Gamma Ray - 'Empire Of The Undead'

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Gamma Ray - 'Empire Of The Undead'

'Empire Of The Undead' is a triumph.

Second perhaps only to the mighty Helloween in terms of their historic significance to the rise of Germanic Power Metal (although musically speaking it's hard, nay impossible to place one above the other), Gamma Ray are quite rightly revered by an ever growing legion of fans around the globe.

Formed by guitarist Kai Hansen following his fractious split from Helloween in the late 1980s (although any lingering acrimony between the two parties has long since been put to bed), the band has gone from strength to strength since their 'Heading For Tomorrow' debut in 1989, consistently evolving and changing yet still remaining true to the bombastic Power Metal sound that first made them famous.

Long anticipated follow up to 2010's 'To The Metal' opus, 'Empire Of The Undead' sees GR in no mood to compromise on the fundamental principles that underpin their very existence. Those of you who invested in the excellent 'Master Of Confusion' EP last spring will already have had a two track taster ('Empire Of The Undead' and 'Master Of Confusion' itself), but now it's time for the main event itself ... and boy, if passionate, sophisticated high end Power Metal is your thing, you're in for a bit of a treat!

Kicking off with the enthralling nine and a half minute epic 'Avalon' (a sprawling tome filled with plenty of Iron Maiden references which kinda took me back to the brilliant 'No World Order' opus), Kai and the band make their intentions clear from the get go and then proceed to knock it out of the park. Following track 'Hellbent' is one of those high octane, pedal to the Metal (Speed/Thrash) tracks that GR have always excelled at, whilst the brooding riffs of 'Pale Rider' nod more towards Accept territory.

Other highlights include the soaring 'Born To Fly' (which reminds me of Helloween), the offbeat melancholy of 'Time For Deliverance' (which for some reason conjures up a darkly twisted vision of Queen), the bombastic Speed Metal of 'I Will Return', the near Trad Metal (for GR at any rate) assault of 'Seven' and the malevolent 'Demonseed'.

Despite setbacks in its production – their studio was completely destroyed by fire in November last year – 'Empire Of The Undead' is a triumph; it's massive sound and unfettered angst confirming what we already knew ... in their chosen field Gamma Ray have no peers!

Dave Cockett

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