This 11th opus metallicus from Gamma Ray could well be described as the album that nearly never happened… just as the band were putting the finishing touches to it, and had jetted off to South America for a short tour, the almost unthinkable happened: a fire swept through their Hammer Studio complex, destroying everything in its path – equipment, instruments, amps… and tapes!
Therefore, it could be argued that ‘Empire Of The Undead’ is a highly appropriate title for this album, as, like a phoenix rising from the smoke and ashes of its rebirth, Gamma Ray have emerged triumphant from disaster with aplomb, bombast and confidence.
‘Empire…’ contains all the classic GR ingredients – huge, crunching riffs coupled with soaring guitar and vocals melodies and harmonies, built on a rock-solid rhythm foundation, and combining elements of classic metal with power, progression and even thrash. Kicking off with the nine minute epic ‘Avalon’ – which combines all of the aforesaid elements into one gloriously insane package – the album certainly contains plenty of their trademark diversity, from the Rob Zombie vibe of the menacing ‘Pale Rider’ to the Priest-esque ‘Born To Fly’, the breakneck speed of the title track to the lilting if somewhat clichéd ‘Time For Deliverance’ and the thumping anthemic of ‘Demonseed’.
It’s almost as if the band could have predicted the adversity which they would face, as the album burns with fire and passion, not least in the ferocity of Kai Hansen’s vocal delivery, and once again demonstrates the power of metal played in this way.
Avalon / Hellbent / Pale Rider / Born To Fly / Master Of Confusion / Empire Of The Undead / Time For Deliverance / Demonseed / Seven / I Will Return / Built A World (European Bonus Track)
Recommended listening: ‘Avalon’
‘Empire Of The Undead’ is out now on earMUSIC.