Gamma Ray – “Empire Of The Undead” (earMUSIC – Edel)
“Empire Of The Undead” is Gamma Ray’s 11th album but the first without long time drummer Dan Zimmerman. Given that these guys were one of the founding pillars of modern German power metal, there’s actually precious little of it on this album. Whether it’s the departure of Dan or Kai Hansen’s involvement in the hard rock / heavy metal band Unisonic I don’t know, but this album contains a wider range of material other than where the band’s roots began and gave us acclaimed albums like “Land Of The Free”. Still, that may not be a bad thing when you’ve got the might of ‘Avalon’, graced by stupendous melodies, epic choirs and heavenly atmospheric keyboards in a sorta Magnum meets Maiden mix. However, as the tempo increases so too do the Maiden influences on ‘Seven’ or ‘Master Of Confusion’ especially in their catchy melodies and indeed could be them except for Kai Hansen’s discernible but still highish vocals. All fine renditions nonetheless until you get to the Priest clone of ‘Hellbent’ – complete with attitude filled lyrics like ‘..burn motherfucker feel the flame..’ or ‘Time For Deliverance’ – now you tell me if that isn’t Queen in places?! Thankfully the prophetic ‘I Will Return’ does exactly that and returns us to the classic days with it’s fast galloping pace and uplifting melodies – even with the Scorpions like soloing – proving Gamma Ray most definitely haven’t forgotten their roots. Certainly well played and produced although nearly beset by disaster when the band’s studio burned down nearly taking the masters with them, this album will definitely be debated long and hard: experimenting into diversity aside, if anyone else had done this and to this degree they would’ve been panned. But given it’s by the legendary Gamma Ray it will be undoubtedly accepted – with some indigestion – although Kai Hansen better have a serious think about where he really wants to take this.