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Gamma Ray - "Skeletons In The Closet"
Metal-Is Records 2003

Imagine one miracle. Iron Maiden decide to release live CD with material that would include songs as for example Alexander The Great, Flash Of The Blade, The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, The Duellists, The Prophecy, To Tame A Land, Mother Russia and whole set would start with Invaders? Now wake up from your wildest dreams! Instead of legends, Gamma Ray took a risk and challenged the metal scene with revolutionary move by releasing double live album with material rarely played or never played by the band.

As soon as Kai Hansen committed "Walls Of Jericho" sin that appeared in stores all over the world in '85, we were able to observe a phenomenon of moving classical metal scene home ground from British island into Germany, where it survived till presence on the wings of bands like Helloween, Running Wild, Sinner, Rage, Grave Digger accompanied and reinforced later with Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, Primal Fear. Those bands enabled the metal scene not just to survive, but to become stronger than ever.

Gamma Ray did a short tour during Oct/Nov '02 in order to present a special selection full of amazing surprises. Set list almost completely differs from one they've played on "No World Order" tour with exception of only one song remaining the same in whole set list (New World Order). Band invited special guest Axel Mackenrott (actually member of hot footed Masterplan) to play all keyboards. Gamma Ray succeeded to capture extremely alive sound.

Highly resonant smaller halls in Barcelona and Strasbourg provided great sound ambient and band, gathered with crazy fans who took enormous part in building high boiling climax through entire gig, invaded the stage with full force that resulted in complete metal meltdown.

Kai changes a color of his unique irreplaceable vocal as chameleon changes color of its skin. Band's chief sings soulfully with great balls all the way. He spits out anger, rage and delivers cold feel. Serious cold breeze that prevents even happier choruses in Guardians Of Mankind, No Return or Gardens Of The Sinner to sound happy. In higher sequences he deviates from cleaner soaring screams, up to rasp and almost brutal piercing shouts (try him in Heart Of The Unicorn). Kai's guitar equivalent on right monitor Henjo Richter takes over important bridges in songs and this enables Kai to focus even more on singing. You can feel his sincere lust for singing. How convincible! All Of The Damned and Razorblade Sigh for example sound far more aggressive than both studio versions due to aforementioned Kai's restless and wild singing approach. Band as a whole radiates unbeatable working chemistry. This line up is tighter than ever. It's tuning is perfect and it works unbeatable. Precisely clean double guitar harmonies are hanging in balance. Fast guitar picking over riffs, as recognizable trademark of band's musical direction, blisters as it is requested and expected from the band. More complex songs Armageddon, Rising Star/Shine On or The Silence are delivering impression of being played very smoothly with great tender and easiness. Thanks to amazing performance of band's "rhythm machine" "Skeletons In The Closet" brings close connections with gutsy Judas Priest live recordings from "Painkiller" era till presence. And to radiate such JP fashioned energy on stage is hardly reachable point. Gamma Ray reached it very convincible. And the reason is? Rhythm drive! Dan's first class bombing strengthened with Dirk's fat bass guitar line enlarge the whole picture of band's live sound that comes out even deeper and wider. Rhythm line fulfills every inch of sound space. Thunderous double bass drum of Dan Zimmerman will rip your spines out! Check out how Dan destroys drum devices in his solo number.

This band will simply tear your heads apart with "Victim Of Fate" (orig. Helloween). It is brutalized and speeded up to the final limits. Its speed of light guitar picking plus double bass drum cuts like a buzz-saw. You'll be murdered at once when your mechanoreceptors and secondary cerebral cortex detect its beat and shivering atmosphere!

Gig opens with Welcome, an intro from band's first album "Heading For Tomorrow" (1990) that surprisingly switches into Gardens Of The Sinner. Among other candies included on this live recording I forgot to mention One With The World, Last Before The Storm, Heaven Or Hell, Rich And Famous and Heavy Metal Universe. "Skeletons In The Closet" is pure victory in all musical senses. It is a manifestation of how heavy metal should sound alive on stage. True heavy metal maniac simply could not ask for more.

Author:   Aleš

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