Land of the Free II
Power metal is always a hit or miss genre for me. But since this is Kai Hansen's baby I always give them a chance because the first three Helloween albums meant so much to me growing up. The first two tracks, Into the Storm and From the Ashes, are kick-ass, catchy as hell sing along metal anthems. Smooth melodic leads, twin guitar harmonies, and creamy vocals as soft as butter ooze from Kai's underrated but still stellar throat. From the opening fret madness of To Mother Earth to its final glorious notes I hear echoes of Helloween's glory days of Keeper of the Seven Keys. But starting with the biker rock rhythms and sour chorus of Rain the album sort of becomes hit or miss as they add elements from outside influences in what appears to be an effort to update and modernize their sound. I think Gamma Ray works best when they concentrate on traditional song writing. Perhaps that is just the traditionalist in me coming out though. One thing I always admire about Gamma Ray is that even though they displays flashes of technicality and instrumental skill they never seem to over do it, or to get too wrapped up in their own vanity where Land of the Free II is a solid album that is lifted in parts by excellent power metal anthems and dragged down in others by unnecessary experimentation. With that being said, this album overall is an enjoyable experience and compared with a lot of the pretentious crap passing as power metal these days I am glad to see Gamma Ray remains pretty much unchanged. The biggest indicator of the success of Land of the Free II is that after listening to it I feel uplifted and full of POWER. To me that is the real goal of this style and Gamma Ray are masters within the field.