Gamma Ray - To The Metal!
Edel
Power Metal
10 songs (48:21)
Release year: 2010
Gamma Ray, Edel
Reviewed by Kyle
Major event

I don’t think it’s ever been this difficult for me to write a review. My initial listen of To The Metal! left an amazing impression on me; I really, truly thought that Gamma Ray had regained their old spark that made the classics like Land Of The Free and Somewhere Out In Space what they were, while simultaneously adjusting their sound into a more polished, modern form would keep in pace with more modern metal bands and thoroughly impress their core fan-base at the same time. And to tell you the truth… This is only half right. All of the fast tracks on To The Metal! are very reminiscent of songs like Man On A Mission, and are very much in the mid-90’s GR vein with just a touch of modern sounding power metal (Like from Majestic), which I absolutely love. The other five songs, however, fall flat because they are either boring, uninspired, or just plain weird. The band has continued what they unfortunately started with Land Of The Free II with the mid-paced tracks; they’re relying less on their brand of timeless power metal and more on the foundations their legendary influences (Iron Maiden, Manowar) built. Guys, it’s always good to return to your roots, but seriously… there’s a limit.

To The Metal! is a very appropriate title for Gamma Ray’s tenth full-length album to date. This is, in some respects, a tribute to GR’s past where they reigned supreme in the land of power metal. Unfortunately, it’s also a tribute to a time further back, before Gamma Ray came into existence, that doesn’t fit in well here at all. It feels like the band is trying to throw all kinds of little winks to us here and there, whether it be on Mother Angel (Hey look, guys! This riff sounds like something Skid Row did! Eh? Eh?? * crickets *), Time To Live (Hey! Remember that other band I was in?? Well the chorus of this song sounds nearly identical to that of their song I Want Out!), or the song that all of you have heard more than enough of by now, To The Metal! (Hey, you guys! This one sounds like… um… oh, fuck it, we’ll admit that we totally ripped off Manowar).

But I have to admit, as under-capable as Gamma Ray appears on the five slow-to-mid-paced songs, they’re at least entertaining to listen to, and I all but completely forget about them when I listen to the true power / speed metal masterpieces GR presents us with on To The Metal!. I cannot lie; these are some of the best songs of Gamma Ray’s career. They really have that old anthemic feeling back in them that has been gone ever since No World Order!. Rise is probably the best track on here, beginning with a short clean-picked riff before the same passage explodes into a huge power metal anthem that will surely impress all of the band’s fans, new and old. Deadlands is a perfect blend of old-school GR and modern power metal; You’ll be impressed with the classic riffing and an amazing chorus that’s reminiscent of Valley Of The Kings, but what will truly wow you is the brief-yet-blisteringly-fast passages that punctuate the song in all the right places, along with the unconventional synthesizer use.

Shine Forever is a heavy / power metal charger executed in prime fashion, with a slapped-bass intro that has me recalling Beyond The Black Hole, and a chant-along chorus that you simply can’t get out of your head. All You Need To Know is another one of my favorites; the beginning melody is insanely good (But not in a cheesy / uplifting sense), the verse is catchy as hell, and the chorus has Michael Kiske sharing vocal duties with Kai. It’s an interesting occurrence, because this melody wouldn’t fit neither Gamma Ray nor Hansen’s style, but Kiske amazingly makes it work with a Pink Bubbles…-era Helloween sound. Chasing Shadows was the first fast song I heard on this album, and it’s gotten a little old by now, but it’s still a fantastic track that follows the Land Of The Free / Somewhere Out In Space formula religiously.

Gamma Ray truly does get most things right with To The Metal!, and they bring back a lot of elements that have been missing from the band for too long (Such as Kai’s wide variety of vocal styles), but the weaker tracks bring the album down enough to prevent me from believing that this will be regarded highly in GR’s catalog in the future. The band truly does have their hearts set on attempting to create a future classic, but too many songs either try to emulate other bands (a true shame for such an influential band) or wind up sounding too experimental (Like No Need To Cry, which features an extremely odd acoustic passage in the middle that wouldn’t be out of place on a Kansas album). Aye, these be tough times for Gamma Ray, what with several nitpicking fans alienating themselves from the band after Majestic and LOTF II (And I’ll admit that's just ridiculous... I loved both of those albums), but this is the completely wrong path to take if they plan on getting those fans back.

To The Metal! is a good album in the end; it’s not the band’s best, but it’s close to being their worst, and it is certainly their most inconsistent record to date. This is a recommended purchase for fans of hyper fast-paced Gamma Ray tracks, since those songs really are damn impressive on this album… just remember that you’ll be getting only half of what you pay for.

Killing Songs :
All You Need To Know, Rise, Shine Forever, Deadlands, Chasing Shadows
Kyle quoted 79 / 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 - 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
Gamma Ray - Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome Live In Montreal reviewed by Pete and quoted no quote
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