Gamma Ray - Land Of The Free II
Power Metal
12 songs (65'39)
Release year: 2007
Gamma Ray, SPV
Reviewed by Marty
Major event
Taking a page from the Helloween school of thought in "revisiting" the glory days of the past to help jumpstart the band's popularity, Kai Hansen and company have decided to revisit the 90's for their latest effort and release a sequel to their classic Land Of The Free album from 1995. It's a dangerous decision to undertake such a task although, many will agree that Helloween managed to pull it off. Faced with declining sales from a couple of less than spectacular releases in No World Order and Majestic, Helloween's decision to revisit the "Keeper" era of the band was an obvious influence on Gamma Ray deciding to release this new album under the title of Land Of The Free II. With the classic Gamma Ray artwork and imagery, this has been one anxiously awaited new release ever since the band began working on the album early last year. Fans have longed for the return of the classic Gamma Ray sound and this new album had all the promise to do just that.

Initially, I was a little disappointed with this album. There were too many "familiar" sounding segments that either sounded like material from other bands or from the Gamma Ray / Helloween legacy (more on that later). There's no denying the similarities in sound to other songs yet there's a real strength in the material and in particular, the song writing quality that those aspects slowly took over and I began to really enjoy this return to the classic Gamma Ray sound. The album starts with a solid and speedy track entitled Into The Storm, a song that has made it's way into the setlist for the current Gamma Ray / Helloween tour. With a great chorus and solid lead guitar harmonies, this song sets the tone for the album quite nicely. For many, any problems with this album start with the next track From The Ashes. With an initial feel of material from Maiden's A Matter Of Life And Death, it adopts a typical Maiden galloping rhythm and even some elements of songs like The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner and other material from Maiden's Somewhere In Time album and even a little of the feel of Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. Otherwise, it's a great track with a speedy chorus that reminds me of the track Silence from Gamma Ray's debut Heading For Tomorrow. To Mother Earth revisits Kai Hansen's time in Helloween in the 80's with a track that has a very similar speedy style and vocal melodies as the classic Eagle Fly Free. It even uses the exact same style of a half-timed chorus section over a double-timed rhythmic pattern. The fact that Kai sings, "Once I saw the eagle fly" gives the impression that maybe this was intentional as a tribute to the past so to speak. Rain is a more hard-hitting track with strong pull-off riffs and a more aggressive tone overall which leads into Leaving Hell; another speedy double-bass fuelled track with another soaring chorus and awesome lead guitar work. Another potential shitstorm can be found with the track Empress. How can you not listen to this track and see that it's almost a copy of the format used by Accept for Princess Of The Dawn? With the same hypnotic feel and almost exact chorus section, although it's very well done and a very catchy track, it's tainted by the all too similar qualities as the classic Accept track from their Restless And Wild album. Continuing with the Maiden influences, When The World has almost the same intro and verse sections as Flash Of The Blade from Powerslave. The track has great vocals by Kai, a solid chorus and even features a little of the Powerslave "gallop" mid-song. Opportunity is a chugging and heavy track that has a bit of the Gamma Ray tongue-in-cheek quality of yesteryear but again, Iron Maiden appears mid track to play the last part of Rime Of The Ancient Mariner (you know the part after the creaking ship section that starts with Steve Harris' bass?). Real World has very similar qualities as Helloween's I Want Out in it's arrangement, feel and big gang chorus but since Kai wrote that song then I guess it's O.K. to copy from yourself. Hear Me Calling is another solid and speedy power metal track and the album closer Insurrection, is a massive and expansive 11+ minute epic that reprises melodies from Rebellion In Dreamland from the original Land Of The Free album. This track also features very thematic and dramatic changes, extended instrumental passages, speedy lead harmony breaks and has the "epic" feel of classic Helloween tracks like Keeper Of The Seven awesome finish to the album.

There's always going to be serious debate about "borrowing" ideas from other bands or other songs versus blatantly ripping them off. Gamma Ray comes awfully close in a couple of places here to ripping off Iron Maiden and Accept yet the songs in particular are still all great songs. The similarities lie more with the music and not the vocal harmonies or choruses. I finally decided to "look past" some of these shortcomings after about the second listen and discovered that it really is a solid album. Many don't seem to be able to look past those aspects and although I can understand it, they are being rather short-sighted in the end and are missing out on a great album. All the songs are strong and in some instances, the sound of Gamma Ray of old has returned. Despite it's obvious lack of originality in spots, it's their best album since Powerplant as far as I'm concerned. This album could've been so much better without the similarities in sound to Maiden, Accept and other Gamma Ray / Helloween material and it's hard to say if it deserves the Land Of The Free II moniker but there's no denying the stronger song writing and great sound of this album over their last couple of albums. Take it for what it is....a great Gamma Ray album that is sure to please long-time fans of the band. That was the real purpose here and the only thing that really matters isn't it?

Killing Songs :
Into The Storm, From The Ashes, When The World and Insurrection
Marty quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Gamma Ray that we have reviewed:
Gamma Ray - Empire of the Undead reviewed by Andy and quoted 78 / 100
Gamma Ray - Skeletons and Majesties reviewed by Alex and quoted no quote
Gamma Ray - To The Metal! reviewed by Kyle and quoted 79 / 100
Gamma Ray - Somewhere Out In Space reviewed by Kyle and quoted CLASSIC
Gamma Ray - Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome - Live In Montreal (DVD) reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
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