Richter is the best complement for Kai’s guitar playing with a lot of twin leads and solos.

Beyond The Black Hole simply kicks off with an impressive bass/drum pattern and then breaks with a great guitar melody, emotive but powerful. The chorus is awesome, with some choirs; the solos can blew up your ears and then comes a spoken interlude by Kai that completes the whole feeling of the song. Men, Martians and Machines continues with the intergalactic topic, the vocal lines of the verse is strange but then comes the bridge with some high ranges and the chorus including some background keyboards. No Stranger seems to get softer the album trend, but it’s very good, great lyrics and a sound a little bit of old metal. Somewhere Out in Space is another outstanding tune from this release: is fast, powerful and surprising within every minute it lasts long. During this one you can realize that Zimmermann is a guy with an incredible drumming versatility. Guardians of Mankind is a good of tune in the mood of Land of the Free with a sticky chorus. Very good song but compared with the others something misses, and it’s followed by The Landing, a well prepared intro for what is to come after. Valley of the Kings is more well-known song from this album, maybe is too short but is enough with the details you can find on it: slapping bass, overwhelming keyboards, guitar solos on the typical Gamma Ray trend and a head blowing chorus. Pray could be the ballad of the album, it reminds me too something from the Land of the Free album but with another musical variety that could be away from metal. During a while on the verse I can remember of Heal Me too, but much better. The solo… with a lot of feeling, just like a ballad guitar solo must be. The Winged Horse is another from the best, great kind of-Judas Priest-riffing at the beginning, solos and the epic chorus makes it one to remember. Cosmic Chaos is a drum solo but could be part of Lost in the Future, another good song with some fun on the solo (need to hear it). Watcher in the Sky is not a Gamma Ray (is from Iron Savior’s self-titled album) but you won’t notice it, because the sound, the musical style an the concept is on the same way of SOIS and with Kai on vocals everyone could say is a Gamma Ray song. Rising Star and Shine On are the perfect closing theme for this epic album, with some ballad style but still heaviness on it is another highlight of the wonderful album from the Rays.

SOIS is one of the best Power Metal albums, maybe because is the perfect mixture of melody with powerful chords (you can hear a lot of guitar arrangements in every chorus and verse, without mentioning the extremely nice vocal performance from Kai and of course the backing vocals) that irradiates a lot of energy and gives you and idea of why Hansen is one of the best musicians in the metal and the whole musical scene. It’s enough with this masterpiece to know it, when you hear this album you just can forget of the Keepers. Definitely a must have!

Don't wait for me, cause I won't come back! - 89%

Wez, November 4th, 2004

Well what do we have here? After the incredible Land of the Free, we get an ultimately more melodic and slightly patchy affair from one of the finest bands in power metal. Not that the album is hit by any immediate problems at all, it's packed in tightly with sensational speed metal and as soon as the play button is pushed you know those drums are building up into what will be an explosive song. What the album doesn't do is keep this up for the whole of its runtime. The first pack of songs are among Gamma Ray's finest, with the still current Gamma Ray line up working comfortably and confidently. "Beyond the Black Hole" can't stay still, it always has something new to introduce and is jam packed with melody, riffs, awesome solos and big ideas! Gamma Ray is written all over this, and it is a tune of such quality that it humbles many of today's brightest bands. Shifting through a punchier song and then a slower more melodic track of like quality, the title track then refines the best aspects of that first song with even more ideas, more outrageous soloing and another massive chorus!

Gamma Ray is again painted all over "The Guardians of Mankind", which while not as great as its predecessors, has "that" chorus and the intense, melodious harmonies. The album is plentiful in these songs which, while lacking the punch and heaviness of "Land of the Free" and this album's blazing follow up "Powerplant", nonetheless gives it an advantage in having a unique spot in the Gamma Ray catalogue. It's got a very fresh feel in its entirety, and while "The Landing" has all the hallmarks of the "pointless interlude", it builds up very nicely into certainly album single "Valley of the Kings", and you know the drill again, maddeningly sing-a-long chorus, nice keyboard effects backing up the verses and cosmic guitar work. Which is just as well, as Kai's lyrical preoccupation with science fiction themes is put across incredibly in the music, with the "spacey" solos and small but potent use of keyboards. Gamma Ray have always made keyboards work within the rest of a song to desired effect instead of letting it take the lead. As the song finishes, so does the album's run of great songs, for the time being.

We get our Gamma Ray ballad "Pray", that even though not quite as good, displays the band's ability to make a ballad into a genuinely moving piece instead of some twiddly filler I just want to skip. "The Winged Horse" sets them into epic mode, but I never really grew on this one as much as I'd hoped. It's got those nice dual guitar harmonies, and a solidly epic structure, but I just get left a little disappointed as it fades away. Dan Zimmerman takes the reigns and gives us about 50 seconds worth of "drums from outer space", just a shame the album hits its low point after this. "Lost in the Future" is a pretty abrasive, but sadly rusty tune that really loses the total speed metal majesty of those first few songs. And all through the track picked from the first Iron Savior album, I'm still not impressed, but this song is much of an improvement over the last one. It's at least made me interested in checking out Iron Savior, which no doubt was the purpose of its inclusion here.

Fortunately, we really get going now, and the album's final epic push is no slouch. "Rising Star", is the proper use of an intro, the gentle piano with science fiction overtones gets the mood right for the following track, and "Shine On" is the epic that follows in the footsteps of "Rebellion in Dreamland", mixed with the sound and style of this album. We end up with an album with a few awkward moments, but with the majority of it still great stuff. Though it sits at the bottom of the pile of the "Gamma Ray mark II" (i.e. Kai on vocals era) albums, it's highly recommended. Gamma Ray definitely put the "power" in "Power Metal".