Gamma Ray - Empire of the Undead
Power/Speed Metal
10 songs (56' 46")
Release year: 2014
Gamma Ray
Reviewed by Andy
Major event

Gamma Ray's catalog is a long-running one, but they've been quiet for four years, and after the rather inconsistent To the Metal! it was by no means guaranteed that this one, Empire of the Undead, was going to be good. Luckily, this does seem to be stronger than the previous one and hands the listener a reasonably decent power metal album -- just don't expect a whole lot of originality.

I must say that Avalon makes for a great beginning track. It starts slow and clear, showcasing some excellent vocals by Kai Hansen, alternating between smooth and quiet to rough screams. It's a long epic of a song, containing slow and fast portions with plenty of symphonic trappings. Hellbent and Pale Rider are faster and much more traditional speed/power metal songs, with Hellbent having the better melody and somewhat of a Manowar vibe to it. Born To Fly, a driving chugger with an off-the-wall prechorus that doesn't allow the fairly smooth production to cost it anything in heaviness, is also excellent, one of my favorites on the album. And all in all, I must say I like what Hansen does with his vocals on all of these, ranging from medium-rough and gutteral to a clean yell.

The title track is a bit more of a mixed bag. It's heavy enough, but doesn't have enough of a melody to really make this very memorable. It's rescued from complete mediocrity by the vocals and the superb two-guitar attack, which really outdoes itself on this track. Time for Deliverance is a rather weird one to stick in the album, a 3/4-time piece with lots of multi-track chorusing that sounds like a Queen tribute, and though it makes a brave attempt at trying something totally different, the difference is grating enough to bother the listener. The biggest problem in this album is that it has excellent musicians who don't have a lot of new ideas anymore; both Demonseed and Seven are run-of-the-mill heavy metal tunes that you can almost hear Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford belting out in an album later in their bands' careers. I Will Return, though, is pretty decent, returning to the power metal sound with a harmonized vocal track and lots of shredding, including some very neoclassical soloing at a few points. Not an astounding finish, but enough to let the listener feel like he has not ended the album on a sour note.

In my opinion, Gamma Ray has put out better albums in their career, but Empire of the Undead is still a fairly good listen, although not all the tracks will draw one in. Taking it for what it is, it's a mixed album with some weak points that may or may not make one want to give this one a pass, depending on how badly one is jonesing for 80s-style power metal.

Killing Songs :
Avalon, Born to Fly, I Will Return
Andy quoted 78 / 100
Other albums by Gamma Ray that we have reviewed:
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
Gamma Ray - Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome Live In Montreal reviewed by Pete and quoted no quote
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