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Gamma Ray: Skeletons & Majesties Live
I wasn't expecting to see a new release from the German power metal legends Gamma Ray this year probably as front man Kai Hansen has been involved with his new impressive metal band Unisonic. However this is not an album full of fresh material as such but a live one which means Gamma Ray have now released two live recordings since 2008 and one new full length studio album To The Metal in 2010. They did release the EP Skeletons & Majesties in 2011 which was a different take on some previous Gamma Ray tunes and it received a mixed reception. Since their first release in 1990 Gamma Ray have had a total of ten full length albums and six of these were recorded before the year 2000, so the Gamma crew haven't been so active in recording new material since. Maybe this live album is a filler for the fans till we see that new album hopefully in the not too distant future, with a new Helloween release also on the horizon 2013 is looking great for all the European power metal buffs.
Skeletons & Majesties Live is a dual CD release with a DVD version to follow, captured during 2011 at the Z7 in Pratteln, Switzerland. Once again Gamma Ray are performing like the enthusiastic precision team they are with Kai Hansen on vocals and guitar and long term members guitarist Henjo Richter and bass player Dirk Schlachter. While behind the kit is their longest serving drummer Daniel Zimmermann who has since departed Gamma Ray after having provided those stirring beats for many years. I was surprised to read this as I was under the impression that Daniel had parted ways with Freedom Call the band he co-founded to concentrate on Gamma Ray, but anyway Daniel has now been replaced by Michael Ehre.
Continuing on the theme from the 2011 EP, Skeletons & Majesties Live isn't your usual Gamma Ray collection, as there are different or unexpected inclusions. Like acoustic versions of "Rebellion In Dreamland" and "Send Me A Sign" which sound fine for what they are in these much lighter arrangements, but pale in comparison to the metalized originals. However there is still a fine bundle of Gamma Ray style metal like the memorable animated tracks "Anywhere In The Galaxy" and "Dethrone Tyranny", and both sound fantastic. I was surprised by the absence of material from the latest full length studio album To The Metal, a song like "Empathy" would have been a great inclusion but on Skeletons & Majesties Live the swift track "Rise" is the sole inclusion from that album. An added attraction that fans of Hansen's former band Helloween will recognise are the vocals of Michael Kiske who appears on three tracks including one of Helloween's classics "Future World".
Skeletons & Majesties Live demonstrates that Gamma Ray are still up to the task, but myself I do prefer their previous two live albums Skeletons In The Closet and Hell Yeah! The Awesome Foursome. Though the DVD may change my thoughts, especially with a Blu Ray edition on the cards.
1. Welcome (Intro)
2. Anywhere In The Galaxy
3. Men, Martians and Machines
4. The Spirit
5. Wings Of Destiny
7. Gamma Ray
9. Time To Break Free
10. Rebellion In Dreamland (Acoustic)
11. Send Me A Sign (Acoustic)
2. Dethrone Tyranny
3. Watcher In The Sky
4. Hold Your Ground
5. A While In Dreamland
9. Future World
Added: November 29th 2012
Reviewer: Scott Jessup
Related Link: Band Website
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