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Gamma Ray - "Land Of The Free (re-release)"
Sanctuary / Noise 2002

The band finally faced and realized the important fact that the only way for them was to return to their roots. Land Of The Free (1995) was a glorious album that catapulted the band amongst the finest European groups of our time. This album established their name. Well, a very important thing that has happened was Schepper's departure. His place was taken over by Kai Hansen. This move was hailed by the fans worldwide whose memories of the Walls Of Jericho album were still more than just alive.

Perhaps the most admired album for many fans turned the band back on their power metal tracks. So a real bombing of piece after piece in pure classic "old helloween" vein was marching again. The balance from "Heading For Tomorrow" inside the new songs was reborn. The band complicated things again but now everything fitted together and the songs were done very fluidly. This was the key. Heavy metal thunder fluctuates constantly from blistering speed of light riffing with fast picking over the riffs (also through bridges) into mid tempo or slower parts. A nice tension, a fine balance renewed. Songs follow one after the other as bombs out of a bomber. Kai's solos found a right place inside the songs again. Songs include diverse guitar harmony melodies, the band's trademark.

Of course, you can't compare well trained Schepper's vocals with Hansen's. But what is so special at Kai's vocals? His vocals are unique. The old story is that his vocals are the strongest in the highest sequences. The overall feeling that can be detached in the entire record is full of pure anger. Kai is really convincing in his verses as he calls you not to obey the rules of our lives and just to follow your own hearts (your inner guardian). Kai's vocal performance is aggressive and alive. A spirit of Walls Of Jericho is somehow with us again. Gamma Ray entered into new musical dimensions with Kai's vocals. As far as the whole atmospheric climax of the band's music is concerned, Kai's vocals changed it forever. A real Gamma Ray spirit finally broke free. Mainly 'cause of the very special feeling that is achieved by having Kai on vocals.

Gamma Ray also changed their poetry that was a bit childish 'till Land Of The Free. For example, they are calling to us now with: "Have No Fear, Rebellion Is Here!" Yes, I completely agree. We are learning to live in fear trapped in state institutions. The band began to reveal that life is much more than meets the eye. Let's take a closer look to the front cover artwork. The main motive pictures a devastated land that is obscured by complete darkness and that has no signs of life anymore. Over this land lies a red shield that cannot be broken (reddish motive with Fangface). Shield built up from human fear, that won't let you enter the eternity or in other words it presents a universal truth that waits to be revealed (a motive in yellow colour that was used also as a front cover for band's "Silent Miracles" EP release).

The only weak point or, if I use these words: the "Insanity And Genius" point is "Time To Break Free" that was sang by M. Kiske. Don't try to dance here, 'cause you'll break both legs. On the other hand, Land Of The Free contains some classics that are still present as a part of an iron repertoire when the band hits the stage: "Rebellion In A Dreamland", "Man On A Mission" or the title track.

Author:   Aleš

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