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Review: Gamma Ray - Empire of the Undead
Gamma Ray
Empire of the Undead

Label: Ear Music
Year released: 2014
Duration: 56:46
Tracks: 10
Genre: Power Metal

Rating: 4.75/5

Review online: May 27, 2014
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Readers Rating
Empire of the Undead

Rated 4.05/5 (81%) (20 Votes)

Kai Hansen's Gamma Ray has long been proudly bearing the flag for the brand of crunchy, Germanic Power Metal he helped pioneer with Helloween back in the 80s. There have been some highs (Land of the Free, No World Order) and some not-so-highs (Land of the Free II) but 2014's Empire of the Undead should put the band back at the top of the heap. Hansen and Co. have written some downright excellent songs this time around, sticking to the formula that has served them well, but finding ways to keep them sounding fresh. Empire of the Undead opens with the mighty, epic "Avalon," a song about the Arthurian legend. This 9-minute track starts slow and brooding, with keys that lend a mystical air, similar to Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," before picking up the pace for the middle section/solo, then slowing down again for the fade-out. The fact that "Avalon" never once becomes boring or repetitive over the course of its 9+ minutes is a testament to how well it is put together. Lest you think Gamma Ray's signature speed has been forgotten, have no fear, "Hellbent," the next song, comes at you at a million miles an hour. This song, which evokes Helloween's "Heavy Metal (Is the Law)" and "Empire of the Undead," are speed fests that barely give you time to shout the chorus along with Hansen. Mid-paced anthems like "Born to Fly" and "Seven" are no less entertaining despite their slower tempos. The ballad, "Time for Deliverance," with its backing vocals "borrowed" from Queen's "We Are the Champions," is OK while "Demonseed" is clunky and doesn't flow nearly as well as the rest of the songs. Those are the only blemishes on an otherwise near-perfect album. No knock on Hansen, who has penned a number of excellent Power Metal songs in his day, but I can't help thinking the addition, in 2012, of former Metalium drummer Michael Ehre, who wrote some of his former band's best songs, played a part in taking this Gamma Ray album to the next level.

Fans of Gamma Ray and Germanic Power Metal should waste no time grabbing a copy of Empire of the Undead. It is a serious contender for Power Metal album of the year.

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