After 1999’s successful Power Plant album, German power metal band Gamma Ray began writing new material for their next album (which ended up being No World Order, released in 2001) But unfortunately, the writing process took a little longer than expected, so Kai Hansen and crew decided it was time to release a best-of album that would encompass each of Gamma Ray’s 6 albums. After a decade of support from loyal fans, Gamma Ray decided to hold a poll on their website to decide which songs would be placed one the album. Not only that, but the chosen tracks off of the Heading for Tomorrow – Land of the Free albums were re-recorded with the new line-up (while all of the remaining tracks were simply remastered). After all, there's know point in spending money on something that's already on your shelves, right? Regardless of whether you agree with such sentiments, the re-recording of the older songs plays an important role in the appeal of this album. The "best Gamma Ray album ever," as Kai Hansen puts it, was released in 2000 under the name of Blast from the Past.
So have the older songs that were re-recorded improved with Blast From the Past? Hell yeah they have. The improvement is especially evident in the tracks from the Ralf Scheepers days. Nothing against Ralf, he's a great singer and all, but he's got nothing on Kai. Classic Gamma Ray material such as Heading for Tomorrow or Changes have improved significantly because of the change in vocalists, especially in the later. Kai Hansen has an extremely powerful voice which he utilizes very well. His screams and shouts of "Changes! / All around me all / All inside my head!" (Changes), "We wish we had never been born / To be the last before the storm!" (Last Before the Storm), or "Shout at the morning / When the red sunrise awakes / The call of reality is all that you hear" (Dream Healer) has the authority that Ralf did not always possess, and is quite fun to listen to. I find that Mr. Hansen is quite effective on Blast to the Past, and as always, is a real treat to hear.
So the music has all been re-recorded with Gamma Ray's new line-up (well, it was new six years ago…), and the vocals have really improved, are there any more changes in the music? Well, yes. Another reason Gamma Ray decided to re-do many of the older songs was to correct any screw ups ("and to create new ones!" notes Kai). In essence, the Heaven Can Wait you hear on Blast From the Past is what it would sound like if it was released today. Same goes for One With the World or Tribute to the Past. However, there is need to worry, as every song manages to retain the atmosphere or mood that was present on the original tracks. Lust for Life and Heaven Can Wait are both still incredibly happy sounding. Dream Healer still sounds mysterious and Changes is still angry and aggressive. This is quite refreshing to see, as it shows that a little extra polish does not hurt the band's work.
Finally, as Blast From the Past is a compilation album, the track list is an important part of the album. And Blast From the Past passes with flying colours here as well. The band's career is represented very well through the double disc, 20 track album. Quite honestly, the only song pick I rather dislike is that of Heal Me, but that isn't to say that it's a bad track. But then again, I felt that the Insanity and Genius record was on the weaker side anyways, so it's only natural that Heal Me would be disappointing. Song wise, the competition between disc 1 and 2 is neck and neck, but I feel that the second disc is the stronger of the two. With classic songs like Rebellion in Dreamland (my all time favourite power metal song), Land of the Free, Somewhere Out in Space, and Armageddon, it provides almost exactly an hour of quality Germanic power metal from the Hamburg based band.
Blast From the Past was Gamma Ray's 'Best of' album. Released 10 years after the band's inception, it showcases the highs of the legendary German power metal band, and it showcases them well. The detail and effort put into this project is very evident, due to not only the interesting 28 page lyric book, but also the precise, crisp sound that each song possesses and the strength and power each song holds. Blast From the Past is an album worth looking into if you're a fan of Gamma Ray, or even power metal as a whole, as the melodic, yet aggressive vocal efforts add a whole knew dimension to Gamma Ray's influential sound. If you ever find Blast From the Past in stores, I would definitely recommend that you make it your next purchase. One of the best compilations in metal for sure.