Gamma Ray
Land of the Free II


2.0
poor

Review

by Mike Stagno EMERITUS
January 15th, 2008 | 17 replies | 11,190 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Gamma Ray shoots for a Land of the Free and scores a (worse) Power Plant. Ouch.

Say what you will about Kamelot, Blind Guardian, Helloween, or Iced Earth, but if you ask me, Gamma Ray has always been the definitive power metal band. The group's 1995 and 1997 albums, Land of the Free and Somewhere Out in Space are two of the finest recordings metal has to offer, and though the latter's follow up, Power Plant, wasn't exactly up to par, the band has enjoyed a solid career ever since. Needless to say, this has heaped a ton of expectations on Germany's finest (and naming the effort Land of the Free II doesn't exactly help). Unfortunately, Gamma Ray hasn't exactly met these expectations gracefully, as Land of the Free II just might be their weakest album yet.

Gamma Ray's latest offering marks a departure from the more aggressive, riff based structure of Majestic and No World Order. Instead the band opts for a musical style more appropriate to its namesake. Indeed, Land of the Free II stresses a melodic (at least more so than the past couple Gamma Ray albums) variant of power metal, with particular emphasis on Iron Maiden influenced leads and harmonies. Basically, it sounds almost exactly like Land of the Free. However, Gamma Ray's ninth album differs from the 1995 classic in several ways as well. Most notable is the almost sterile song writing heard throughout the hour long record. Land of the Free II just doesn't impress enough to warrant more than one listen. Leaving Hell plods along for almost four and a half minutes without a decent lick or melody. Empress features some of the worst lyrics the band has ever penned – "Kiss the princess, empress of the dark / Feel the poison flowing through your heart" – Yeah. Opportunity is the record's second longest song, and not only can it not decide whether it wants to be a ballad, a hard-hitting Sigh No More-esque track in the mould of Dream Healer, or a rousing power metal anthem, but it also sports some of the most ridiculous, blatant plagiarism I've ever heard. Skip ahead to the middle of the track and then listen to Iron Maiden's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It's exactly the same.

Another grating aspect of Land of the Free II is just how cheerful it sounds. Kai Hansen and co. will follow up a decent riff or melody with a nauseatingly happy sing-along chorus that sounds eerily like one of those church hymns they play at Sunday morning mass. Except happier, if that's possible. The biggest offender in this regard is To Mother Earth ("Sheeee was so beautifuuuuuuuuuul" – what the hell?), which very well may be the most annoying song on the album after Opportunity. Kai Hansen's singing may be to blame, at least partially, as it sounds passive and weak, losing much of the edge which enhanced the likes of New World Order or My Temple.

Land of the Free II isn't all bad, however. In Nearly every song, there seems to be one or two musical passages (usually instrumental but sometimes held together by Kai Hansen's midrange singing - when it doesn't sound tired - as in the song Rain) which remind listeners why Gamma Ray is/was one of the premiere bands in the scene. Unfortunately, these brief moments of excellence aren't quite as numerous as the failings. As for standout tracks, well the album does contain a few worth listening to. Into the Storm opens Land of the Free II on a high note with its energetic flow and relentless riffing. The album's closer, Insurrection, is an eleven minute epic similar to Armageddon off Power Plant. The strongest track off the LP, it features Gamma Ray at its most comfortable (no church hymns or random bouts of shred ala To Mother Earth!). Each member is complimented rather nicely, and while there are guitar dominated pieces and catchy vocal lines featured throughout the song, neither Kai Hansen nor Henjo Richter get carried away in their role as dual lead guitarists. It may not top songs like Rebellion in Dreamland, Eagle, or Changes, but it still proves to be an entertaining listen on an album full of duds.

Considering Gamma Ray's track record, Land of the Free II just might end up being the most disappointing album of early 2008 (or 2007, if you live outside North America). Most of the songs have a very pedestrian feel to them, either failing to capitalize on decent musical ideas, such as in From the Ashes, attempting to make good out of stupid ideas that have no place on a Gamma Ray album, as in Here Me Calling, or the shameless plagiarism heard throughout the album, most notably in, again, Opportunity. Kai Hansen can definitely do better, as the likes of Insurrection, When in the World, or Into the Storm show. It's just a matter of putting a little more effort into the music. Or maybe trying something new. That would be cool too.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Willie
Moderator
January 15th 2008



15911 Comments


The only album I ever liked from these guys was "Insanity and Genius"... it has less to do with the music and more to do with the fact that I just don't like Kai Hansen's vocals.

Digging: Nero Di Marte - Derivae

Altmer
January 15th 2008



5652 Comments


New World Order is good, but I am not buying this. I'll stick with my Kamelot.

Aeksis8745
January 15th 2008



448 Comments


wow, I was hoping for good stuff out of this too.

ZePortouga
January 15th 2008



19 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This is a nice album... people might not like it but hey, if this is bad, then what to say of Helloween's new?

I agree that the Chorus of To Mother Earth is BAD but other than that this is an album I've listened to a few tenths of times since I got it! And I'm no particular fan of Happy Metal, by all means... in fact, I can't wait for the new Testament album to come out but while I wait this is definetly one of the albums I'll be listening.

Mikesn
Emeritus
January 15th 2008



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I thought Helloween did a good job with their new album. It isn't really all that original, but they did a good job with what they had.

I tried to enjoy this, but it really doesn't do anything for me.

The only album I ever liked from these guys was "Insanity and Genius"...
Weird, that was my least favourite before Land of the Free II.

New World Order is good, but I am not buying this. I'll stick with my Kamelot.
Maybe try Majestic.

wow, I was hoping for good stuff out of this too.


Wizard
January 15th 2008



19335 Comments


Great review once again Mikesn. Reading through your well written reviews always reminds me of why you are the number 1 reviewer on this site. I never cared for power metal but I think I will check out GR's back catalogue since you recommended it in your review.

Digging: YOB - Clearing The Path To Ascend

Mikesn
Emeritus
January 15th 2008



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Land of the Free is their best. Check out that or Somewhere Out in Space.

Intransit
January 15th 2008



2797 Comments


Good review.

TheStarclassicTreatment
January 16th 2008



2910 Comments


I quite liked this album, good review nonetheless.

f this is bad, then what to say of Helloween's new?

It rules

Altmer
January 16th 2008



5652 Comments


Gamma Ray always seem to rip Priest and Maiden off on every record. There was a riff on New World Order (in Heart of the Unicorn) that's exactly the same as Priest's All Guns Blazing riff.

BroRape
January 16th 2008



803 Comments


lame band name.

Poet
January 16th 2008



5922 Comments


I've never liked Gamma Ray that much.

Mikesn
Emeritus
January 16th 2008



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

pfft heathen

I got a promo of this over Christmas but haven't had the chance to listen to it yet. Wonderful review
thank you. do yourself a favour and don't bother with it

Gamma Ray always seem to rip Priest and Maiden off on every record.
Ehh, not so much on every album aside from this and maybe No World Order
lame band name.
says BroRapeThis Message Edited On 01.16.08

ZePortouga
January 22nd 2008



19 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

The new Helloween album does not rule IMO... I've never seen a gayer song than can do it (no offense to gay people but ya'll understand what I'm talking about if you've heard the song) but let's leave it at that since this is a Gamma Ray review.

Anyway, I understand that people might not like this album but it's far from one of the worst from them. Hansen is singing better everytime but I do agree that his voice is like Dave Mustaine's ... either you like or you hate it.

As for the songs are pretty much power metal even though they mix uptempo with mid-tempo so we don't end up sleeping after the 3rd song and personally I believe this is the way power metal should be done... as simple as possible... with catchy riffs and choruses.

Anyway, everyone has it's opinion and personally I highly recomend this album. Everyone should ALWAYS listen to music before making assumptions based on people's opinion (be it good or bad) otherwise you might be missing something you might love!



Jayxsnoogans
August 14th 2009



72 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

catchy, fun and well played...love it

not the most inspired GR album, but I think its my favorite

power metal pinnacle!

blackangelx3
May 18th 2012



2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this guy is always doing this kind of things, you have to be impartial about your likes when you make a review, this album is great, what are you going to say about REAL WORLD, FROM THE ASHES, ISURRECTION, INTO TH STORM, im just saying that you need to respect the greats of power metal, please.

pedro70512
April 10th 2014



2530 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Every time I hear the chorus of "To Mother Earth" I think what the hell? thanks to this review. Album isn't half bad and there are some exceptional songs here.



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