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Gamma Ray - "Empire Of The Undead" (CD)

Gamma Ray - "Empire Of The Undead" CD cover image

"Empire Of The Undead" track listing:

1. Avalon
2. Hellbent
3. Pale Rider
4. Born to Fly
5. Master of Confusion
6. Empire of the Undead
7. Time for Deliverance
8. Demonseed
9. Seven
10. I Will Return
11. Built A World (European Bonus Track)

Reviewed by on April 7, 2014

"This is the premiere Gamma Ray album in the last thirteen years. This is the Gamma Ray album that rises above and solidifies Kai Hansen’s status as one of the absolute deities in metal."

In my silly utopian power metal world, where people actually care about great musical products when they hear them, I can imagine that at some point in 2013, the members of Germany’s highest ranking pure power metal bands held a Commission Meeting just like after Salvatore Maranzano had been murdered in 1931. Representatives from the Scheepers, Sielck, Sammet, Weiß, Ramcke, Laurin, Boltendahl, Kürsch, Franck and Hansen families decided the Italian incursion into the Fatherland’s genre was enough and it was time to reset the clock back to the early to the mid-90’s. In a plan to overthrow the entire symphonic poison in 2014 alone, the families - bound in blood – would release some of the most unrelenting and octane charged power metal not seen from Germany in many years. Stuff of movies, you say? Well, look at the year so far…as one after another – whether it be Iron Savior, Primal Fear, Stormwarrior, Edguy, Axxis, Sinbreed - the albums topped each other culminating in the latest masterpiece: Gamma Ray’s “Empire of the Undead.” Germany has launched an army to retake the genre…and they are winning!

Forget everything you read or believed about “To the Metal,” “Land of the Free II,” and “Majestic,” as much as these three albums brought to the table respectfully. This is the premiere Gamma Ray album in the last thirteen years. This is the Gamma Ray album that rises above and solidifies Kai Hansen’s status as one of the absolute deities in metal. Sure, Hansen may be aging and it shows…but the sound emanating from my headphones is nothing short of ageless, brilliant and timeless. When the lyric video for “Hellbent” hit YouTube, it was as if I was fourteen again and “Heavy Metal (is the Law)” was playing on the radio. Backed by the “majestic” well-polished production by Eike Freese and guitarist Dirk Schlächter, there is a reek of perfection around.

“Empire of the Undead” is the perfect story of the three little Kai’s – “To the Metal” and “Land of the Free II” were a little too happy and “Majestic” was a little too angry - but this album is just right. It’s the perfect balance of angry happiness and 100% pure cool. When “Master of Confusion” was released last year as an EP, it lived up to its name...confusing those thinking it was Helloween’s “I Want Out,” sans Special K(iske). But enter "Avalon," the opener of the full length, which is as epic and orchestrated a tune as Kai has ever penned and 100x better than any “Avalon” with the words “Timo Tolkki’s” in front of it (“originator of power metal” my ass). The second half of the song sounds like Gamma Ray’s answer to Iron Maiden’s “Brave New World.”

So many songs are stand outs on this album that it’s hard to pinpoint clear favorites. I will note that “Pale Rider” has the riffs, melody and god searing solo to be a top song of the year. “Demonseed” follows suit with a little more groove and a tick slower, but its no less devastating. “I Will Return” is the pace setting closer, with a less than cryptic message in chorus (“I will return, from the light in the heavens”). I sure don’t know how Hansen will return to top this album, but if his model of consistency is any indication, he might just do it.

“Empire of the Undead” is a must buy for power metal fans, and an essential item for true Helloween fans. It is by far the most exciting and memorable release in years and continues the unbelievable run by German bands in 2014. All the ingredients are there, especially the youthful energy in the solos (thank you, Henjo Richter) and in Kai’s voice. It may be an “acquired taste” for some, but I wouldn’t have Kai sound any other way. He is pure metal and Gamma Ray’s legacy at the power metal altar is complete.

Highs: Pure majestic epic power metal that only the founder of Helloween can bring.

Lows: "Master of Confusion" may confuse people who love "I Want Out."

Bottom line: Kai Hansen claims his throne, ruling the "Empire of the Undead."

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)