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To the Metal...and Beyond - 88%

doclindgren, March 29th, 2010

When it comes to the traditional power metal genre, Gamma Ray needs no introduction. With a history that dates back to the late 1980s, it is no coincidence that their career trajectory mirrors the likes of fellow German metallers Helloween and Blind Guardian. For their latest effort To the Metal!, they maintain the pace that they have had for so long, without losing much.

The album begins with a rather dark overtone in “Empathy,” and while it is dark, it is hard to mistake Kai Hansen’s vocals. Here, it is evident that Hansen is a versatile vocalist, meaning that while he can still pull off the traditional power metal vocals, he can also utilize a darker, more emotional tone when needed. The usual modus operandi for Gamma Ray returns on “Time to Live,” which shows that the band can still keep up with their usual output and not lose much in any part of their sound. Two of the songs on To the Metal! that could be destined to be Gamma Ray favorites are the title track and “Shine Forever,” with the former being an mid-paced anthemic song while the latter is clearly the best song on the album. There is the requisite ballad on the album, too, as the closing track “No Need to Cry” fits the bill and further showcases the band’s range in its music. Long time fans of Gamma Ray know what to expect from the band, as most of the material on the album showcases nothing new. However, those who are new to the band will find plenty to like about the album. Hansen’s vocals are just as good now as they were on albums such as Power Plant and Somewhere Out in Space. The guitar solos won’t blow you away, but they are brilliantly executed and are done in a manner that will stick with the listener long after the album is over, as the title track proves. The rhythm section is proficient in keeping things together, and when needed, the bass can shine in parts. There are parts when Gamma Ray seems to be slowing down, but it is only because the band is adding to its music and they do so without much need for a transition period.

To the Metal! is by no means Gamma Ray’s best album. In fact, it isn’t likely to be in the band’s top three albums, as albums such as Somewhere Out in Space, Power Plant, and Majestic deserve mention for that distinction. However, had most bands performed this album, it would be their career highlight. For Gamma Ray, it is just another day at the power metal office. A definite must have for Gamma Ray fans and fans of power metal in general, To the Metal! is another triumph for a band that has now been in existence for over two decades, and they have no intention of stopping now.

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