I needed this in my life. Look at that cover and that title. Bliss. Does the new album from Germany's finest exponents of uplifting, melodic metal do the title and cover proud? Hell yes. This is a magnificent album from a band that are one of the most reliable acts in metal. You always know that when you buy a Gamma Ray album, you are getting value for money. I certainly did when I purchased this album today.
I got the digipak version with a 'Making Of' bonus DVD, featuring an 80 minute documentary on every aspect of the album's creation. I actually watched the DVD before I listened to the album, which was fascinating as a big fan of the band- seeing the music come together and the stories behind each track was wonderful, which may well have made my first spin of the album itself even more enjoyable.
The band come across as very likeable throughout the DVD, as well as remarkably relaxed and open about their recording process and their career thus far. Kai Hansen (Lead vocals/guitar) is a long-standing hero of mine, and watching the master at work with Herman, Dirk and Daniel was a delight. As the DVD ended I slipped the album on and took in the fruits of their labours.
What's the album like? It's a pleasure. A sheer pleasure from start to finish. While there are all of the elements that typify the Gamma Ray sound (the precise riffs, the huge choruses and Kai's very distinctive voice), there is also something else going on too. There's something a little progressive in each song, some chances taken, which is very cool indeed.
On other songs things are deceptively simple (such as the anthemic title track). I've listened to the whole thing three times through, and at present my favourite track has to be the opener, 'Empathy', with its infectious rhythm and soaring chorus and lead work. Note must be made of the awesome 'All You Need To Know' as well, which features Michael Kiske on guest vocals! There are some more subdued elements too, such as the sombre 'Shine Forever' and 'No Need To Cry', both of which are gorgeous.
While some people may see it as business as usual for Gamma Ray, to the ears of the fans it is clear that this new album is a powerful new chapter in the Gamma Ray story, and with a thick and heavy production and some of the most memorable songs the band has created since, well, the last album, you would really have trouble finding a melodic speed/power metal album that is this good anywhere else right now. To the Metal indeed. I think a toast is in order.
GAMMA RAY - 'Empathy'