Saturday, May 4, 2013

Gamma Ray - Somewhere Out In Space (1997)

"Land of the Free" is, undeniably, Gamma Ray's finest album and as such was a very difficult act to follow. However, they did a admirable job with this album. Leaving the fantasy theme behind, they have now switched to a space and Egyptian theme, with the cover depicting an Anubis and an Horus bust above a row of pointy rocks, behind which is some sort of swirly time portal in which pyramids are either coming or going away or from space. In the front, Ol' Fangface is looking a little hungry, robed and toothy, and completely blindless today. It's all purples and golds and either acrylic or oil paint, looking very nicely Space Opera-ish.

It begins with the dramatic drum-rolling "Into the Black Hole". It is a fast paced, dramatic song, vocals filled with excitement and expectation as the narrator prepares to "fly beyond the gates of space and time...." and dive into the unknown. Dramatic guitar and drums for the instrumental passage. Captures the feel of the small craft charging into the roiling, writhing, churning black hole.

"Men, Martians and Machines" starts with the five notes from The Twilight Zone (but played on guitar) making a nicely ominous start into a dramatic song about an alien race seeking sanctuary from their destroyed planet and finding planet Earth.  Some nicely spacey/oriental chords there, before we surge into the faster paced and more typical GR skillmanship.

A bit slower, with nicely choral symphonies, "No Stranger (Another Day in Life)" displays a continuing theme of musical competence.

"Somewhere Out in Space" is a whirlwind of a track. It rips on it, swirling in majesty and power; the vocals racing, guitars and drums thrashing against one another, then it calms, the vocals smooth and swell, then its off again into the maelstrom.
(According to Wikipedia - this is inspired by Star Trek)

The "Guardians of  Mankind" is a powerful metal piece, moving at a rapid pace with pounding drums and anthemic chorus.

"The Landing" of aliens almost seems to continue on from "Men, Martians and Machines",  with the aliens arriving and being elevated to gods. It merges into "Valley of the Kings" and, judging from the cover, I would say that it marks the arrival of the Egyptian Gods. Nicely epic feel, great harmonies and more anthemic choruses, combined with some latin choral singing as well.

Dramatic and rousing, filled with passion, it is time for us to "Pray" - for a better tomorrow. This is the closest we're going to get to a ballad on this album. Hansen's voice is suprisingly sweet.

Drumbeats thunder as "The Winged Horse" gallops through the sky. Another powerful piece, this is more fantasy in theme than the rest of the album. It has a nicely dramatic narrative:
"It white horse rears and spreads its wings to reach the sky and search the king. the one will lead to win at last - oh, rulers of the past!"
"Cosmic Chaos" is a drum instrumental, creating a vibe of asteroids rushing through the air. Fast, dramatic.

It crashes into "Lost in the Future" which does indeed have a futuristic feel and makes an interesting contrast to the fantasy of "The Winged Horse". It is deliciously ominous:
"Tomorrow there'll be no sun, hanging high up in the sky..."
It's all dramatic and drastic until suddenly, inexplicably, the guitars break into "Oh Susanna" for a couple of lines and then churn back into the fast, frantic and desperate.

There's a bit of a Judas Priest influence to "Watcher in the Sky" which is fast, frenetic and furious. It's easy to imagine a lone spacecraft endlessly circuiting the planet; watching, always watching, but unable to do anything else.

 Piano and tinkly sounds sparkle as we see a "Rising Star" illuminate the heavens, exploding in a firecracker of light then erupting into "Shine On".  The song explodes with dramatic and explosive power. Very stirring, very inspirational. The ending melodies are lingering and powerful. A grandiose way to include a damned fine album.

Gamma Ray have created their own epic sound, merging the heavy guitar and drums of Iron Maiden with the intricities and anthemic feel of Queen. Combined with Hansen's skillful guitar playing and harsh, yet somehow vocals, a general positive edge to the music and fine musical structures, they have again created an album of epic scale and beauty. It might fall a bit short of "Land of the Free" and is not quite as quirky as some of their earlier albums, but it is a damned fine production and deserves 9/10.

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