(All Album Reviews by jlneudorf)
The veteran German power metal band are back with their tenth release, the aptly titled To The Metal!. I must confess this is the first Gamma Ray CD I have heard, although I have been curious about the band for quite some time. This might be a good thing as I have no preconceptions of what this album should sound like. I also admit to not listening to a lot of power metal, although I do like the genre as a whole.
From other reviews I have read it seems that this is far from the band's best offering. If this is the case, I need to hear their earlier albums as I quite like To The Metal!. For those of you who are new to the band you can expect lots of powerful guitar riffs, pounding double bass drums and big anthem-like choruses. Keyboards are also used effectively, adding that much more drama to the band's sound. What I like best about To The Metal! are the catchiness of the songs and I hear a strong resemblance to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. I like how the band mixes power metal and classic heavy metal giving the album that much more variety.
It all starts with the melodic "Empathy" with its slow somber beginning leading to powerful riffs and the strong vocals of Kai Hansen. He has a versatile voice, able to reach high piercing screams but just as proficient in the lower registers. The metal amps up with "All You Need To Know" complete with a ripping guitar solo and crushing guitar riffs. Keyboards are used to good effect and the additional vocals of guest Michael Kiske of Halloween fame are a nice touch. The band continues in the heavy metal vein with the highly melodic "Time To Live" with its huge catchy chorus and tight riffs. The band's tribute to the genre is the anthemic title track that goes for a classic metal sound and just may become a live favourite. Other noteworthy tracks include the power metal of "Shine Forever" with one of the coolest bass intros I have heard in a while and the Maiden-like "Deadlands" with excellent drum work and shredding lead guitar.
The album ends with the power ballad "No Need To Cry" showcasing a pretty nice piano melody, making this a fine ending to a very good album.
For those of you already familiar with the band you probably know what to expect. If not, you might be surprised just how catchy power metal can be. Rock on Gamma Ray!