Label: earMUSIC/Edel Music
Release Date: March 25, 2013
Power metal founding father Kai Hansen started Gamma Ray in 1989 after his split with Helloween. Since then, Gamma Ray has been releasing album after album of pure, true power metal. For as massive of a repertoire GR has managed to put out, there are very few total flops mixed in with the masterpieces, as most bands still around from the 1980’s are dealing with. Their last full length, “To the Metal“ released in 2010 was no exception, especially with the Michael Kiske feature. Kai Hansen still has the pipes of a true metal god, and the songwriting is as strong as ever.
This month, Gamma Ray has released their latest EP, “Master of Confusion“. While hearing little to no buzz about this EP, I was unsure of what to expect after the three years of relative silence, outside of the “Skeletons and Majesties Live” CD and DVD release recorded in Switzerland. Hearing that release proved that the band still had it in them, even after the near 25 years of bouncing between the road and the studio. “Master of Confusion” however, is a couple new tracks, some cover songs, and additional live recordings of some of their classic tunes recorded in Bochum, Germany.
Original track “Empire of the Undead” begins with a rough scream and some drum and guitar collaboration that is sure to knock you off your feet. Michael Ehre on drums is a relatively new member to the band, and with this track being my first impression of his work, I am quite excited to hear more from him. Straight of out a lost 80’s thrash record, the song is in your face, fast paced, and an all around surprisingly heavy track for what classic Gamma Ray fans would expect. Hansen’s vocals are as sharp and classic as ever, never hesitant, never faltering. The guitar work from the band’s trio of guitarists, Hansen, Dirk Schlacter, and Henjo Richter, is quick and dense, with great lead licks harmonized within.
“Master of Confusion”, is a sharp contrast to the first track, as it demonstrates a definite tempo cut, with traditional power metal drums and bass lines. The vocal work is lower pitched, with few exemptions in the chorus. The song’s message is a definite stadium like anthem, an ode to Gamma Ray if you will, as they claim to be the masters of their craft, which I doubt anyone would deny. The EP also features two cover songs, “Death or Glory” (Holocaust) and “Lost Angels” (The Sweet) which are two very severely contrasting songs. This isn’t the first time Gamma Ray has covered Holocaust, as their cover of “Heavy Metal Mania” is found on “Land of the Free“. “Death or Glory” is one of those dark and angry, short-sweet-to the point kind of metal tunes, as Holocaust was well-known for, and is perfectly executed by Gamma Ray. Sweet however, is a more lighthearted pop-rock band, however they were still a very influential band of the 1970’s. This song has a more traditional power metal vibe when covered by GR, but still sounds very close to the original.
The live tracks on the EP were recorded in Germany (because Germany gets everything of course) and as what is typically expected with Gamma Ray, they are as strong and sharp as ever. The balance in the mixing is clear, and had I not been told these were live, I would have assumed they were some long-lost rough studio mix, because they are so perfect. Michael Kiske (Helloween, Unisonic) is featured on track nine, “Time to Break Free”, which plays back to the fact that Germany gets to see everything, as if Wacken wasn’t enough (I’m not a bitter American at all). All of the live tracks are beautiful, perfectly executed, and a great tease into the GR live experience for those of you that missed the “Skeletons and Majesties Live” release.
This EP is a good look into a possible new album from the power metal kings. The new material is exciting, and truly makes a Gamma Ray fan smile to see that they’re not burning out and certainly not fading away.
- Empire of the Undead
- Master of Confusion
- Death or Glory (Holocaust cover)
- Lost Angels (Sweet cover)
- The Spirit (Live in Bochum)
- Wings of Destiny (Live in Bochum)
- Gamma Ray (Live in Bochum)
- Farewell (Live in Bochum)
- Time to Break Free (Live in Bochum) ft. Michael Kiske
- Insurrection (Live in Bochum)