Gamma Ray – Power Plant
Well, folks, this is where Gamma Ray showed that they were for real. Sure, Somewhere Out In Space was a complete and total masterpiece, but this showed that it wasn’t a fluke. I still hold Somewhere Out In Space as the greatest power metal album ever, but 1999’s Power Plant is about as perfect of a follow-up as you can get. Actually, it’s a bit more “power metal” than Somewhere Out In Space, in that there are no ballads and only a couple of songs that don’t even have a single bit pure speed metal (hell, the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of “It’s A Sin” sounds totally not like an 80s pop song!).
“Anywhere In The Galaxy” kicks off the album with an undeniable bang. This is the Gamma Ray we all know and love: totally catchy and upbeat. I’m proud to say that this was the first Gamma Ray song I ever heard (first power metal song, actually…before this, I was pretty much into only thrash and NWOBHM, so this is about as close of a “life-changing” album as you can get!). “Razorblade Sigh” brings the intensity down a bit, but still has that typical Gamma Ray sense of melody. And no, I don’t what the song is about, either.
“Send Me A Sign” is the best of the best here; it’s a total nod to “I Want Out” from Keepers II. There’s nothing wrong with that, either! Oh sure, it’s overt single-bait, but when you have high-quality overt single-bait, you get a full-on raging classic. The next block of tracks (“Strangers In The Night” through “Wings Of Destiny”) are what you’d expect from a middle part of an awesome album. There’s enough good ideas to keep each song interesting (and nothing here is anywhere close to being skip-worthy, although “Short As Hell” is the weakest track on the album). Just more high-quality speed/power metal, especially the uber-catchy “Gardens Of The Sinner.” And yes, “Heavy Metal Universe” is a total ripoff of Manowar’s “The Gods Made Heavy Metal,” but can you really rip off something so cliché as a Manowar song? That would be like accusing a punk band of ripping off the riff from “Blitzkrieg Bop” or any metal band using an “E-E-C-D” chord progression (in any key) and claiming it sounds like Maiden.
“Hand Of Fate,” however, contains Gamma Ray’s first directly indirect cover a Judas Priest track (but nowhere near as overt as “Solid” from No World Order or To The Metal!‘s title track), with the verse riff and vocal melody coming straight from “Dissident Aggressor.” Problem? I think not.
“Armageddon” closes out the album as an absolutely monstrous epic (even better than “Shine On” from the previous album!). 9 minutes of pure, unadulterated speed metal! Any band wanting to write an extended power metal track should study this, because this is how it’s done. There are enough mood and feel changes to keep it flowing and dynamic, yet it never delves into the dreaded boring or “long for the sake of being long” territory. If you can make a 9 minute track feel like it’s only 5 minutes long, you’ve done it right!
The rerelease bonus tracks are pretty good. Another “Ralf Scheepers minus Ralf Scheepers” track with “Rich And Famous,” a very good cover of Rainbow’s “Long Live Rock ‘N Roll,” and the beautiful piano ballad, “A While In Dreamland.”
So, I advise you to drop whatever you’re doing (unless you’re listening to this album) and listen to this album! This is their British Steel, in that it’s not quite as good as a previous album, but is still a genre-defining album in its own right. Put some meaning in your life and crank up some Power Plant!
Kylie’s rating: 5 out of 5.