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Gamma Ray – Land of the Free Part II

Label: SPV USA
Format: CD
Released: 2008
Reviewed By: Rich Catino

When it comes to the Gods and Masters of Metal, there are several names that come to mind who to this day are pretty consistent when it comes to having released strong albums over the years. Maiden, Priest, Dio, Queensryche, King Diamond, Helloween, Megadeth, Testament, Overkill, to name a few. From the second generation Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, Stratovarius and Gamma Ray.

 

Gamma Ray rightfully earned their stripes emerging at the beginning of the nineties with their debut “Heading for Tomorrow” releasing eight studio albums since plus two “Live”, a “Best Of”, and a forthcoming DVD which includes a full live show, promo videos, behind the scenes and a history.

The first “Land of the Free” from 1995 was a landmark album for Gamma Ray. It is where maiman Kai Hansen (former guitarist and one time singer for Helloween) not only returned to the mic but more importantly where the Rays found their artistic direction in sound and style. “Land of the Free” borrowed from all the classics elements us Helloween fans loved from both “Keeper of the Seven Keys” albums yet having its own charisma.

Kai has his own style to guitar playing both in the riffs and soloing. When listening to pedal to the metal opening track “Into the Strom” one can recall Helloween tracks Kai penned like “Save Us” and “March of Time”. Kai’s writing style also is very recognizable on catchy hook/ guitar based songs like “Real World” where in arrangement you will hear a familiar sing a long melody line to “I Want Out” (Helloween) and past Gamma Ray gems like “Heaven or Hell” and “Heavy Metal Universe”.

Now while these two comparisons connect Gamma Ray to Helloween, like I said this is still Gamma Ray.

For “Land of the Free Pt.II”, Kai is joined by long time bass player Dirk Schlachter, Daniel Zimmermann on drums and Henjo Richter (who wrote the darker tuned down “Rain). All contribute to the writing process. “From the Ashes” and “To Mother Earth” are classic “Land of the Free” in composition and spirit with their speedy rampaging tempo and melodic chorus’. Remember “Rebellion in Dreamland”, “Beyond the Blackhole”? Well the fast chorus and backing vocals will be of no surprise.

Wow… the breakdown section for “Opportunity” is one of the rare times where I really HEAR the Iron Maiden influence. This section is so good it’s the piece Maiden never wrote. “Hear Me Calling” is another moment in classic Gamma Ray history as the line states “In the land of the free” the music is hard hitting yet very upbeat (as expected) with aggressive guitar excellent twin melody lines and punching drums. Eleven minute epic “Insurrection” closes the album with lots guitars doodling and a dynamic change mid way.

Kai and the boys, along with Tommy Newton who mixed the original “Land of the Free”, have done an excellent job on Part II. This is a worthy follow up to the original without being a direct musical copy. Good work guys! And if you have not checked out their last metal monster “Majestic” do so.

 
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