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An institution in metal, and profiting, too. - 74%

Empyreal, July 3rd, 2010

If music is a business, and a good business is dependable, then Gamma Ray is a goddamned institution. This is about as faithful as a band as you can find – seriously, have they ever deviated from their tried and true formula of Germanic power metal magic? Land of the Free II was pretty damn sucky, but even that wasn’t much more than a lapse in quality, as opposed to the stylistic changes of several of their contemporaries. This band is like those insurance companies who try to appeal to the middle class, working American people by assuring them that they’re getting dependable quality all the time. Regardless of whether they are actually telling the truth…well, Gamma Ray pretty much is. This is To the Metal.

Now, I didn’t really know what to expect when I first tracked this down. But with speedy, crunching guitars, fistfuls of nostalgic melody and venerable, confident vocals, To ther Metal won me over. This is a good album simply because Gamma Ray compiled some solid rocking tunes and put them together into a manageable package. Opener “Empathy” channels new-era Iron Maiden with a slow build up and haunting chords exploding into a domineering chorus, but we quickly kick into the usual Gamma Ray affairs with the Michael Kiske-guested “All You Need to Know.” This is probably my favorite song on here, but the speed limit breaking “Time to Live,” with a catchy as hell chorus, really hits the spot too, like a glass of milk on a hot summer day.

Other great songs here include “Mother Angel,” which rocks out with a meaty True Metal riff, a great groove and a cool chorus, the title track, which is the best song Manowar never recorded, and the excellent “Chasing Shadows,” with enough hooks to catch every fish in the Atlantic Ocean. They really go all out on the attitude and flamboyant metallic cheese here. It’s bleeding from every pore, and I love it. Extravagant and over the top, yes, but that’s exactly the beauty of it! If you’re looking for an album that will change your perspective on music and redefine the genre…well, put that on hold for a while, and listen to To the Metal instead.

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