Gamma Ray was originally intended as a side-project for Helloween guitarist Kai Hansen. However Hansen soon left his band to form this new band with vocalist extrodinaire Ralf Scheepers. They started out sounding very similar to Helloween but eventually found their own sound. Following 1993's Insanity and Genius, Ralf Scheepers departed to try out for Judas Priest; he didn't get the job, (too bad!) but opted to form a new band called Primal Fear (who sound a lot like Priest) rather than return to the fold, leaving Hansen to take over vocal duties since 1995. Kai and Ralph recorded a song together for the Judas Priest tribute. I didn' really discover these guys until 1998 when a friend sent me a tape of a few songs. How the heck I let them slip by, I do not know.
Gamma Ray - Heading for Tomorrow (Noise) 1990
The first Gamma Ray album sounded very much like Helloween. Great album but very underappreciated. The title track is an excellent epic metal song. "Look at Yourself" is a Uriah Heep cover. The main riff from "Heading for Tomorrow" sounds like a Michael Schenker riff.
Gamma Ray -Heaven Can Wait (Noise) 1990
1. "Heaven Can Wait"
This was either a very long single for "Heaven Can Wait" or an EP with a track that also was on "Heading for Tomorrow." I had always been under the assumption that 'Heaven Can Wait' was a full length disc, that is until I received it in the mail. Regardless, this EP features four new tracks of Hansen/Scheepers heavy metal artistry. All these tracks were recorded at the same studio and around the same time as the band's first album "Heading for Tomorrow." Apparently this disc was released in order to help promote the band's 1990 tour.
Gamma Ray - Sigh No More (F.A.D. Records) 1991
I've read mixed reviews about this one. Some say it's their best, others say it sucks. I like it as it still retains the Helloween, German metal style. Gone are the gang chants that Helloween used so much, but the music is more streamlined and a bit more focused, in my opinion. Track #8 ("Countdown") is not on the original cassette or vinyl release. Stupid cover art that reminds me of something the Grateful Dead might do. Found this one in a used cd store for a mere $5.99.
Gamma Ray - Insanity & Genius (Noise) 1993
1. "Tribute to the
Kai Hansen and Ralf Scheepers' German speed metal symphony! This disc rocks supreme! If you are a power metal fan and don't own this CD then you are truly missing out.
Gamma Ray - Land of the Free (Noise) 1995
1. "Rebellion in Dreamland"
Very similar to "Insanity & Genius". "Land of the Free" is another exceptional German engineered heavy metal fest. To tell you the truth though I still think Gamma Ray sounds like Helloween. I'm not sure why Kai felt he couldn't express himself in Helloween. Perhaps he didn't have enough control. Who knows, but now there are two bands who's style and sound are very much the same, so I guess I shouldn't complain. Cool cover art too.
Gamma Ray - Alive'95 (Noise) 1995
Must admit that I don't listen to this one much. It's not that it's bad, actually it's pretty darn good, it's just that I like ther their studio albums so much better. I got this one in an internet trade. (traded some peice of junk that I paid $1 for.) I've heard that there is a single disc version of this as well. "Ride the Sky" is a charged up version of the Helloween classic.
1. "Beyond the Black
2002 BONUS TRACKS
Gamma Ray continue in their neo-classical, Euro-speed metal tradition with Kai Hanson's melodic vox and killer guitar work. "Somewhere Out In Space," is a concept album paying tribute to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I love the way the opening track starts off with the slap bass and double bass. My copy is from Germany and contains the awesome bonus track "Return to Fantasy."
2002 saw the re-release of the entire Gamma Ray catalogue by Sanctuary in Europe and Victory in Japan. The discs are all remastered, contain new cover art and bonus tracks. When all six discs are put together they create a nice collage. Thankfully the original cover art was also included in the booklets which contains all the original liner notes, lyrics and an additional page showing the complete six disc collage. My Japanese copy also contains a booklet written in Japanese. The bonus tracks on this disc are a nice addition. "Return to Fantasy" is a fast, heavy cover of a Uriah Heep original, "Miracle" is a well-written, albeit mellow song, and "Victim of Changes" is a smokin' rendition of Judas Priest's classic with Ralf Sheepers on vocals. This track also appears on Century Media's Judas Priest tribute.
1. "Anywhere the Galaxy"
2002 BONUS TRACKS
Kai Hanson and Company forge ahead in 1999, giving us more of the speed metal they have become known for. No longer can Gamma Ray be compared to Helloween, as Gamma Ray are much heavier, and more aggressive than anything Helloween has done in the last few years. This is probably my favorite Gamma Ray disc.
Disc 6 in of the 6 disc, 2002 remastered re-releases. The bonus tracks on this disc are all excellent, especially the cover of Rainbow's "Long Live Rock 'n Roll". This track also appears on Century Media's Holy Dio tribute.
Gamma Ray - Blast from the Past (Sanctuary) 2000
Gamma Ray - No World Order (Metal-Is) 2001
Yet another stellar concept disc from Gamma Ray. This time 'round the theme revolves around the conspiracy theories of author Mark Brauneis. The music is less complicated this time around and there seems to be less speed metal songs. In replace there is much more passionate, albeit more basic heavy metal. Thoughts of Judas Priest and fellow German metalheads Accept and Rage spring to mind when I first heard this disc. Songs like 'The Heart of the Unicorn' and especially 'Solid' bring to mind the stylings of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton. (As a matter of fact, 'Solid' has some amazing musical similarities to 'Rapid Fire' and 'Eagle' has some similarities to 'Painkiller.') Check out the melodic lead guitar solos in 'Heaven or Hell' and see if this won't make any true headbanger smile in delight. I'd be willing to bet that this 'new' approach will earn the band some seriously bad reviews in trendy metal rags like Kerrang. However, for those of us who like serious true metal, I think Hansen has made a step in the right direction, even if it is a step back to a time when metal actually had some hooks. (thanks kmorg)
Gamma Ray - Skeletons in the Closet (Sanctuary) 2003
Gamma Ray - Majestic (Sanctuary) 2005
1. "My Temple"
For some reason since the release of "No World Order" I sort of lost interest in Gamma Ray. No fault of their own, but their style seems to be emulated by hundreds of European power metal bands. So, when "Majestic" was released, I didn't rush out and buy it. My mistake. Gamma Ray are not one of a handful of copies but one of the originators of a sound. The album opens up with a blast. "My Temple" straddles a fence between speed metal and power metal quite nicely. This song alone should convince skeptics that Gamma Ray aren't geezers that need to fade away into the night. This is heavy metal! The intensity doesn't let up after track one either. "Fight" is equally furious. "Strange World" slows things down a bit and indeed sound "Majestic" with the mix of heavy guitars, dual guitar solos and layered vocals. "Hell Is Thy Home" returns the band to the ultra fast speed metal of the opening track. The remainder of the album doesn't let the intensity down either. Each song is heavy, most are fast, yet they are well written and distinguishable from song to song. "How Long" is probably the least aggressive song on the album and is still a heavy, melodic rocker. Kai Hansen's vocals are as powerful as ever, as are his chops. The guitar work throughout, in both the tight riffs and the impeccable lead work are outstanding. "Majestic" stands above the pack in a scene that is full of copies.
1. "Into the Storm"
Gamma Ray are one of those bands by which other power metal bands are compared to. They were one of the originators of the modern power metal sound. Way back in 1995, Gamma Ray released their infamous "Land of the Free" album to raving reviews, especially considering the metal landscape of the 1990's. Over ten years later and Gamma Ray return with Part II of the "Land of the Free" concept. Frankly, I think that this is a cash in idea, much like Queensryche's recent attempt with "Operation: Mindcrime Pt. II" or Helloween's "Keepers...Pt. 3". The problem with this is that it will inevidibly be compared to the band's classic albums, which hold a lot of nostalgic value for most fans.
However, that is not to say the music contained herein is bad. Rather, what we have here is exactly what you would expect from Gamma Ray; fast, heavy, melodic, German power metal with tons of classic Judas Priest and Iron Maiden influences as well. The first two tracks seem to have a big influence in them. Actually, I think there are some very intentional Maiden influences on this one as well. During the song "Opportunity" I think the band may have even intentionally played tribute to Maiden as I heard bits of "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" and "The Clairvoyant". Likewise, the opening riff of "When the World" has a distinct Maiden flavor. "Empress" sounds like it could have been this single off the album with a catchy melody, memorable hook and Hansen's skilled vocals. "Land of the Free" might not be able to top most Gamma Ray fan's lists, but this is most certainly a solid album from Gamma Ray.