Gamma Ray
To the Metal!


2.5
average

Review

by Alex Newton USER (49 Reviews)
January 29th, 2010 | 3 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: To the Metal finds Gamma Ray on autopilot, but least Kai consolidated his "influences" into one song this time.

Note - My iTunes version of the album had a different song order.

This album was giving off bad vibes from the beginning: first off, it’s called “To the Metal”, which is pretty bad even in the field of power metal (but at least it’s not called “Ultra Beatdown”). However, upon hearing live versions of the title track last year, I was pleasantly surprised by Gamma Ray’s cover of “Metal Gods” until I found out it was supposed to be an original composition. To make matters worse, the album cover featured Fangface (Gamma Ray’s unofficial mascot) versions of each of the band members. So there was a pretty low spread on this album before so much as a release date was issued.

With that said, I was still excited to hear what Hansen and company had conjured up for their newest release. Parts of “Deadlands” and “Chasing Shadows” appeared on their MySpace about two weeks prior to the release, followed by Schlachter’s “No Need to Cry” and the lead number, “Rise”. These proved promising, if not overly exciting, so on January 28th, I waited at my computer until the midnight release to download the album.

After all, this is Gamma Ray, not some high school band. The musicianship is excellent: the dual lead guitars are spot-on, Schlachter's bass work is solid, if uncreative, and Dan Zimmerman sounds like a locomotive behind the drum set. However, this time around Hansen's vocal work falls short of that on albums like Majestic and No World Order, and the mix sounds less crisp than on their previous works. The linchpin is Hansen's songwriting, which ranges here from uninspired to above average. With no overarching theme, this album has to be judged as a sum of its parts.

As with all of Gamma Ray’s albums since 1995’s Land of the Free, To the Metal is front-loaded, so the first half of the album is better than the second. “Rise” is, as promised, a “full-throttle” number that sets a heavy and fast pace. While it doesn’t offer anything eye-opening, it stands up well to its counterpart on Land of the Free II, “Into the Storm”. The second track, “Deadlands”, is the jewel in this album, sporting the best chorus the band has come up with since “Spiritual Dictator”, or further back, “Heaven or Hell”. Unfortunately, the rest of the song is pretty standard fare and so prevents “Deadlands” from being a classic. Following this is “Mother Angel”, which I feared would resemble “To Mother Earth” from the last album – fortunately, it only does so in title. With a strong chorus and standout synchronized guitar solo by Hansen and Richter, it proves to be another highlight of the album.

This is where things go downhill. I’ve never been fond of Schlachter’s compositions (see “Opportunity” and “Lost in the Future”, both lowlights of their respective albums), and “No Need to Cry” doesn’t help much. It starts off well enough but fails to grow or change into anything intriguing, and just when it is shaping up to be an inoffensively passable song, an odd Schlachter-sung bridge sabotages its momentum. The next track, “Empathy”, passes by without much notice, as its advertised “dense atmosphere” becomes too oppressive to counter its lack of creativity.

And here we encounter the title track: “To the Metal”. On its own terms, this isn’t a bad song. The problem is that, as the marquee piece, it just sounds silly. The lyrics, which are (purposely?) buried in the mix, are some of Kai’s most laughable, as they not only rip off Judas Priest’s signature song but sound like a parody while they’re at it. A build-up at the end keeps the song afloat, but it remains a disappointment in an album full of them. Another potential highlight is wasted in “All You Need to Know”, which the band’s site calls an "anthem", but sounds a lot like a Helloween B-side. Don't waste your time or money.

The last three tracks manage to infuse a bit of excitement into the end of the album. “Time to Live” is reminiscent of “Condemned to Hell”, which is to say it’s a fun song but not great. At about the three minute mark, Henjo breaks into an oddly familiar solo: the organ solo of Deep Purple’s “Burn”, and it fits perfectly. The ‘melodically diverse’ “Shine Forever” is notable for its very un-Gamma Ray chorus, in the exact opposite way of “To Mother Earth” – it’s an interesting change of pace and quite fun. Closing the album (on the version I have) is “Chasing Shadows”, another high-octane piece that sports a great dual solo and rousing chorus. Unfortunately for this song, it follows a tradition of epic closing songs by Gamma Ray (“Shine On”, “Armageddon”, “Revelation”, “Insurrection”) and ends the album on a rather pedestrian note. Oh, and the bonus track "Wannabees" is about as good as its title implies. As in, it's not.

If you haven’t heard Gamma Ray’s back catalogue, then you'll be impressed by parts of To the Metal, but if you’re familiar with the consistently excellent work of the band, it’s clear that this is a sub-par effort. Following the hit-or-miss “Land of the Free II”, I was hoping for a solid album; instead, we get one where the better songs are about the same quality as those which get skipped on Gamma Ray’s best works. I’d stick to the beginning and end of this one if you can pick and choose your songs to buy. It’s time to pray that Kai Hansen hasn’t forgotten that he is the torch-bearer of Power Metal.

Recommended:

Deadlands
Mother Angel
Time to Live

Avoid:

No Need to Cry
All You Need to Know
Wannabees



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Comments:Add a Comment 
XulOnerom
January 30th 2010


1818 Comments


Good review. Don't see the point of repeating the summary in the review, but other than that it ain't bad

I said this in the other review and I'll say it again, this band sucks ass

Jayxsnoogans
February 2nd 2010


72 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

A few days later...i like this album...not as good as the last 4 or so

meepstone
February 2nd 2010


11 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The album sounds better after the first listen. No Need to Cry is very meh. One thing I dont agree with is that land of the free II was not dissapointing. wasnt as amazing as some of the others but was good.



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