"Empire of the Undead"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Along with Primal Fear, Gamma Ray have to be one of the most dependable bands from Germany when it comes to pure classic heavy metal. Some have complained of the band's lack of innovation, but I think they are one of those bands that thrives on the known. There's just no reason for them to radically experiment with their formula. Therefore, "Empire of the Undead" is another in a long line of rocksolid Gamma Ray albums that deliver exactly what fans expect.

That being said, there is still a lot of range in the formula and you'll hear a variety of sounds here. That's what makes "Empire of the Undead" an interesting listen all the way through. The album is bookended by two bombastic power metal epics, "Avalon" and "I Will Return". These both feature lush keys, soaring vocal melodies and a general feeling of pompousness. This is the kind of sound that Gamma Ray and G.R. leader Kai Hansen's previous band Helloween pioneered. In between these two songs, you get treated to a lot of varied metal like the Priestish attack of "Hellbent", the anthemic ballad "Time For Deliverance", an evil-sounding and surprisingly ambitious "Demonseed" and the more hard rocking "Master of Confusion". It's all performed with skill and the guitar solos of Herr Hansen have never sounded more slicing or precise.

When you pick up Gamma Ray, you know you're going to get classic tuneful heavy metal in tradition of the greats like Judas Priest, Accept and Helloween. You just can't go wrong with this formula.