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Rise to victory - 90%

kmorg, May 6th, 2010

Land Of The Free II' was not the success Gamma Ray had hoped for. So 3 years later they try again with their 9th studio album. The title of this thing says it all, this is a tribute 'To The Metal!'.

Yes, Gamma Ray are still out to pay homage to metal from the past. But luckily this time around they have chosen to pay respect to themselves! 'To The Metal!' is much more akin to the bands own earlier work, and ranks nicely alongside stellar albums such as "Powerplant", "Majestic" and dare I say "Somewhere Out In Space"? This is the Gamma Ray I fell in love with, playing melodic speed metal, the German way. It was the songwriting that lacked on the previous effort. But here everything just falls in place again.

This album brings exactly what the fans want. Songs like "Empathy" and "Time To Live" could just as easily have been recorded for any of the previously mentioned albums. And "Rise" sounds like something from Kai's early Helloween days, but with updated production values. And speaking of Helloween, ex-singer Michael Kiske (yes, he who publicly denounced metal, and said he'd never sing metal again) does a fabulous guest spot in "All You Kneed To Know". Still, all that really matters is if the songs make you feel something, makes you move, makes you start headbanging; and here they all do just that! It's like an endless string of melodic speed metal pearls. The song "Rise" says it all; "And then we'll rise in victory, we'll return stronger than ever". Indeed!

My only complaint here is part of the sound on my CD. I don't know if it's caused by the mix, the production or the compressed files on the CD, but the treble on several songs make the vocals sound very metallic. It sounds as though my speakers were blown, and it sounds lie this on all my CD players. I've also heard that others are having the same issues with both the vinyl version and CD versions of this album. I'm trying my hardest not to let this affect the listening, but it is at times darn hard to ignore.

By returning to their roots, Gamma Ray have recorded one of the strongest albums in their career. And it feels so good to have this band back where it belongs, at the top of the German metal scene! This album just leaves me with a big smile on my face, and it keeps growing every time I listen to it.

Killer tracks: All good, but "Empathy", "All You Need To Know" and "Rise" need extra mentioning.