Sunday, March 30, 2014

Gamma Ray - Empire of The Undead (2014)

There were much uncertainty if Gamma Ray's eleventh album, entitled "Empire of The Undead", would even see the light of day. On the 18th of November 2013, Kai Hansen and Dirk Schlächter's studio "Hammer Studio" was burned to the ground in a massive fire. Luckily, most of the recordings was unharmed and the band could eventually complete this album with an album cover that looks like a microscopic close up shot of a bed bug.

Kai has said that "Empire of The Undead" is more of a thrashy album than its predecessors, and it is a statement that I can agree on. This album is probably Gamma Ray's heaviest effort yet and some of the tracks could have also been fitting in a thrash metal band's repertoire. The most obvious thrash influence is in the title track, who has a main riff that is ripped out from Metallica's "Hit The Lights". It is a good speedy track indeed, but when the similarities are that huge, it just kills the song. Another thrashy tracks is the determined, but cheesy "Hellbent" that still has some good riffs, but a very boring and generic chorus.

But do not be afraid power metal fans, Gamma Ray has not completely forsaken its ideals. "Empire of The Undead" is primarily a classic power metal album that do kick ass and gets you pumped up. Most of the tracks, from the soaring "Born To Fly" and the epic "Avalon" to the steam roller "I Will Return", makes sure that "Empire of The Undead" is a true Gamma Ray album to the core. And it is some really good power in these songs indeed.

Sadly the band takes a couple of crooked steps through out this album. Besides from the obvious "Hit The Light" similarities in the title track, the band has also recreated the Queen classic "We Are The Champions" on "Time For Deliverance". It is a disgusting rip-off of a ballad that just makes me sick. And even if I like the heavier sound of this record, it helps making "Empire of The Undead" feel like two albums fused into one. It misses an all important red line throughout this album, which makes it more uneven than it should be.

But despite some of the mistakes throughout this album, I still think that "Empire of The Undead" is still a strong outing from Kai Hansen and his crew. The album packs a powerful punch that is not easy to get rid off and the band does, as usual, a solid work in the performance. The "Master of Confusion" EP gave us a good taste of what was coming, and "Empire of The Undead" definitely delivered.

Songs worthy of recognition: I Will Return, Avalon, Master of Confusion

Rating: 7,5/10 Demonseeds

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