earMusic [Release date 24.07.15]
Gamma Ray were formed after Kai Hansen left Helloween, the band he helped co-found, back in 1988. Back then this was big news as Helloween were riding a massive wave of popularity (they had played Monsters Of Rock and toured the UK as a headline act) with their speed meets power/prog metal. Joining Hansen in Gamma Ray was vocalist Ralf Scheepers, who joined Primal Fear when he left Gamma Ray in 1994.
I can remember buying this album when it first came out and to think that was 25 years ago is pretty scary! The main album is of course a must have for any lover of power/speed metal. You can’t go wrong with sing-a-long metal anthems like ‘Heaven Can Wait’, ‘Money’ (with its fun acapella midsection) and one of their best songs in my book ‘Free Time’. The band could also show a more epic, almost prog side on ‘Heading For Tomorrow’ which features lots of time changes and guitar solos.
They even did a power ballad in ‘The Silence’, piano to the fore and pomp rock backing, sterling stuff. Then there is ‘Hold Your Ground’ where the guitars of Hansen and the vocals of Scheepers meld perfectly, another one of their best songs in my view.
CD1 also features the band’s cover of Uriah Heep’s ‘Look At Yourself’, which only appeared on the original CD version. ‘Sail On’ and ‘Lonesome Stranger’ complete the first CD, both featured originally on the ‘Heaven Can Wait’ EP.
CD2 will be the one fans will be after though with some interesting demos. These include ‘Sail On’, ‘Heaven Can Wait’ and ‘Money’ with Kai Hansen on vocals, a foretaste of things to come as when Ralf left the band Kai took over as vocalist. There are also live versions of ‘Heading For Tomorrow’ and ‘Space Eater’. Not too sure about the two karaoke versions of the album’s title track and ‘Space Eater’, personally I would have preferred another couple of live songs.
One of the few albums where it was ‘all killer no filler’. Loved this album when it was first released and it still sounds great today. It was a big gamble for Kai Hansen to leave Helloween at the height of their success but it paid off with Gamma Ray still going strong today (as are Helloween). If you like speed/power metal this album should be in your collection, simple as that. *****
Review by Jason Ritchie
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