Posts Tagged ‘Gamma Ray’

Gamma Ray – To The Metal! (2010, earMusic)

  1. Empathy
  2. All You Need To Know
  3. Time To Live
  4. To The Metal!
  5. Rise
  6. Mother Angel
  7. Shine Forever
  8. Deadlands
  9. Chasing Shadows
  10. No Need To Cry

Band Lineup:
Kai Hansen – Vocals & Guitars
Henjo Richter – Guitars & Keyboards
Dirk Schlächter – Bass
Dan Zimmermann – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Michael Kiske – Vocals on ‘All You Need To Know’

Producers: Kai Hansen & Dirk Schlächter

Country: Germany

Total Time = 48:22

Gamma Ray
Gamma Ray MySpace page
Gamma Ray – To The Metal! MySpace page 

Gamma Ray is back again for 2010 with their tenth studio album, TO THE METAL! One of the things that has kept me a Gamma Ray fan over the years is that they’ve always produced solid albums with enough diversity to keep me interested. The band has never given up on it’s Helloween roots and Kai Hansen has written some furious Power Metal over the years with plenty of speed, melody and passion but, on the last couple of albums, the writing has leaned more towards a Traditional Heavy Metal style of  Judas Priest and Accept. As Kai Hansen was quoted in the press relese: “Our target is to combine the traditional and modern sound without losing our identity.” With this latest album, Gamma Ray has done just that to the delight of some and the dismay of others.

Opening track ‘Empathy’ is more of a classic Heavy Metal song with a the chugging thump of Primal Fear and Judas Priest, Kai Hansen not reaching the highest heights vocally but using a lower register for a darker effect. The drum sound is thunderous, some of the fills sound huge. The second song in is the one that will get most fans talking because former Helloween lead singer Michael Kiske joins his old bandmate on ‘All You Need To Know’. This is the Gamma Ray that I know well, speed and power with a big hook at the chorus. To say this is a Helloween-ish track is an understatement especially when you have the two former members who fronted the band through the ’80s. ‘All You Need To Know’ had me with the opening riff and the chorus but I like how the song slows down just before the solo break and builds back up to speed…..one of the best tracks on the album. ‘Time To Live’ continues the Power Metal punch but the vocals don’t have as much power as I wish they would. If this were a Primal Fear song, Ralf Scheepers would just blaze vocally. The comparisons are inevitable between the Helloween/Gamma Ray/Primal Fear triumverate but I think that Hansen has lost a step vocally, at least on this song. It’s still a catchy song though and definitely a good fit for the album.

One of the themes surrounding TO THE METAL! is the celebration of Heavy Metal and no song covers this better than the title track. Unfortunately, this song is a blatant rip-off of ‘Metal Gods’ by Judas Priest…..listen closely to the rhythm riffs and the drum patterns, it’s ‘Metal Gods’ no question. Even the song title seems a little “done”, I went back and checked the entire Accept/U.D.O. discographies to be 100% sure that this title hadn’t been used before. It’s a perfect title for and U.D.O. song, isn’t it? Maybe that’s because Hansen sounds more like Udo as the years go by? The old Gamma Ray from the SOMEWHERE OUT IN SPACE (1997) days is back with the frantic riffing and double-kick of ‘Rise’. This the Gamma Ray that I’m used to because I really dig the first five albums. More Judas Priest influences are obvious in ‘Mother Angel’ and that’s not necessarily a bad thing because, if you are going to go for a more classic Heavy Metal sound, who better to emulate? ‘Mother Angel’ is a mid-tempo chugger that sounds really thick with guitars and keyboard flourishes (like Primal Fear) but the obvious weak link is Hansen’s vocal. It’s unfair to compare him to Scheepers but he was the original Gamma Ray singer and the current face of German Power Metal, the comparisons are ineveitable and Kai Hansen just doesn’t have the range and power on this track. It surprises me a little because Hansen can hit those highs but he’s opting for a gruffer and deeper range. Case in point is the machine gun ‘Shine Forever’, this is the Hansen that I’m listening for with a higher register. I like blazing guitars throughout and the chorus is big and layered, a great track!

A quick keyboard rhythm opens ‘Deadlands’ and the song builds to a heaviness but the keyboards sounds out of place when it’s right up front in the mix. There is another thick Priest main riff that reminds me of ‘Painkiller’ but that moves away as the melodic chorus drives in and puts the hooks in. That’s the key here….the speed Gamma Ray and the traditional Gamma Ray are both coming across but it’s the melodic choruses that are making the songs memorable and singable. ‘Chasing Shadows’ is another powerful song with serious riffs and double-kick pounding, this is the older Gamma Ray, the faster Gamma Ray. Even Kai Hansen sounds like he went back a few years vocally. The band leaves the longest song for last with ‘No Need To Cry’. The opening piano and ocean waves effects add some atmosphere to Hansen’s good vocal but this song is a bit of a letdown…..why end a powerful album like this with a ballad? If this were sequenced in the middle of the record I might like it a lot more. You can definitely hear a Queen, Yes and a Who influence to the music and the song tries to come off as grand epic. Listen for the acoustic guitar break halfway through with the multi-tracked background vocals…..the guitar is Pete Townshend and the vocals sound like Yes. An interesting song for sure but not a way to end this kind of album.

Bottom Line:
When I spun this CD for the first time, I really wasn’t sure what to think. Like I mentioned, the Gamma Ray I started with was the early Gamma Ray that was full of power and speed, like Helloween, specifically SOMEWHERE OUT IN SPACE. I have been looking for that kind of album from Gamma ray for a few years but I have accepted that the band is trying to diversify it’s sound to keep things fresh and move with the times. I have no problem with the band going for a more traditional Metal style, that’s what today’s Power Metal scene is about. The problem is that Primal Fear has taken the torch from Gamma Ray as one of the genre’s leaders and it sounds like Hansen and company are playing catch up. I’ve had this album since the beginning of January (the European release was earlier than the U.S.) and I have given this daily spins because I always come away feeling like I’ve missed something. The problem is that I’m not expanding my own ideas of what the Gamma Ray sound should be. The traditional style mixed with the Speed Metal they are known for works but it takes some getting used to. A solid album overall, just a little different and I think it would sound better with a better singer.

Favorite Songs:
‘Empathy’, ‘All You Need To Know’, ‘Time To Live’, ‘Shine Forever’, ‘Chasing Shadows’

This is going to be a good update because I have been picking CDs off Ebay for great prices and the local independent record chain I frequent, Newbury Comics, had their 32 Year Anniversary sale last Tuesday…..one day only, everything in the store 32% off. If the item was on sale then you either got the sale price or the 32% off the regular price depending on which was lower. Can you imagine how much money I spent! I bought a few DVDs for my kids and a Lady Gaga CD for my wife but the rest is all mine!

Newbury Comics

(I will list the price I paid rounded up to the nearest dollar and I will let you know what the original price was for comparison.)

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Gods & Guns (2009) – $16: This album was on the Wanted list in January because I missed out on it in 2009. I was not going to buy anything but the 2 CD special edition with the 6 bonus tracks so, after I missed the sale price when the record was released, I waited because the regular price was $24! I couldn’t pass this CD up on such a great sale so this was the first CD I went for because I knew from my previous week’s adventure that there was only one copy! Saved $8.

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand (2007) – $7 used: I have put off buying this CD for three years but I finally decided that I would pick this up during this sale. Of course I had my choice between the $15 brand new CD or the $10 used disc…..I went used to maximize my buying power. I haven’t heard any songs from this album but everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve talked to said it’s great. I figured that if Plant was involved then it had to be interesting and high quality. This will be a change of pace album for me, somthing different. Saved $3.

Slash – s/t (2010) – $9: This was on my list of new releases and I was going to head over to Best Buy to pick it up because it was $7.99 advertised but I bought it at Newbury Comics and gave the extra dollar to the independent store. This CD was cheaper on the sale price (reg. $15.99) so it didn’t qualify for the 32% off. I’m very interested in this album because of all the guest vocalists like Ozzy, Lemmy, Iggy Pop, and Chris Cornell…..I thin the track with Fergie is going to suck but I’ll save it for the upcoming review. Saved $7.

Armored Saint – La Raza (2010) – $10: I’ve been an Armored Saint fan since MARCH OF THE SAINT in 1984 so I don’t miss a new record when they decide to put one out. It’s been 10 years since REVELATION (2000) and the NOD TO THE OLD SCHOOL (2001) compilation was just a stop-gap so LA RAZA was at the top of my list for 2010. Regular price was around $14 and the sale price was $11 so I saved a extra dollar…..that’s makes up for giving the store the extra buck for the Slash CD! Saved $4.

Raven – Walk Through Fire (2010) – $10: After a year since being released in Japan, Raven’s WALK THROUGH FIRE finally gets a U.S. release on Metal Blade Records. I’m a huge fan of the NWOBHM, and I support a lot of that era’s bands when it comes to new music, so this record was on the WANTED list as soon as I saw it was only available as an expensive Japanese import. I read a lot of good reviews on this album so I have been psyched for this album for a year! I found only one copy, at a $14 price. Saved $4.

Charred Walls Of The Damned – s/t (2010) – $11: I know absolutely nothing about this band except that Richard Christy (ex-Iced Earth) is on drums and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens has the vocal spot. I’ve read a few reviews online and I saw Richard Christy promoting the band/album on a recent episode of VH-1 Classic’s THAT METAL SHOW so I figured I would take a chance on something new. I’m not sure if there is a regular version but the one I picked up has a bonus DVD that shows the behind the scenes making of the album. Regular price was $16, sale price was $12, I got the 32% off for more savings. Saved $5.

Saxon – Destiny (1988/2010 reissue) – $11: I already have an original Japanese pressing of this CD but I couldn’t pass up this reissue, with it’s 6 bonus tracks, at 32% off. Saxon is one of my favorite bands so picking up the latest round of reissues is a priority, there are two other albums reissued: INNOCENCE IS NO EXCUSE (1985) and ROCK THE NATIONS (1986)…..albums I already own on CD. Regular price $16, saved $5.

Saxon – Innocence Is No Excuse (1985/2010 reissue) – $11: I already own an original Japanese pressing of this CD but I couldn’t resist the 7 bonus tracks that EMI tacked on this reissue. 32% off is a good excuse to add expensive, imported reissues to the collection so I bought this and DESTINY (1988). I would have bought ROCK THE NATIONS (1986) too but it wasn’t in stock! Regular price was $16, saved $5.

Gamma Ray – To The Metal! (2010) – $11: I have had a promotional copy of this album for a couple of months now but it had no booklet, artwork or information like a regular CD would so the collector in me wanted an official CD. I saw that there were two versions of this album: the regular CD and the CD/DVD combo that includes the making of the album. I was going to grab the double disc but it was $5 more so I went the cheaper route. Regular price $16, sale price $12, the 32% discount saved $5.

Ebay

Riot – Shine On (1998) – $16: riot is one of my favorite band sand I spent most of the late ’90s collecting every album they released. Missing in action is SHINE ON, the 1998 live record. I had plenty of opportunities to buy this album from 1998 through 2001 at my favorite record store but, when it closed it’s doors, it was the last time I saw the CD. This particular version is the rarer Japanese import released by the Zero Corporation, there is another version on Metal Blade with a different cover.

Heavy Bones – s/t (1992) – $12: About 10 years ago, I could have found multiple copies of this album in used bins and clearance racks across Rhode Island and Massachusetts for $5 – $8. Now I can’t even find one for the price of a regular new CD! I’ve been watching this CD on Ebay for a while but I was not willing to pay more than $10 for it knowing that it’s in a used bin somewhere for half the price! Surprisingly, this CD was commanding high prices in excess of $20+! I happened to get an email in the early morning hours stating that this particular CD was just listed as a BUY IT NOW for $10…..I pulled the trigger immeadiately! Shipping was extremely reasonable at $2. Came with the price tag the seller bought it for…..a dollar!

Mark Free – Long Way From Love (1993/1998 – 2 CD reissue) – $22: Now this CD has been a long time coming! I like King Kobra, so when I got the Internet in 1998, I found out that King Kobra singer Mark Free had released this solo record in 1993. What made this album even better was that Frontiers Records rereleased the CD as a “Special 5th Anniversary Reissue” in 1998 with a second CD added. The second CD has 16 extra songs: a 10 song live set from The Gods Festival 1993 and 6 new studio tracks. I never dropped the $20 for this 2 CD set at the record store and, like the Riot disc above, it was gone after the store ceased operations. I’ve been tracking this set for years but the price always gets high because it is out of print in it’s 2 disc format…..you can still get the single disc version but I didn’t want that one! I’ve seen this reissue sell on Ebay anywhere from $30 to as high as $100 so I was definitely waiting until I found a good deal.  I found this auction 2 weeks ago and I watched it closely, the end time was after 2am so I stayed awake and snatched the CD with a high bid of $25. I ended up paying $19 with $3 shipping.

Total = $146

Total (year) = $399

Total CDs (year) = 42

Total DVDs (year) = 1

Total LPs (year) = 1

A lot of you may be wondering where the heck I’ve been for the last month or so…..well, I’m still here! Sorry for the lack of posts but I got a few new “toys” with my tax refund (new furniture, a 52″ LCD HD TV, and a Playstation 3) and I’ve been spending most of my time away from the computer. I’m still listening to Metal, that never stops, so here’s what I’ve been listening to in the last couple of days…..

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009): This is an obvious must to keep playing because KISS is my favorite band, SONIC BOOM is clearly the best KISS record since REVENGE (1992) and it keeps getting better everytime I listen to it.

Bruce Kulick – BK3 (2010): Another KISS-related release! Bruce Kulick has always been one of the most underrated guitarists but he has always been one of my favorites because he lent stability and versatility to KISS during his tenure. I like the different sounds on this album: a little KISS, some Union, some alternative, some Hard Rock, some Melodic Rock. It’s a pretty good record and I will be reviewing it soon (I should have done this in the beginning of February!).

Brainstorm – Memorial Roots (2010): I’m still listening to January’s album of the month and I will be reviewing it soon. I definitely like this album better than their last, DOWNBURST (2008).

Keel – The Right To Rock (1985/2010 reissue): I was a big Keel fan back in the day based solely on my ability to draw both Keel logos (the band changed logos after their 1984 debut album LAY DOWN THE LAW). I did get into the music and I bought both the first three Keel records when they came out. Re-listening to this record was great because I hadn’t heard it in a long time…..’The Right To Rock’, ‘Easier Said Than Done’ and ‘Electric Love’ are still cool songs 25 years later! One thing I will say, Keel’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ is still awful!

Keel – Streets Of Rock ‘n’ Roll (2010): I never thought there would be a new Keel album but I’m psyched the band came back and released new material, it’s been a long time coming. The band sounds great and the songs are strong…..so far it’s one of the best records of the year for me.

Gamma Ray – To The Metal! (2010): Just got the new Gamma Ray disc from the label, it comes out in 2 weeks. I’ve been looking forward to this album since it was announced and I was surprised to find it in my mailbox. I’ve given it only one spin but I heard some pretty good songs right away.

Hammerfall – (all albums): Guess who I’m going to see in concert Saturday night? That’s right! Hammerfall is coming to the Worcester Palladium and I am making the 45 minute drive to finally see them live. I’ve been listening to all their studio albums in preparation for the show, my favorites are still the first two: GLORY TO THE BRAVE (1997) and LEGACY OF KINGS (1998).

The buying spree continued last week both in-store and on Ebay with some very good bargains and sale prices. I ended up visiting one of the local Circuit City stores that are going out of business and CDs were 40% off but selection was very slim, I ended up supplementing that visit with a stop at Newbury Comics for some new releases……

Circuit City

Black Tide - Light From Above (2008)Black Tide – Light From Above (2008) – $6: I already have this CD but it’s a CDR promo I received for review purposes (I have a digital copy also) so I really wanted the original CD. I really enjoyed the album and it made my Top 30 Albums of 2008 at #29 but I never got around to actually buying it. There were at least 20 copies of this album in the Circuit City racks for $10 but the 40% off really made the sale. The cool thing was that the guy standing next to me in the CD section saw me pick this up and he grabbed one too, he mentioned that he had it on his list to buy also. I ended up recommending a couple other albums to him and I ended up seeing him again later at Newbury Comics!

blackstonecherryfolkloreBlack Stone Cherry – Folklore And Superstition (2008) – $7.80: I never got around to picking up Black Stone Cherry’s sophomore effort despite all the great reviews I read throughout 2008. I really enjoyed the debut but I always found something else to buy when I had this CD in hand. This was another one of the bargains at 40% off that was regularly priced at $13. There were a lot of copies left in the racks so if anyone is in the North Attleboro, MA area, go get one!

Newbury Comics

3-inches-of-blood-battlecry3 Inches Of Blood – Battlecry Under A Winter Sun (2009 reissue) – $9.99: I have become a really big 3 Inches Of Blood fan in the last couple of years and I have spent that time searching for this CD. Unfortunately, the original version on Minion Music is long out of print and the band cut a deal with Sonic Unyon and Caroline Distribution to get their debut re-released in North America. To make the new edition a little special, the band included 4 bonus tracks that were previously unavailable outside Europe. Well worth the sale price and another Cd off the Want List!

avantasia-lost-in-space-part-1-and-2Avantasia – Lost In Space Parts 1 & 2 (2009 reissue) – $11.88: Avantasia has become one of my favorite concept projects and I have been trying to track down both LOST IN SPACE E.P.s at decent prices. The problem has been that most of the prices are extremely high because they were European only releases, even Ebay has been high priced. I had no idea this was coming out and I was psyched when I saw this CD stocked next to 3 Inches Of Blood in the “New Release” section. Avantasia/Edguy mainman Tobias Sammet dropped in a bonus track for this release with an extended version of ‘Lost In Space’.

grave-digger-pray-epGrave Digger – Pray E.P. (2009) – $7: I got shut out two weeks ago when I specifically went to the store to pick this up, there are a few metalheads out there like me that actually show up BEFORE the doors open on a Tuesday. I was a little late that week so I waited for a re-stock and I was able to get the only copy they had last week AND the sale price from the initial release date. It drives me insane when bands release an E.P. before a new album release because there is usually only one exclusive track to the E.P., PRAY has 3 non-album tracks and an extended version of ‘Pray’…..not too bad for 7 bucks.

ted-nugent-cravemanTed Nugent – Craveman (2002) – $4 used: I love the Motor City Madman and I think I’ve seen him more times in concert than any other band except for KISS and maybe Aerosmith. Of course, everytime I’ve seen him it’s been as an opening act for both bands so I think the total is up to 7 or 8. I never picked up CRAVEMAN when it came out and it’s been on the Want List for a long time. There are always those albums that you mena to buy, never do, and then when you want them you need to spend as little as possible. I’ve seen this over the years but always around $15 brand new, finding this used for 4 bucks is a steal!

38-special-rockin-into-the-night.38 Special – Rockin’ Into The Night (1979) – $4 used: I like me some Southern Rock and .38 Special has been a favorite of mine since I heard ‘Hold On Loosely’ (from WILD-EYED SOUTHERN BOYS) back in 1981. I don’t know what it is about .38 Special but I always make sure I look at their section for a couple of the missing albums I need. Never heard any of the tracks except the hit title track but I know the overall .38 Special sound and I’m sure it follows the triple guitar/dual drum kit, country-fried Classic Rock that they are well known for.

Ebay (prices include shipping)

WASP - Dying For The World (2002)W.A.S.P. – Dying For The World (2002) – $5.35: This has been on the WANTED! list for a long time and I have had opportunities to grab this CD but the price was always too high. I don’t know what it is really but I have this thing where if a CD is a few years old then I expect to buy it at a used or discounted price. A lot of people have emailed me to tell me that this album is really good but I think DYING FOR THE WORLD just had a bad slot in between HELLDORADO (1999) and the two NEON GOD albums (2004). The weird thing is I picked up UNHOLY TERROR (2001) and loved it so I think I just could have been in an non-W.A.S.P. phase. This completes my W.A.S.P. collection…..

torch-self-titledTorch – s/t (1983) – $22.50: This one got a little expensive because I got into a bidding war in the last hour. The good news is that the average ending price at auction hovered around $20-$30 in the last couple of months so I really paid a decent price. I remember a few years ago I was trying to grab this one on Ebay and I wouldn’t go over $15 for it and I left it on my Want List. I already have the Torch E.P. (1982) on CD and the only release that eludes me from completing this Swedish Metal band’s discography is their 1984 release ELECTRIKISS.

gammaray_theawesomeGamma Ray - Hell Yeah! The Awesome Foursome – Live In Montreal (2008) – $8: I already had the 2 DVD set so getting the companion double live CD just keeps the gamma ray collection up to date. I really had no intention of even buying this CD but I noticed that my favorite Ebay seller had this up for auction, brand new and starting at $5. I high bid to $10 but no one even challenged my bid and I ended up winning for $5. A 2 CD set for $5? Bargain city!

armed-forces-let-there-be-metalArmed Forces – Let There Be Metal (1984) – $9: I just posted this album in my WANTED column yesterday and I decided to blow the last $10 in my Paypal account on it. It was either this album or ELECTRIKISS and LET THERE BE METAL was the cheaper decision at $5 BUY IT NOW for a near mint vinyl. Another deciding factor was that the seller of this album answered all my questions right away whereas the seller of ELECTRIKISS has ignored my question for about two weeks. I figure that the Torch record will be there next time…..I can finally say that I actually own this album after 25 years of procrastination!

2008 was another great year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal DVDs but I didn’t buy nearly as many as I did last year. This year was all about the quality instead of the quantity as the global economy became the issue of the year. The good news is that bands are taking great care when producing these DVDs by adding extra content, bonus footage and CDs of live performances to the overall packages. Money has to be spent wisely and the following list of DVDs gave a lot of bang for my hard earned buck! Here’s my list of The Top 5 Music DVDs of 2008:

#1

Iron Maiden - Live After Death DVD (2008)Iron Maiden – Live After Death

There was no competing with Iron Maiden when it came to DVD of the Year. Live After Death was released in early February and it led wire to wire as the best DVD released this year. The original Live After Death concert footage was in dire need of a proper DVD release and the band answered the call with a remastered DVD of the full performance from the old VHS. In addition to the main feature, the band exceeded expectations and went the extra mile with the second DVD including the History of Iron Maiden, Behind The Iron Curtain, Rock In Rio ’85, ‘Ello Texas, and promotional videos. With over 5+ hours of content and landmark performances Iron Maiden’s latest DVD was the best value of the year, I paid $14 on sale and it was money well spent.

#2

ironmaidenandnewwaveofbyw4Iron Maiden and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal

Just like KISS did last year, Iron Maiden has taken the first two slots in this year’s DVD awards…..technically. This DVD has a disclaimer on the back that states that “this film is not authorized by the current lineup of Iron Maiden nor by their management or record label”. So the band had nothing to do with the release but there is plenty of archival footage of the band as they spearheaded probably the most important movement in Heavy metal history: The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. There is a ton of music and footage, both studio and live recordings, of many of the major NWOBHM bands like Saxon, Samson, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Def Leppard, Praying Mantis and more. Bands members are interviewed as are industry experts like Malcolm Dome, Geoff Barton, and Garry Bushell along with perhaps THE most influential man in the NWOBHM movement, legendary Metal DJ Neil Kay. A DVD that has over 2 1/2 hours of NWOBHM history would have easily taken the top spot any other year but it came in a close second to Live After Death even though I bought it at the end of December. 

#3

gamma-ray-hell-yeah-the-awesome-foursome-live-in-montreal-dvdGamma Ray – Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome – Live In Montreal 

Gamma Ray of one of the best Power Metal bands of all-time and they released an excellent 2 DVD set this year. Disc 1 is a full 2 hour live performance in Montreal, Canada from May 2006. Right there that should be enough but the band adds a second DVD with 2 1/2 hours of bonus footage including a road movie from their 2006 North American tour, videos, Wacken Open Air performances from 2003 & 2006, and Historay. How can you beat over 4 1/2 hours of Gamma Ray for less than $20? The only thing that could have put this in the top spot was if the accompanying CD release of the Montreal concert was included. If that was included and not a separate release, this DVD set would have come very close to taking top honors this year.

#4

heavy-metal-in-baghdad-dvdHeavy Metal In Baghdad

I have always liked learning about the Heavy Metal scene in different countries and Heavy Metal In Baghdad helped me explore the Metal scene in war-torn Iraq. The film follows the Iraqi Metal band Acrassicauda from the beginning of the U.S./Iraq war to the band’s escape from the country and their survival in a new home. There is a lot of talk about “living for Heavy Metal” and “following your dreams” in the Metal scene but that is exactly what Acrassicauda do. Playing Heavy Metal in a country like Iraq is not something that the government and religious community embrace, this makes bands like Acrassicauda outcasts. With their lives in danger everyday with the threats of war, the band members follow their dreams and fight to survive. It shows you how lucky we are in the U.S. This DVD is just under3 hours and includes the main 90 minute film and an additional 90 mins of bonus footage.

#5

paul-stanley-one-live-kiss-dvdPaul Stanley – One Live KISS

KISS is my favorite band and last year they took the top two spots with KISSology Volumes 2 & 3. Here to represent the band is founder, frontman and guitarist Paul Stanley with a DVD chronicling his sold-out solo performance in Chicago on 11/6/2006. The 21 song setlist includes tracks from his 2006 solo album LIVE TO WIN as well as many KISS klassics that you never get to hear. It’s a very basic release in terms of content, there really isn’t much bonus material, but the footage shows off the one thing KISS fans have known for decades: Paul Stanley is the talent in KISS! Highlights for me were some of the tracks from Paul’s 1978 solo album like ‘Move On’, ‘Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me?’, & ‘Goodbye’.

There are so many albums released every year that it’s almost impossible to keep up. Usually I spend the first two months of the new year acquiring all the albums I didn’t buy the previous year before all the new releases start to flood the market. 2007 was no exception, I missed more than a few notable Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums, but I made up for it in 2008. The following is a list of albums I missed in 2007 and picked up at some point in 2008. Some of these records might have cracked my Top 15 Albums of 2007 or at least extended it to a Top 20 or 25.

after-forever-2007After Forever – s/t (2007): I picked up this album January 2nd and it has remained in my playlist pile the entire year. I have always been a fan of female-fronted Gothic/Symphonic Metal bands and bands like The Gathering, Lacuna Coil, and Tristania have made me take a good look around the scene for bands I overlooked. What I like about After Forever is their use of beautiful operatic female vocals courtesy of Floor Jansen mixed with Death Metal growls while keeping everything heavy. This album would have easily made my Top Albums list if I had bought it last year.

anvil-this-is-thirteen-2007Anvil – This Is Thirteen (2007): I’m an old school Metal guy and it doesn’t get more old school than Anvil! Independently released and limited to 1000 copies through their website, Anvil created an album that is straight forward Heavy Metal. The band is like AC/DC in that they don’t stray too far from their original sound. Heavy riffs, solid drumming and gritty vocals…..that’s all that’s needed. Like I said in the review, THIS IS THIRTEEN is one of the most underrated albums of 2007!

Armory - The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007)Armory – The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007): I stumbled on Armory when I was looking up local New England Metal bands on MySpace. I heard the songs on their page and I was hooked! The guys in the band were kind enough to submit their album for review and I got one of the best Metal albums of 2007! I can even tell you that it would easily have made the best of list from last year at #7. Traditional/Power Metal blended with Progressive and Thrash Metal…..Armory is a band that has shot to the top of my list for a band to watch.

Gamma Ray - Land Of The Free II (2007)Gamma Ray – Land Of The Free II (2007): LAND OF THE FREE II was released in 2007 in Europe and Japan, we had to wait until January in the U.S. I picked up the European version in January from a CD sale at the local record store the same day the album was officially released here in the States. Is there really any difference? Nothing bothers me more than when a CD gets released eveywhere else and we have to wait a few weeks, or months, for a proper U.S. release. It’s either that or buy the import! It’s an excellent Power Metal record by one of the best in the genre but it seemed to get lost in my playlist with all the new albums coming out.

Helix - The Power Of Rock And Roll (2007)Helix – The Power Of Rock And Roll (2007): This album is a re-release of the GET UP! promotional disc with four more songs added in for good measure. Helix hasn’t changed their sound over the years, they still play the good time party Hard Rock that made them a success in the ’80s. Another album that would have made my Best of 2007 list.

King Diamond - Give Me Your Soul... Please (2007)King Diamond – Give Me Your Soul…Please (2007): Nothing can beat a new King Diamond album and I passed on this one too many times in 2007. Not sure why because it was on my list all year long and I just kept leaving it the racks. I bought this CD the same day I bought the Gamma Ray disc at a really good price and playing this regularly over the last year got me to fill some of the King Diamond/Mercyful Fate holes in my collection.

Lana Lane - Red Planet Boulevard artworkLana Lane – Red Planet Boulevard (2007): I passed on this album in 2007 because I was disappointed with the last few Lana Lane albums. There are so many live records and covers collections you can take before you need real songs and it had been 5 years since 2002′s PROJECT SHANGRI-LA. The conceptual LADY MACBETH was in there somewhere but I couldn’t get into it at all. This album is exactly what I was hoping for from Lana Lane and it’s another release that would have made my Best of 2007 list.

Nightwish - Dark Passion Play (2007)Nightwish – Dark Passion Play (2007): I have never been a big Nightwish fan because of the Opera style vocals of former vocalist Tarja Turunen but I had a couple of their CDs. Nightwish split with Tarja and the news wasn’t taken lightly by many of the band’s fans. When the band announced that former Alyson Avenue vocalist Anette Olzen would replace Tarja, I knew that it was a great move. I liked Alyson Avenue a lot and Olzen’s style is more to my liking. This is another one of those albums that had an international release in 2007 but a U.S. release in 2008. I ended up grabbing the last sale copy of the collector’s edition that included an expanded booklet and a 2nd CD of orchestral versions of the album.

U.D.O. - Mastercutor (2007)U.D.O. – Mastercutor (2007): I missed the release date on MASTERCUTOR and I was trying to hold out until I could find the European limited edition with the bonus tracks. Unfortunately, that search continues but I picked up a U.S. copy used for $7 and it was one of the best purchases all year. I’ve been an Accept/U.D.O. fan all along and I usually pick up anything these bands put out but I missed out on one of the best releases of the 2007.

Wasp - Dominator (2007)W.A.S.P. – Dominator (2007): I passed on DOMINATOR for the same reasons I passed on Lana Lane’s RED PLANET BOULEVARD, I wasn’t thrilled with W.A.S.P.’s last few albums and I wasn’t going to waste my time with an album that wasn’t good enough to get U.S. distribution. It just had to be bad. W.A.S.P. had released two stinkers with the NEON GOD records and I just figured that this one would follow suit. This album blew me away and ended up becoming one of my 2007 favorites, just like the U.D.O. album.

From Gamma Ray:

Some events in the life of a metal act are simply the stuff that legends are made of: the first high chart position, the first nomination for an international award, a surprising victory in the readers’ polls of a renowned music magazine, the first magazine cover. Gamma Ray have encountered all these highlights, so there’s very little left that this band hasn’t achieved or experienced yet. Their first own American tour, however, has been one of Gamma Ray’s declared targets for some years. Their Majestic tour fulfilled this dream for Kai Hansen (guitar, vocals), Henjo Richter (guitar), Dirk Schlächter (bass) and Daniel Zimmermann (drums): Gamma Ray conquered the United States and Canada in a surprise coup and have captured for eternity those magic moments on their brand-new Double DVD and Double Live CD HELL YEAH – THE AWESOME FOURSOME LIVE IN MONTREAL!!!

Recorded in Montreal in front of a wildly enthusiastic audience, the band present their impressive potential as a live force, keeping fans and media alike in suspense for two hours, leaving the stage at the end of a furioso performance like heroic gladiators: victorious, happy and celebrated frenetically. Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome Live In Montreal is scheduled for release on 27 October 2008 (Germany: October 24 / USA: November 4 ) on double DVD and double CD and features the slightly curious subtitle …And The Finnish Keyboarder Who Didn’t Want To Wear His Donald Duck Costume… More on this interesting subject later. The DVD in Europe will include a bonus DVD with 4 new songs played live in 2008 during the Hellish Rock World Tour.

Let’s start with the fact that Hell Yeah! includes not only the 120-minute Montreal concert with its 18 songs (among them classics such as ‘No World Order’, ‘Man On A Mission’, ‘Valley Of The Kings’, ‘Somewhere Out In Space’, ‘Land Of The Free’ and ‘Rebellion in Dreamland’), but also a Gamma Ray history, a worthwhile road movie and unplugged sequences featuring Kai Hansen and Henjo Richter in Japan. In addition, there are a total of seven video clips from different stages of the band’s career and two live cuts from the W:O:A shows 2003 and 2006. The package is rounded off by a 40-minute bonus DVD with recordings from Barcelona and a road movie shot during the ‘Hellish Rock’ tour in Spain. Adds up to impressive five hours plus of playing time altogether.

Band leader Kai Hansen looks back at Gamma Ray’s first American tour with pride and great joy, saying: “We had played in the States only once before, so this was our first headliner tour of America. Of course we had no idea what exactly to expect, but the reactions were overwhelming. The tickets sold extremely well, and the atmosphere was amazing night after night. What you see on the footage from Montreal is what we experienced at almost every show.” No wonder that Gamma Ray decided to document that tour on a top-quality DVD, making it a permanent fixture on their long list of previous releases. Hansen: “We had been thinking about releasing a live DVD for a long time, especially as our faithful fans had been nagging us about one for years. Unfortunately we’d never had the time to plan and realise such a large-scale project. Well, here you go! This is a DVD the way we like it: diverse and multi-faceted, featuring a musical cross-section of the Gamma Ray albums recorded by the current line-up since 1998. The road movie speaks for itself, and those nice little extras are great mementoes of our band history to date.”

But let’s get back to the question of how the humorous subtitle … And The Finnish Keyboarder Who Didn’t Want To Wear His Donald Duck Costume… originated. First of all: the keyboardist in question is Eero Kaukomies from Finland, who plays in the Gamma Ray cover band Guardians Of Mankind from Helsinki and supported Gamma Ray during their whole American tour. Hansen: “During the tour, Henjo suddenly noticed that Eero has a somewhat duck-like walk. So the crazy idea developed to make him wear a Donald Duck costume at the show in Montreal and present him to the audience. Naturally, this great suggestion didn’t meet with much enthusiasm from Eero, and the whole thing became a running gag.” Hansen adds with a wink: “By the way, the ‘awesome foursome’ refers to Henjo, Dirk, Daniel and myself, in case you were wondering.”

And now all that’s left to say is that Gamma Ray will have embarked on another tour by the time Hell Yeah!!! arrives at the stores, adding more legendary performances to their band history. They will travel to Russia at the beginning of September and are scheduled to go to America and Canada again a fortnight later. And the rest of the year? “We are collecting ideas for our next studio album”, Kai Hansen gives away. “Quite a few of them have already piled up, so come autumn we will probably begin to sort through them and go to the studio in January 2009.” Sounds like everything should be set for a new studio album by early next summer. Hell Yeah!!! is a perfect appetizer to fuel your anticipation!

DVD Tracklisting:

DVD 1 – Montreal-Show 2006

‘Welcome’
‘Gardens Of The Sinner’
‘New World Order’
‘Man On A Mission’
‘Fight’
‘Blood Religion’
‘Heavy Metal Universe’
‘Dreamhealer’
‘The Heart Of The Unicorn’
‘Fairytale’
‘The Silence’
‘Beyond The Blackhole’
‘Valley Of The Kings’
‘Somewhere Out In Space’
‘Land Of The Free’
‘Rebellion In Dreamland’
‘I Want Out’
‘Send Me A Sign’

Total Running Time: Approx. 120 minutes

DVD 2

Road Movie:
- Documentary from the Northamerican Tour
Video Clips:
- ‘Space Eater’
- ‘One With The World’
- ‘Gamma Ray’
- ‘Rebellion In Dreamland’
- ‘Send Me A Sign’
- ‘Heavy Metal Universe’
- ‘Eagle’
- ‘Into The Storm’
Live At Wacken Open Air 2003
- ‘One With The World’
- ‘Last Before The Storm’
Live At Wacken Open Air 2006
- ‘Rebellion In Dreamland’
- ‘Heavy Metal Universe’
- ‘Somewhere Out In Space’
Historay:
Over the years private movies, backstage scenes and live performances
Unplugged:
Kai and Henjo unplugged in Japan

Total Running Time: approx. 156 minutes

DVD 3 (Bonus, only Europe)
4 Songs of Land Of The Free II live in Barcelona during the Hellish Rock-Tour
with Helloween in January 2008
Tracklist:
‘Into The Storm’
‘Empress’
‘From The Ashes’
‘Real World’
plus Backstage-Scenes, Soundchecks, etc…

CD tracklisting:

CD 1 Tracklist
‘Welcome’
‘Gardens Of The Sinner’
‘New World Order’
‘Man On A Mission’
‘Fight’
‘Blood Religion’
‘Heavy Metal Universe’
‘Dreamhealer’
‘The Heart Of The Unicorn’
‘Fairytale’
‘The Silence’

Approx. 62 minutes playing time.

CD 2 Tracklist
‘Beyond The Blackhole’
‘Valley Of The Kings’
‘Somewhere Out In Space’
‘Land Of The Free’
‘Rebellion In Dreamland’
‘I Want Out’
‘Send Me A Sign’
Bonus Tracks:
‘Into The Storm’
‘Empress’
‘From The Ashes’
‘Real World’

Approx. 65 minutes playing time.

For more info visit http://www.gammaray.org/.

From Gamma Ray:

Gamma Ray’s long-awaited three-DVD set will be out in September and will feature the following content:

DVD 1 (live in Montréal – 2006; 120 minutes)
‘Welcome’, ‘Gardens Of The Sinner’, ‘No World Order’, ‘Man On A Mission’, ‘Fight’, ‘Blood Religion’, ‘Hmuniverse’, ‘Dream Healer’, ‘Heart Of The Unicorn’, ‘Fairytale (Accoustic)’, ‘The Silence’, ‘Beyond The Black Hole’, ‘Valley Of The Kings’, ‘Somewhere Out In Space’, ‘Land Of The Free’, ‘Rebellion In Dreamland’, ‘I Want Out’, ‘Send Me A Sign’.

DVD 2
History (47 minutes); Road Movie USA 2006 (16 minutes), vocalist/guitarist Kai Hansen and guitarist/keyboardist Henjo Richter unplugged in Japan (15 minutes).
Video clips: ‘Heavy Metal Universe’, ‘Space Eater’, ‘One With The World’, ‘Rebellion In Dreamland’, ‘Gamma Ray, ‘Eagle Fly Free’, ‘Send Me A Sign’
Wacken 2006: ‘One With The World’, ‘Last Before The Storm’, ‘Rebellion’, Heavy Metal Universe’, ‘Somewhere Out In Space’.

DVD 3 (bonus)
Road Movie: Hellish Rock Spain
Barcelona Show: ‘Into The Storm’, ‘Empress’, ‘From The Ashes’, ‘Real World’.

Two hunts in one week! Life is good!

I had a coupon for 15% off 3 used CDs at Newbury Comics that expired end of this week so I had to use it. There were also a few new releases that had to be bought: new Brainstorm, Pagan’s Mind, and Gamma Ray.

Gamma Ray - Land Of The Free II (2007)Gamma Ray – Land Of The Free II (2007) – $10: Had to pick this up because it’s been out in Europe and Japan for a couple of months already and this was the official U.S. release date. The sale price was a bargain and waiting paid off rather than paying import prices. You can’t see it in this picture of the album cover but mine has circle in the lower right corner that announces it’s a new studio album, the band members, and Gamma-Ray.com. It almost looks like a sticker that is usually on the wrap but it was incorporated on top of the artwork. A small disappointment for the artwork.

Pagan’s Mind - God’s Equation (2007)Pagan’s Mind – God’s Equation (2007) (2 CD set) – $10 used: Another album that was released in Europe late in 2007 but just received it’s U.S. release this month. Originally, I had a brand new copy in my hands for $12.99 sale price but I found it used for $3 less…..another bargain! How can you go wrong getting a 2 CD set for ten bucks? Plus I had the coupon for 15% off!

King Diamond - Give Me Your Soul… Please (2007)King Diamond – Give Me Your Soul… Please (2007) – $10 used: I passed on this when it came out because there were other albums I wanted that weren’t as readily available. I knew I could get this CD easily as there’s always a healthy stock of the King at Newbury Comics. Stumbled upon this mint used copy while I was trolling the bins, easily five bucks less than the regular price. Add the 15% off coupon and it’s another bargain.

Benedictum - Uncreation (2006)Benedictum – Uncreation (2007) – $14: I got shut out of the new Brainstorm album, the store only stocked two copies and they were all sold out. I decided to pick up Benedictum because I have been meaning to check the band out and I wanted to get a feel for the band before their new album’s U.S. release in March (it’s out now in Europe!).

Y&T - Black Tiger (1982)Y&T – Black Tiger (1982, Japanese import) – $15 used: Bargain of the week! Nothing is better than when the record store decides to clean shelves and markdown CDs and put them in the used bins. This CD was SEALED with the OBI strip, everything in perfect new condition. It was labeled “used” just to move it because it had been there for years. I checked the date on the original price tag and the CD had been sitting there 7 years at the standard import price of $29.99. I’ll take it for half off plus my 15% off coupon. A steal!

Total (after coupon & w/tax): $53