Gamma Ray - 'Skeletons & Majesties Live'

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Gamma Ray - 'Skeletons & Majesties Live'

Probably the best live album of its type I've ever heard.

Along with the mighty Helloween and Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray are the third and final link in the (un)holy trinity of German bands that have pretty much patented the blueprint for modern day power metal. Formed by ex Helloween guitarist Kai Hansen in the late 80’s, over the course of ten full studio albums, a string of live recordings and countless live shows Gamma Ray have slowly but inexorably clawed their way to the very top of the pile – and on the strength of this, their latest live extravaganza, I really can’t see that position changing any time soon! Capturing the band on stage at the legendary Z7 in Pratteln in April of last year, this invaluable live document records for eternity the unique tour put together in support of their much overlooked ‘Skeletons and Majesties EP’.

Released as either a double live CD, DVD or Blu-ray set (the choice is yours – the latter two coming with tons of bonus features), what makes this different from the plethora of other live offerings begging for your cash this time of year is fairly straightforward as far as I can tell – the on stage performance is nothing short of spellbinding! For starters the sound quality is uniformly awesome throughout, the choice of set – a very well thought out mix of old and new – encapsulates every single facet of the band (and not just the pedal to the metal up-tempo stuff that they’re primarily known for), the interaction with the crowd is heart-warming to behold, and the band dynamics are at times mind blowing.

Kick-starting the evening with a rousing ‘Anywhere In The Galaxy’, what really struck me first was just how slick the band are technically speaking in a live setting – they’ve always managed to pull it off in the studio, but that awesome dexterity is both reproduced and enhanced on stage (as I said, the crystal clear mix certainly enriches the aural experience). So having laid down the gauntlet from the get go, we’re then treated to a whopping two hours of some of the finest power metal anthems yet written. ‘The Spirit’, ‘Wings Of Destiny’, ‘Time To Break Free’ (the first of three tracks to feature a cameo from former Helloween man Michal Kiske), ‘Watcher In The Sky’ … all barnstorming versions of their studio equivalents beefed up and set to lay waste to anything that stands before them.

Finally, after teasing the audience with a bit of Grieg’s ‘Peer Gynt’, the set is brought to a suitably crescendo littered climax as Kiske re-joins the band for the final time to run through the timeless ‘Future World’! I’m gonna stick my neck out a bit here, but this is probably the best live album of its type I’ve ever heard!

Dave Cockett

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