Every now and then, a band pops out of nowhere and creates a new sound, innovative enough to be copied by hundreds of bands worldwide. The band will lead a new wave of musicians hungering to get big in the scene, musicians trying to create that one classic album that will forever be remembered and revered by fans of the genre for decades.
Iím going to be a bit blunt here. Gamma Rayís No World Order
is not that album. While the bandís vocalist and guitarist, Kai Hansen, is considered one of the ďgrandfathersĒ of power metal, with No World Order Gamma Ray has taken a more traditional route. In their seventh studio album, Gamma Ray combines an Iron Maiden/Judas Priest-ish sound with their own brand of power metal to produce a superb, 51 minute album.
Released in 2001, No World Order is another concept album from Gamma Ray, this time based on the Illuminati, a secret society that supposedly controls the world. The lyrics to the songs are open for interpretation, but they all tie to the Illuminati and their goals of global domination.
Opening up No World Order is Induction
, a short, minute long track introducing the concept. Tribal sounding drums are the backbone of the trackís rhythm. The vocals are layered and give the track an epic feeling. Soon enough, Induction fades into the next song.
is the first real song of the album, and reminds one of past Gamma Ray songs. Dethrone Tyranny has classic Gamma Ray potential and is well received among fans, as it is the top rated song on their website. At 4:14, it is the shortest song on the album, but Dethrone Tyranny is also one of the faster songs. It has an upbeat attitude all the way through, and Kaiís vocals are helpful and can do no wrong to the song. Musically, the band bursts out of the gate with a melodic, speedy riff, constant double bass, and the occasional clean riff. The song is fairly catchy, and one of the more accessible songs on No World Order.
On the next song, Gamma Ray takes a totally different path. Track three, The Heart of the Unicorn
, is a savage song and its style is quite reminiscent to Judas Priestís Painkiller. Kai screams out Halford-esque vocals akin to Painkillerís vocals. The riffs, while not the overly technical pieces, are some of Gamma Rayís heaviest, and suit the song very well. The lyrics are darker than many Gamma Ray songs, and are more effective with Kaiís singing style. The chorus is insanely catchy and at the same time, insanely cheesy. If you do not wish to be laughed at, I recommend you refrain from singing it. Overall, The Heart of the Unicorn is one of the albums top songs, and a definite favourite of mine.
Heaven and Hell
, the albums single, returns to a more recognizable Gamma Ray sound. Like Dethrone Tyranny, it is upbeat and very catchy. However, despite its popularity, the song isnít anything too spectacular. The riffs are at a slower pace, are quite simple and uninteresting. Kaiís vocals are easily the highlight here. His vocal lines are as good as theyíre going to get, and they save the song from mediocrity. Also impressive are the two solos. Both elements add a new dimension to the song that the rhythm just doesnít have. Heaven or Hell is a good pick for the single, but Gamma Ray has better songs.
To me, title tracks have a little higher expectation than other songs on an album. I feel that the title track should be one of the albums top two or three songs. New World Order
wasnít any different. New World Order starts with a simple, yet fun riff that builds up to the first verse. The lyrics here are the easiest to understand, fit in with the albums concept, and are among the best on the album. The song has a great vibe to it, whether itís the songís powerful riffs, constant drumming, or exceptional vocals. My only complaint with New World Order is the bridge right before the clean riffs. The bridge sounds VERY similar to another Kai Hansen song, I Want Out, from Helloweenís Keeper of the 7 Keys Pt 2. I would rather have seen something more original in its place. New World Order easily met my expectations, and is one of the albumís, if not Gamma Rayís best songs.
A heavier song, Damn the Machine
, comes up next. The intro reminds me of another Gamma Ray song, Dream Healer, though it is hardly the same. The guitar work on Damn the Machine is well done, and it sounds like it could have been found on Judas Priestís Painkiller album. The chorus is classic Gamma Ray material, and is pretty powerful. The lyrics describe a world where the rights of the people are oppressed by cruel dictators. Not exactly original, but this is Gamma Ray weíre talking about. Kaiís singing isnít as strong on Damn the Machine, as the focus seems to be on other instruments. Damn the Machine is an enjoyable song, and stands up against their other anthems quite well.
Track 7 starts up with a fast paced riff. But as you listen to it, you think, ďHey where have I heard this before"Ē Solid
sounds exactly like a Judas Priest song, the guitars, the vocals (especially the vocals), the drumming, the bass, everything. Now that doesnít mean itís a bad song, as Solid is far from it. The song is faster than Damn the Machine, and much more interesting, while at the same time doesnít lose its heaviness. The highlight is definitely the longer instrumental half way through the song, which includes superb solos from Kai and Henjo, as well as a cool machine gun sounding drum effect from Dan. The song fades out with the lines ďWeíre soliiiiiiidĒ. While not the really that original, Solid is a great song that you will not likely want to skip.
With Fire Below
, we hit a bump in the road. Fire Below is a slower track with a nice groove, but not much else. The lyrics are odd, and Iím not sure how they fit the concept. At the times, the lead guitar sounds pretty cool, in much of the song, a fairly dull rhythm is used. Zimmermannís drumming is top notch here, and to me sticks out the most. Fire Below is a skip-able track, and easily the worst song here.
Following Fire Below is Follow Me
. A cool sounding keyboard intro which reminds me of Send Me a Sign off the previous album, Powerplant, starts off the song, which despite some catchy sections here and there isnít too spectacular either. Follow Me is one of the simpler songs, but it still features excellent vocal lines from Kai. The songís lyrics are another highlight, and are some of the best on the album. Follow Me is also Henjo Richterís first contribution to the album. Overall, Follow Me is a fun track to listen to, but not the albumís best.
The albumís second last song starts with a heavy riff, before leading into Kaiís powerful singing. Eagle
is one of the albums best songs, up there with The Heart of the Unicorn and New World Order. Musically, the pre-chorus is a bit reminiscent to (again) Painkillerís main chorus. Eagle features great, melodic soloís from Gamma Rayís guitarists, pounding double bass from Dan Zimmermann, and catchy bass lines from Dirk. The instrumental halfway through heís incredibly powerful, with all the members playing extraordinarily well. The chorus, especially the last chorus, as this great atmosphere about it, and is very catchy. Eagle gets a thumbs up from me.
Finishing off the album is the ballad, Lake of Tears
. Another one of Henjo Richterís songs, it starts with a clean riff from the guitarists, before an emotional synth effect heightens the atmosphere. Lake of Tears is your average power ballad, with sappy, yet powerful lyrics, clean verses, emotional vocals, and slow guitar solos. Despite how generic Lake of Tears is, itís still enjoyable to listen to and well written. A great way for the band to finish off the album.
Gamma Rayís guitarist, Kai Hansen, was one of the young musicians who greatly helped get the Power Metal ball rolling. 20 years later, he and the rest of Gamma Ray is still perfecting the formula that Helloween introduced. No World Order is a superb offering from one of Germanyís finest bands and would not look out of place in the collection of any metal fan. Those who are looking for something more original and innovative might want to look somewhere else, but those of you looking for great, traditional heavy metal need not look further. Good luck finding it though.