Gamma Ray Land of the Free II

Twelve years after Gamma Ray unleashed the first Land of the Free, we find them returning to the theme that drove their most popular effort. Yet unlike Helloween (Keeper Of The Seven Keys is at part, what, three?) and other Euro-metal contemporaries, singer/guitarist Kai Hansen and crew assert that exhuming this title had nothing to do with pushing sales for new home SPV. No, it’s for the sole purpose of reverting back to simpler, more straight-forward and positive songwriting. Surprisingly, the mission is accomplished incredibly. Part II does manage to pare away much of the moroseness and complication that have marred Gamma Ray’s more recent music. However, the band’s inherent operatic vocals, richly decorated backgrounds and wailing guitar solos are still quite intact. Factor in driving — but not excessive — drumbeats and the aforementioned spirit and positivism on "To Mother Earth,” "From The Ashes” and "Empress” and it’s quite possible that Gamma Ray have managed to elevate themselves to the forefront of power metal once again. (SPV)