Metal Insider contributor Anthony Maisano is listening to a different metal album that was released on that day every day this year. 19 years ago today, Kai Hansen finally made his breakout album with Gamma Ray, Land of the Free.
This is Gamma Ray’s first album with Kai Hansen taking over on lead vocal duties. I’m not a big Gamma Ray fan, but this is absolutely one of the band’s best works. There’s more energy, and creative passion on this album than almost every other Gamma Ray release. The only one I prefer is Majesty. Normally, where I feel the band has very boring riffs for power metal standards, there are some out and out kick ass riffs on this album. This is the Gamma Ray album that could turn a non-fan into a fan. Also, the song “Afterlife” is not only a really good track, but it’s also a very nice tribute song to original Helloween drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, who committed suicide the year this album came out.
At the end of the day, this is still a Gamma Ray album, and the bands very specific formula still exists. Kai Hansen has never been a star vocalist to me, and that really drags the album down a lot. He’s a love him or hate him vocalist, in my opinion. This is an album with great instrumental parts but poor vocals. It’s also an album where the good tracks happen to be really good, and the other tracks are pretty forgettable. Even though I firmly believe this is one of Gamma Ray’s best, it still isn’t one of power metal’s best.
Favorite Tracks: “Abyss of the Void,” “Afterlife,” “Salvation’s Calling.”
If you like Kai, other Gamma Ray albums, or if you’re a bit fan of Helloween’s first album Walls of Jericho, then you’ll absolutely love this album. Even if not, I’d recommend listening to this album because it’s a very good album for the band’s style, and one that means a lot for the history of power metal. That being said, I could name many, many power metal albums that I feel are stronger than this one, so don’t go into this one thinking it’s one of the best the genre has to offer.