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Gamma Ray: Empire of the Undead
Today marked my first time checking out the new Gamma Ray album Empire of the Undead. It was the soundtrack to my drive to work. I’ll have a review posted closer to it’s release date, but I just wanted to chime in and give my thoughts on what I heard so far. I’d do a first impression but since six of the ten songs were made available to stream recently, what’s the point? Just bare in my these thoughts are based off files played through an MP3 player hooked up to an FM transmitter (because my car stereo is still stuck in what is now considered the stone age and I haven’t had enough available resources to upgrade it to one with an auxiliary port). In any event, here we go!

First of all, “Avalon” seems to be the cornerstone of the album. It’s a nice little epic piece that glorifies what Gamma Ray is possible of when it comes to subtle orchestrations and powerful fantastical themes. I loved every second of it, and I highly suggest buying this as an MP3 if you don’t want the whole album.

“Born to Fly” has a strong Pantera-esque groove at times, and I liked it. I think it works with the early Rock n’ Roll sound and organ effect from the keyboards. Loved the chorus too, moderately simple with plenty of energy, capturing the sixties very well. The traditional clean singing works for it, and later has the higher pitch vocals come in without going too over-the-top. The guitar solo was simple enough to fit snuggly as well. Everything just flowed perfectly, and I think it comes in just under “Avalon” for this album.

“Master of Confusion”: Superb Hard Rock song a la Alice Cooper, infectious melodic chorus, kinda silly lyrics. There really isn’t anything new here, the entire song sounds familiar from start to finish. It’s the energy and tight performance that hooked me. Even the empty verses that could have a louder bass presence were enjoyable. There’s an eccentric touch to the passage just before the solid guitar solo that suits the tone of the song, but if it weren’t there I doubt it would make any difference. And yes, I admit, I was singing along to the chorus since it was simple enough to remember after the first time hearing it, and the enthusiasm in the music made it impossible not to.

As far as the Speed Metal goes, there were only two I heard. While I love the genre, “Hellbent” just didn’t do much for me. It’s a good fast paced cut that sounds like Judas Priest had a bastard love child with Exciter. While the music isn’t that close to “Hellbent for Leather,” I couldn’t help but put those lyrics over the chorus. If not for some of the Power Metal hooks in some spots, it would really be out of place. They save it and make this a strictly cheesy Metal worship cut that could really use a little more definition, especially in the chorus.

“Empire of the Undead” is the other Speed Metal track on here, and I didn’t like the vocals all the time. Some spots just sounded a bit too silly to me, as if Kai Hansen were trying to be serious, but sometimes felt the need to be a bit flamboyant. Again, not a bad song, but I definitely enjoyed the end more than anything else. Not because it was reaching the end, it just sounded heavier and seemed to have a little more going on in it.

“Pale Rider” is a catchy eighties Hard Rock/Heavy Metal song, but the tamborine in the chorus really kills it. It’s just too cheesy for it’s own good. The higher pitched vocals in the main verses also came off like they were trying to be too much like Accept or U.D.O. in my opinion. It’s another cheesy track, but this time I couldn’t get into it. A bit too commercial and gimmicky for me.

“Time for Deliverance” was the only ballad I encountered, and I couldn’t help but picture “We Are the Champions” by Queen during the chorus, and just that band in general everywhere else. I really saw no reason for this song to exist on here, it just didn’t fit the flow of the release at all. It would work better if this had a larger fantasy concept to it, but given the amount of cheese and Metal worship the release shows, it just seems like overkill really.

I pulled into work during the start of “Demonseed,” which starts with an audio sample from a movie (I guess, sounds like it) with a woman asking why she has to be a demon. No comment on this one as of yet, and clearly I didn’t hear “Seven” or “I Will Return.” I look forward to hearing them, but not expecting another “Avalon” or “Born to Fly.”

So that’s all I have to say about Empire of the Undead so far in case anyone cares. Seems like a grab bag or a Metal pot luck so far. Not bad, but so far not like Land of the Free or even Power Planet. Again these are just thoughts and may change after some more time with the album, so keep an eye out for my review in the next week or two.

Gamma Ray
Gamma Ray

Digital review copy of this release provided by Armoury Records via Earsplit PR.