Gamma Ray – Empire Of The Undead
Reviewed by Kylie McInnes
After all of the talk about a new album coming out “soon™” last year, and the subsequent inferno in their recording studio, I almost expected this album to never get released! But here it is, and after four years since releasing the competent To The Metal!, The Awesome Foursome shows that they still have it.
Empire Of The Undead kicks off with the very neo-Maiden-esque “Avalon,” which has quickly become my favorite Gamma Ray track after the immaculate “Rebellion In Dreamland.” High praise, and “Avalon” manages to stand out among all of the other “epic” Gamma Ray tracks (I swear Kai must have listened to nothing but A Matter Of Life And Death for like a week to write this). The sly feel and tempo changes build up and create one hell of an album opener. This track alone is worth the purchase of the album.
The next few tracks are a bit more filler than should be expected from a veteran group. The lame and generic “Hellbent (For More Judas Priest Knockoff Songs)” and the very blah “Pale Rider” don’t really do much, especially coming after such a monster of a song. “Born To Fly” is a welcomed breath of fresh air that is far closer to the Gamma Ray we all know and love (then again, how many damn songs mentioning eagles do we really need, Kai!). The advance-release single “Master Of Confusion” follows, and I’ve been torn about how to feel about it. It’s lyrically awful (although the prophetic “…some unexpected ghost in the machinery” lyric in a song about not releasing material on time came out months before the blaze), and while not making much sense, is a really fun rocker musically hearkening back to “Send Me A Sign” and “New World Order.”
The title track was always the better track from the Master Of Confusion EP/single (reminding me a lot of Metallica’s “Hit The Lights” in the intro riff), and is one hell of a fun and catchy speed metal number. “Time For Deliverance” (which sadly isn’t a sequel to “Somewhere Out In Space”) is the token ballad, and while not bad, doesn’t do a whole lot, either. That said, after the first 13 seconds of “Demonseed” (holy crap is that intro atrocious), Empire Of The Undead fires on all cylinders for the remainder. “Demonseed” is one of the better mid-tempo crushers in Gamma Ray’s catalog (Wait, do they have mid-tempo crushers?), and is something that sounds a lot more original, at least for Kai and the gang.
“Seven” is another great speed/power metal number that feels almost like a second “Master Of Confusion”, given the very similar guitar riffing, making the latter almost seem redundant (because “Seven” is so far and away the better song). “I Will Return” is the second epic number here (bookending the album with the two best tracks), channeling the best bits of Power Plant, and putting a great conclusion to the album.
I was originally concerned by the loss of Daniel Zimmermann in 2012, but ex-Metalium drummer Michael Ehré fills in quite well. There is a slight stylistic difference, but they replaced a great drummer with another great drummer. Kai, Henjo, and Dirk are just as ace as always on guitars and bass, so it’s the typical Gamma Ray feel everywhere. While certainly not as good as the ’97-’05 masterpieces, Empire Of The Undead certainly holds its own with the rest of Gamma Ray’s discography, and shows that The Awesome Foursome isn’t slowing down any time soon.
4.0 // 5