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To the Metal! (Bonus Track Version)

Gamma Ray

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Album Review

Gamma Ray, formed by Kai Hansen, formerly of Helloween, in 1989, have become something of a power metal institution at this point. Far from the pomp and shred-happiness of 1990s-2000s acts like HammerFall and DragonForce, though, Gamma Ray's vision of power metal is one that harks back to the early-'80s sound of Judas Priest, Accept, and even Scorpions. Their guitar riffs are headbang-worthy, but their choruses are meant to be sung along to by starry-eyed audiences; lines like "Let me die as a rebel/Or live as a free man at last," from "All You Need to Know," are absurd on their face, but the earnest delivery allows the band to carry them off without seeming foolish — it's just part of the showmanship that metal used to traffic in but which fell by the wayside in the post-grunge years. The musicianship on To the Metal! is top-notch; the drumming, in particular, has a swing and groove that's far more impressive than most younger acts' endless marathons of triggered blastbeats. Gamma Ray sound straight from the '80s, but not in a jokey way. They're working within a defined tradition, maintaining an aesthetic that's no less recognizable than klezmer or Western swing. Fans of the genre, and the power metal aesthetic, will find this album very rewarding. Outsiders and/or newcomers probably shouldn't bother unless they approach with genuinely open ears and wipe that smirk off their face.

Biography

Formed: 1989

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Kai Hansen formed Helloween in 1984, playing guitar and singing on the speed metal band's first four albums. He left in early 1989, however, and founded Gamma Ray with vocalist Ralf Scheepers (formerly with Tyran Pace). The duo intended to record a one-off project that Hansen originated while in Helloween, so they recruited bassist Uwe Wessel, drummer Matthias Burchardt, and several other musicians. The album, Heading for Tomorrow, was released in 1990 and proved a hit with fans and critics, so much...
Full bio
To the Metal! (Bonus Track Version), Gamma Ray
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