Gamma Ray: Land Of The Free (2CD reissue)
Has Kai Hansen's stock ever been higher than it is now? Unisonic, Hansen & Friends and a Helloween reunion tour all seeing the guitarist and sometime singer's profile come to the fore in a way it hasn't done for many a year. Released in 1995, Land Of The Free was the fourth album for his post-Helloween outfit Gamma Ray, but in many ways it was another new beginning for the band's main-man. With singer Ralf Scheepers jumping ship in hope of fronting Judas Priest, but ending up with Primal Fear as his ultimate destination, Hansen did what he hadn't since Walls Of Jericho era Helloween and stepped up to the microphone to handle lead vocals. It was an inspired move, his best (to date) vocal performance bolstered by a set of songs that towered over Gamma Ray's two previous albums and possibly their lauded Heading For Tomorrow debut as well. The fact that it all sounded like early Helloween didn't exactly hurt either - in truth it's what the fans wanted all along. Oddly it would also prove to be the final studio album with the band for bassist Jan Rubach and drummer Thomas Nack, while Dirk Schlächter would also move from guitars and keyboards to the bass position within the line-up.
So a swan-song of sorts, Land Of The Free was a fitting way to close and then open a new chapter for Gamma Ray, the opening duo of "Rebellion In Dreamland" and "Man On A Mission" as good as this band had ever crafted, while the likes of "Salvation's Calling" and "Land Of The Free" weren't far behind. Poignantly, the closing "Afterlife" was a fitting tribute to the one-time Helloween man's sadly departed ex-bandmate Ingo Schwichtenberg. However, with the Rubach written "Farewell" a clever change of pace that still feels in touch with the classic speed-power attack and "All Of The Damned" and "Rise Of The Damned" adding to the album's epic feel, if you're looking for an archetypal example of why Kai Hansen is, in Euro-metal circles, so revered, this is it right here.
As previous reissue of this album have, the Holocaust cover, "Heavy Metal Mania" (from the Rebellion In Dreamland EP), pre-production version of "As Time Goes By" and "The Silence '95" (the latter from the Silent Miracles EP) are also added. However as part of a bonus disc, so are four instrumental tracks recorded between 2016 and 2017 in Chameleon Studios, and for a set of songs from across the band's catalogue that originally had lyrics, these new versions actually prove to be surprisingly engaging.
Gamma Ray don't come much better than this and, put simply, if European power/speed metal is of any interest to you, this album really should be in your collection.
1. Rebellion in dreamland
2. Man on a mission
4. All of the damned
5. Rising of the damned
6. Gods of deliverance
8. Salvation's calling
9. Land of the free
10. The saviour
11. Abyss of the void
12. Time to break free
1. Heavy metal mania (Holocaust cover)
2. As time goes by (Pre-production version)
3. The silence '95
4. Dream healer (Instrumental – live at Chameleon studio 2017)
5. Tribute to the past (Instrumental – live at Chameleon studio 2017)
6. Heaven can wait (Instrumental – live at Chameleon studio 2016)
7. Valley of the king (Instrumental – live at Chameleon studio 2016)
Added: September 23rd 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Gamma Ray online
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