'Empire Of The Undead'
I know it's hard to believe but it's a full twenty five years since Gamma Ray were formed in the aftermath of Kai Hansen leaving Helloween (arguably at the peak of their powers) and what better way to celebrate the anniversary than with the release of 'Empire Of The Undead' – the band's eleventh studio album and quite possibly their best album to date.
'Hellbent' could quite easily fit onto an album by Metal pioneers Judas Priest, with its short sharp vocals and if you add an incredibly memorable chorus into the mix, I defy anyone not to like this showstopper! From the first scream of the guitar to the last thud of the drums this is unashamedly a classic Metal song that flows at a pace many Metal bands would struggle to compete with, and I suspect that could be a future classic for the band.
Likewise 'Master of Confusion' is another fast number as the drums, courtesy of new band member Michael Ehré, announce its arrival before the band batters through the jaunty number. Don't let the title give you the impression this is a downbeat track, though, because it's not by an means!
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The band have other fast numbers here too, like 'Born To Fly' and 'Empire Of The Undead' itself. The former is probably the fastest track with its instrumental intro before Hansen vocals show what a measured performer he is as this track seemingly harks back to the later eighties Metal sound.
The song 'Empire Of The Undead' itself is a full throttle assault from start to finish and it's no wonder the band choose this to be the title track. The catchy chorus (just the title repeated again and again) is simple enough, but the rest of the song is a different story – the guitar solo has Hansen and Henjo Richter feeding off each and the ending will no doubt have the audience singing along at live gigs.
'Avalon' on the other hand has a slow start with just simple guitar and voice combination before the drums and main guitar riff kick in and this mid-paced track takes off. Hansen's vocals are particularly strong here during the choruses and the addition of backing vocals only adds extra depth to the sound.
'Pale Rider' has another great guitar riff and the vocals are placed more to the front on this number than in some of the others. The song has a great guitar solo mid-song which is punctuated by the drums before its unleashed in its full and measured glory.
I might be wrong here, but if my memory serves me correctly, the spoken intro to 'Demonseed' is taken from the 1977 science fiction–horror film, 'Demon Seed' starring Julie Christie which is a great intro to the song before the guitar and drums kick in on this heavy mid paced track. The song is really good though with Hansen sounding not too unlike Ian Gillan (circa 1981) showing he's an incredibly gifted singer – something that's often overlooked when you possess guitar skills as good as his.
The slowest song on the album is 'Time For Deliverance' which is the closest the band get to a ballad. Soft vocals are the order of the day here along with a subtle bass line and piano before a simple drum pattern is added to the mix. The vocals do pick up as the chorus beckons, as do the drums just in time for the guitar solo which really is one of the best on the album. It's slow, measured and meaningful and adds a little extra something to a song which some of the faster songs may miss out on.
After only a few listens, 'Time For Deliverance' has become one of my favourites not only of this album but from Gamma Rays back catalogue.
With album number eleven done and dusted, the band are preparing to set light to stages all across Europe, and if the band reach UK shores (which I hope they will), then this is one ticket that I'm going to make sure that I don't miss out on!
You can hear the track 'Avalon' here:
You can see Gamma Ray live here:
Tuesday 10th June – Tsutaya O-East, Tokyo
Wednesday 11th June – Tsutaya O-East, Tokyo
Thursday 12th June – Bottom Line, Nagoya
Saturday 14th June – Umeda Club, Osaka
Saturday 21st June – Dokk'em Open Air, Dokkum
Saturday 28th June – Graspop Metal Meeting, Dessel
Friday 1st – Friday 8th August – Skogsröjet Festival, Rejmyre
Thrsday 14th – Monday 18th August – Summer Breeze Festival, Dinkelsbühl
Saturday 6th September – Festi Wolf, Forum Fribourg, Porsel
Saturday 25th October – Pumpwerk, Wilhelmshaven
Born To Fly
Master Of Confusion
Empire Of The Undead
Time For Deliverance
I Will Return
Built A World
Gamma Ray are:
Kai Hansen – Rhythm/Lead Guitar/Lead Vocals
Henjo Richter – Rhythm/Lead Guitar/keyboards
Dirk Schlächter – Bass Guitar
Michael Ehré – Drums
Gamma Ray Online:
Official Website: http://www.gammaray.org