Gamma Ray - Majestic 4.5/5

Reviewed: 9-30-05





Tracklist:

1. My temple
2. Fight
3. Strange world
4. Hell is thy home
5. Blood religion
6. Condemned to hell
7. Spiritual dictator
8. Majesty
9. How long
10. Revelation


Finally, after a long 4 year period with no new studio album, the Rays triumphantly return with 'Majestic'. I am happy to say it was well worth the wait. 'Majestic' easily betters the last 2 Gamma Ray CDs 'No world order' and 'Powerplant'. While both of those 2 CDs were great in their own right, 'No world order' seemed to be missing a lot of the tremendous Gamma Ray melodies I had come to expect, and 'Powerplant' while being mostly great, had a couple of clunkers on it that drag down my overall opinion. 'Majestic' has plenty of the wonderful melodies I have come to expect and is pretty solid from beginning to end with no poor tracks.

This CD kicks off with "My temple". This is your typical Gamma Ray opener with blazing speed from the opening beat. Things drop to a midtempo during the verses with some galloping riffs in the background. The chorus is as catchy as you might come to expect from Kai and company. Midway through "My temple" we have an abrupt tempo change wich picks the pace up considerably and is frankly, awesome. This type of tempo change is a frequent occurrence on 'Majestic' to the betterment of the CD. The production of the CD is pretty much what you would expect from Gamma Ray. It's perfectly fine, but I wouldn't object to Gamma Ray going for a "bigger" sound. I doubt it will ever happen.

Next up is "Fight", by guitarist Henjo Richter, which has a (predictable for his song style) very classical feel. The pace is once again quick and peppy, and the track has a very melodic feel in the vocal melodies and background guitar leads. One serious highlight of this CD is the scorcher "Hell is thy home". This is pure Kai Hansen all the way, and just blisters with speed from the opening seconds. Every power metal head will be banging his head with glee immediately. "Blood religion" follows at a slower pace. This is a pretty anthemic song, which goes along quite well. Then, midway through, we have another abrupt tempo change into a peppier pace, and it makes a good song become great. I am sure this will be a live hit with the sing-a-long chorus.

"Spiritual dictator" is one of 2 songs written by drummer Dan Zimmerman, and probably my favorite of the 2. It opens with a very melodic guitar lick not dissimilar to the beginning of the Helloween classic "I want out". The chorus is just tremendous and will have all fans singing in accompaniment. Hansen's "Majesty" is one of 2 "epics" on the CD. This is the shorter and lesser of the 2 and has a bit of an eastern feel. Bridging the 2 epics is "How long" by Hansen which is really reminiscent of a metal anthem from the 80s. It once again features a catchy chorus. Finally, the CD concludes with "Revelation" by Richter. This is the long epic of the CD and is another tremendous harmony guitar tour-de-force from Richter and Hansen. This song definitely reminds me of other Richter penned gems like "Wings of destiny" and "The winged horse". I must point out, however, that "Revelation" has a horrible disjointed ending. I can't imagine why they ended it so anticlimactically. The song and the CD deserve a better finish.

By now, Gamma Ray isn't likely going to surprise us with anything particularly new or genre shattering. But, when you play this form of melodic power metal at such a consistently high level, and continue to be able to put the younger bands in their place, why mess with the formula? About the only detraction for this CD (and Gamma Ray) would be the admittedly limited vocals of Kai Hansen. Many of us have been listening to him for so long and admired him for so many years that we have blinders (or should I say "deafeners"?) to his obvious limitations as a singer. He certainly overextends himself at times, and nobody is going to claim he has the best voice in music history. But, for me, hearing Kai is like hearing the voice of your best friend. It makes it easy for me to forgive his limitations.

For those who (like me) revel in the harmony guitar melodies of classic Helloween and Gamma Ray, 'Majestic' won't disappoint. 'Majestic' is catchy, melodic, aggressive, beautiful, and (sorry) - majestic. This is easily one of the best CDs to come out in 2005. Hopefully, we won't have to wait until 2009 (or later) for the follow-up.



JOHN




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