Gamma Ray - Land of The Free II

SPV
Produced by Kai Hansen & Dirk Schlächter

Two years after the well-received Majestic Germany's Gamma Ray have chosen to revisit their Land of The Free idea for a second album, 12 years after the first one. 2007 also marked ten with the current Hansen/Richter/Schlachter/Zimmerman line-up and, for the first time ever, a joint tour with Hansen's former band Helloween.

Several of the songs on Land of The Free (all written by Kai Hansen, incidentally) start off very well, but quickly fade. Leaving Hell and From The Ashes both have great riffs and melodies, but everything else about them, and the whole of both To Mother Earth and When The World is precisely what's become stale in power metal. The same break-neck riffs and double-bass drumming under sickeningly harmonised choruses and appalling lyrics.

The darker feel of the Henjo Richter penned Rain gives it a little more identity than the rest, but he then commits the same offence as the above with Hear Me Calling. Elsewhere opener Into The Storm is the only fast-paced track to have any kind of feeling and passion, Real World is the throw-away, defiant call to arms most power metal albums have and Rising Again is a reasonably standard string-enhanced intro track for To Mother Earth (probably created primarily to act as an intro tape on the forthcoming tour).

To close Hansen does his Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner bit with the mammoth 11-minute Insurrection, which is really an amalgamation of every power metal style. It's well executed and constructed, but there's nothing new here. Ranging from fast bits to fist-pumping mid-paced sections to the obligatory chanting designed for crowd participation; it's got everything that makes up standard power metal in one track. But from one of the bands who helped define the genre you would perhaps expect more.

The album has but two saving graces, besides the outstanding soloing on the entire record. Right in the middle of what is otherwise power metal mediocrity comes the magnificence of Empress the only cut on the album penned by drummer Daniel Zimmerman, and Opportunity, the only one by bassist Dirk Schlachter. Everything about these tracks is a departure from the rest of the album they shine because of it. The riffs are slower and more interesting, they're only song to take their foot off the throttle long enough to get any kind of groove or alternative beat going and they still have the blistering solos of the rest of the album. Hansen's vocal delivery is also a lot darker on Empress, adding some level of atmosphere to the song, and a faster paced section part way through Opportunity livens things up in a Blaze Bayley era Iron Maiden kind of way before a quick drop to an acoustic refrain before a powerful return to the earlier slow, heavy riff and chorus.

Unfortunately when you remember that just two albums ago this band created No World Order, Land of The Free II simply pales in comparison. The guitar solos are many and exceptional all the way through, but everything else ranges from poor to ordinary with only Empress and Opportunity keeping their heads above water. If they pick the right songs (open with Rising Again as an intro tape, then Into The Storm, play the two good ones and maybe Insurrection if they're headlining) then the live set won't suffer, but most of the rest adds nothing to their repertoire.

“ ordinary ”

Tracklist: Into The Storm / From The Ashes / Rising Again / To Mother Earth / Rain / Leaving Hell / Empress / When The World / Opportunity / Real World / Hear Me Calling / Insurrection

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2008, Albums, Power Metal,

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