As soon as I noticed that the first track Avalon was the rather epic length of 9:22 I was excited, and the song is exactly what I was hoping it would be. Epic, stirring and memorable in all of the right ways.
After more than two decades of creating quality Metal, it’s great to see that Gamma Ray are not wanting for ideas or passion. They still have the hunger and devotion to Metal that is not commonly present in bands who have been around for half this amount of time.
So what do we get then? State-of-the-art sound? Yes. Rousing anthems? Yes. Guitar wizardry and fretmanship? Yes. Catchy and memorable hooks and melodies? Yes. Sing-along choruses? Yes. Riffs to pound chests to? Yes. Keyboards that enhance but don’t overpower? Yes.
The band spend time emphasising their Speed Metal aspect on some of the tracks, with Hellbent in particular showing a Judas Priest influence. The next song Pale Rider has an almost AC/DC feel to it, albeit heavier and with a distinctly non-AC/DC chorus. Time for Deliverance is more in the power ballad territory, with even somewhat of a revival feeling to it in places.
These are good demonstrations of the fact that Gamma Ray may have a distinct style but within this they vary things and keep things interesting so that they’re not simply playing what is effectively the same song over and over again.
The best songs are the bookends of the album – Avalon and I Will Return. This doesn’t invalidate anything in the middle of course, as taken holistically this is a thoroughly enjoyable slab of Heavy Metal.
How many other bands are on their 11th album and still capable of shredding with the best of them? Not many.
Gamma Ray still have a lot to offer the world. Empire of the Undead is the latest, and a top listen at that.