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Gamma Ray | Blast From the Past | review | metal | Lollipop

Gamma Ray

Blast From the Past (Noise)
by Scott Hefflon

Two hours of pure heavy metal, Gamma Ray style! Seeing as I'm a come-lately to the resurgence of the genre (took a break in the early '90s to discover the "new metal" of Pantera, Mindfunk and Warrior Soul, but the late '90s nü metal/funk/rapcore nonsense disgusted me so I returned to the melodic glory of power/heavy metal), this two-CD best-of is just the ticket for anyone who sees metal reduced to jocks with funny hair and ball caps. Whatever happened to skinny long-haired guys soloing majestically and making faces of surprise at the myriad of squawks and squeals they milk from a six-string? Whatever happened to guitar geeks whizzing through jaw-dropping leads, teaming up to soar the heavens in duelling scales and lightening riffs? Shit, it doesn't take a genius to see what happened: We let meatheads into the fold. Metal has always been for the outcasts, the comic-buying misfits who had imagination and a penchant for the profound (sure, D&D dorks and Renaissance Fairs are kinda silly, but since when is metal the music of choice in the weight room?).

Gamma Ray, for those who still haven't caught on, is the band founded by Kai Hansen after he left Helloween. For many of us old fogies, Helloween was our introduction to melodic speed metal: peppy, uplifting, perhaps a little lyrically ridiculous (but no worse than Priest or Ozzy singing teen rebel anthems while in their mid-30s or worse), but musically impressive without quite crossing over into straight prog wankery. Something about fusion and Rush always creeped me out... Imagine Priest or Maiden only faster, and that's the turf we tread here. Or did, anyway. Somehow Manowar got worked into the mix, and while I've always enjoyed the comic book barbarian schtick, I just never got into their mid-tempo meaty thud, K? Also, for those too young (or on hiatus at the time), Ralf Scheepers - now vocalist for Primal Fear, the natural progression from Judas Priest now that they're kind of a Judas Priest cover band - was in Gamma Ray in the early years as well.

Blast from the Blast is 13 new recordings of fan-voted faves from the first albums, plus seven remastered tracks and one bonus cut. There's also a 28-page booklet with all the lyrics, a buncha photos, and ordering info for their nine releases. My only criticisms are that they don't list what record the songs originally appeared on, so it's hard to compare and contrast years, progressions and ideas, and, as much as I hate to say it, Derek Riggs' illustrations (almost certainly at the band's request) are the cheesiest of metal cheese, and that's pretty damn cheesy! Monsters and fantastic landscapes and future worlds and all that tomfoolery has always irritated me. While Blast from the Past has a few too many "power ballads" for my taste, there are enough revved-up scorchers bursting with melody, layered harmonies, and bottle-rocket riffery to suit me just fine.
(1453-A 14th St. #324 Santa Monica, CA 90404)


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