Monday, August 16, 2010

Gamma Ray - No World Order

The album that got me into speed/power metal

Until about mid-late 2005, I was an insidiously harsh critic of this particular subgenre of metal known as power metal. All I had heard was the overly flowery shit like Rhapsody and Edguy, I was unaware that bands like Gamma Ray were around to kick me in the ass with a boot made of pure steel. My friend who is very big on power metal at the time had always tried to get me into it, and would try with radio friendly garbage like Hammerfall. Needless to say, it was ineffective and to this day I still cannot stand Hammerfall. One day I went over to his house and entered his basement. He was practicing his drums while his boombox played off in the corner, there was this insanely kick ass song playing on it that was epic, heavy, fast, catchy... it just seemed to be exactly what I was looking for in music. I later learned that that particular song was indeed Gamma Ray's own Armageddon from Powerplant. I asked to borrow one of their CDs, he had all of the Hansen vocal era up 'till that point, and the cover to the newest one, which at this point this one, No World Order, caught my eye. After getting home and blasting it, I entered into this wonderful world of European metal and I have never looked back.

I realize of course that this is not their best album, but this was my first and it is solely responsible for my introduction into this style. The intro track, Induction, starts off with big, epic, chanting choirs and pounding drums. I couldn't help but snicker at the amount of cheese I was encountering so early into the release (keep in mind that this was before I became a Blind Guardian fan), but I kept on. As soon as it transitioned into that badass main riff of Dethrone Tyranny, I knew I had stumbled upon an amazing release by a band I knew that I would grow to love.

Dethrone Tyranny is great, but the fact that he mispronounces "tyranny" (it's tee-ruh-nee, not tie-rahn-ee) still continues to bother me. It's a great riff and a badass break in the middle as well. Heart of the Unicorn is fucking fast with one of Kai's most energetic vocal performances. The song itself is pretty simple, but it's a lot of fun. Heaven or Hell is kind of poppish for my taste, but it is catchy nonetheless. Best part comes during the second verse when he says "I'm gonna get myself elected/ and I wanna be the president", if you listen, you can hear a sample of Vyvyan from the old British sitcom The Young Ones shouting "Viva el Presidente!" as he did in a classic episode.

The (semi) title track, New World Order, is great albeit slowed down a bit. The chorus is amazing, so it's a pity we only hear it twice. Plus the section when it gets slower and begins to build in the middle, culminating in that insane scream and the solo... that will probably give me chills until I die. Damn the Machine was one of my favorites upon first listening, but it's grown to be one of my least favorites. It's too slow... plodding, although I still like the chorus. As many have mentioned, Solid is complete Judas Priest worship, but the track is as it's namesake.... a solid track. Fire Below is another downtempo groover... mediocre, but still a ton of fun. It has another aspect that I love that I quickly learned is an attribute that Gamma Ray carry into every single song, the catchy chorus. They have very few songs with weak choruses.

For some reason I'll never understand, Follow Me remains quite possibly my favorite track. It's the corniest, most happy sounding tune on the whole record, but it has a great and catchy chorus that gets stuck in my head. Same with the verses now that I think about it. The strange bassy break seems out of place, but it is still good. Eagle finally kicks it back into full ass kicking gear, with an awesomely sinister sounding break in the middle. That part that leads into the solo gives me chills (Faster, faster, to the light/ In this world, too many fights/ Devastation, Termination/ Leave the world to RECREATIOOON). Heavy and fast riffs, energetic vocals, very characteristic and damn near perfect Gamma Ray.

Unfortunately, the outro track bores me to tears. It's not all that bad per se, but they do one thing extremely well, speed metal, that's what the last track is not.

While this may not be a pure power metal album, it most definitely opened the doors for me to explore completely new realms of wonderment, and for that, it will remain a sentimental album to me until my death. I blame this album largely for what my tastes have become (fret not, I still love the darker, heavier side of metal as well, but I never would've liked the lighter, faster stuff were it not for this release). And for that, I'll always love it. The only reason it's not a perfect score is because I've grown to realize that not all of the songs are as great as I once thought they were, in fact, the second half seems to drag down the quality overall, but it is too good for me to not award it anything lower than a 90.

RATING - 92%

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