It was bound to happen. It happens to pretty much every band that. Iron Maiden had No Prayer for the Dying. Helloween had pretty much every album from Pink Bubbles Go Ape to Better than Raw, Megadeth had The World Needs a Hero, and Primal Fear had Devil's Ground. In 1993 it happened to Gamma Ray. The band in question recorded a sub-par album. For Gamma Ray, this was their third full length offering, Insanity & Genius, an album which turned out to be the final album that the band recorded with Ralf Scheepers on vocals. It's quite strange how the band came up with this release, as it's sandwiched in between the heavily underrated Sigh No More and one of metal's finest albums (certainly Gamma Ray's best) Land of the Free, but somehow, it still managed to happen. Stranger yet is that the album started promisingly enough, only to descend into the utter mediocrity that few associate with the influential power metal band.
Of all Gamma Ray's albums, their first three have always had that Helloween feel to them. As band leader Kai Hansen had written a fair bit for Helloween, this shouldn't quite come off as a surprise. But of each of Gamma Ray's first three albums the Helloween influence is most noticeable here, on Insanity and Genius. And of the Insanity and Genius album, the opening track, Tribute to the Past, contains the most noticeable Helloween influence. But is this element really all that bad? Not really, seeing as Helloween had fallen into the abyss after Hansen left and the Keeper albums are metal classics. Yet then again it really isn't all that great either. A reason why Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 1 doesn't get a 5 from me was because of the relative lack of heaviness and intensity that the album displayed (yeah okay it was 1987, but still, it would have been a much more enjoyable listen). Insanity and Genius has the same problem, only being surrounded by albums with songs like Dream Healer and Rebellion in Dreamland, it doesn't have the same excuse. My personal favourite track, Last Before the Storm breaks away from this slightly passive Helloween-esque sound, foreshadowing an aggressive, more powerful direction that Kai and co explore on Land of the Free. With that all said, the first four or five songs are still excellent outings, Helloween influenced or not. Ralf Scheepers Halford/Kiske impression, as well as the strong guitar interplay between Kai Hansen and Dirk Schlachter does not waste anytime taking control of the album. Strange (it gets even stranger if you watch the music video…), yet humorous fifth track is one of the songs where Ralf displays his impressive falsetto through the vocally inclined verses and distinct, memorable chorus.
But then it stops. The anthematic choruses, tasteful soloing, the fun harmonies, the enjoyable riffs, and superb shouts and wails are no where to be found after the last seconds of Gamma Ray come to a close. Slower songs such as The Cave Principle and 18 Years meander on for far, far
too long and do not make a very good effort at maintaining the electricity that the first half of the album created. The album's title track and The Mad House have a couple good riffs, but are inexplicably pedestrian and uninteresting as well. I'm not sure what has going through the minds of the band when they recorded Insanity and Genius, as it just isn't consistent at all. It isn't like Gamma Ray to record a half baked album home to snooze fests such as the British Steel (particularly the song United) influenced Brothers or Heal Me (how this got voted onto Blast From the Past beats me). The incredibly long, dull second half of the album completely negates any effectiveness created by the likes of Last Before the Storm or No Return. Which is a shame seeing as they were such powerful tracks.
If there was ever a Gamma Ray album that did not show the band producing at its top level it would be Insanity and Genius. The album starts off decently with a few classic Gamma Ray offerings but by the end of the LP you'll be wondering why you even started listening to it in the first place. The record has more than a few bad apples which plod along enough to spoil the nearly hour long offering, and unfortunately does not merit more than a few listens. I don't think this is too easy to find nowadays, but unless you want to complete your CD collection, you would not recommend looking into Insanity and Genius outside a few of the recommended tracks. Definitely Gamma Ray at their worst.
Last Before the Storm
Tribute to the Past