Gamma Ray - 'The Best (Of)'

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Gamma Ray - 'The Best (Of)'

This album represents twenty-five of the best from a true Metal titan.

One of a triumvirate of unambiguously pivotal bands who between them pretty much wrote the book on Teutonic Power Metal – the others of course being Helloween and Blind Guardian – Gamma Ray have been at the very pinnacle of the European Metal market for more than a quarter of a century now.

Formed by guitarist Kai Hansen soon after his shock exit from the Helloween camp – you have to remember that at the time the two 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys' albums were rapidly becoming a global phenomenon – since debuting with 'Heading For Tomorrow' in February 1990, they've rarely disappointed. Various members have come and gone over the years as you'd expect (vocalist Ralf Scheepers being one of the more notable), but with Hansen (the one constant) at the helm, longstanding members Dirk Schlächter and Henjo Richter have helped steer a course that has literally blazed a trail for all comers to follow if they dare.

On something of a high following the rapturous reception afforded last year's sizzling 'Empire Of The Undead', Hansen has handpicked twenty-five of what he considers to be their most influential songs and pulled them together into one rather mouth-watering package. All the tracks have been re-mastered by Eike Freese (Deep Purple) and are presented here with exclusive liner notes from the man himself. Covering all eras of the band from the aforementioned debut '...Tomorrow' right up to '...Undead', for both the uninitiated and the long standing fan, this offers the quintessential GR experience. Fast songs, slow songs, moody songs, songs tinged with melancholy and melodrama... for anyone who thought Gamma Ray were just a one trick pony, think again!

A short bombastic intro announces the arrival of the kerosene-fuelled 'Armageddon' (from 'Powerplant'); it's overblown crescendos and deftly assured time changes the proud standard bearer for the legacy bequeathed them by Helloween. Next up is 'Heaven Can Wait' from the debut; a much less frantic track with a strong hook and a more traditional Metal approach along with some nice guitar touches from Kai. Then there's 'Dream Healer' which explores an altogether darker, more ominous side of the band, whilst 'Induction/Dethrone Tyranny' (from my personal favourite 'No World Order') shows Kai and company at their most enthrallingly cerebral... and that's just disc one!

Elsewhere, classics such as 'Valley Of The Kings', 'Rebellion', 'Tribute To The Past' and 'Blood Religion' all highlight the song-writing strength and depth the band have at their disposal. No previously unreleased little nuggets (unfortunately) but the new re-master certainly spruces up the sound, especially on the early tracks.

This album represents twenty-five of the best from a true Metal titan!

Dave Cockett

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