Gamma Ray – Sigh No More

June 22, 2012 in Artist Rewind, Reviews by Kylie

Gamma Ray
Sigh No More

Let me preface this review by correcting a statement I made in my review for Heading For Tomorrow. I hadn’t really given this album a listen in about 3 years, and I forgot just how good it opens. I shall now commence to eat a bit of crow (not the whole thing, just that this is slightly better than Heading For Tomorrow, for the most part).

Sigh No More opens up with the mid-tempo ass-kicker “Changes,” easily the best song on the album, and harkening back to Keepers. “As Time Goes By” is also a winner of a speed metal number (but as I said in my Land Of The Free review, it’s far better on the re-recorded bonus track with Kai on vocals), and “Rich & Famous” is the obligatory “goofy-but-awesome” track (yet again, the Kai-on-vocals treatment it gets on the reissue of Power Plant makes it a lot better). The rest runs the gamut of typical early Gamma Ray, from “this would be OK with someone other than Ralf Scheepers caterwauling” to “Kai needs someone to help write more songs.”

Dream Healer” and “The Spirit” are good closers (again, a reissue has a better version…however, the pre-production mix of “Dream Healer” is on this album, and still has Ralf on vocals), but the rest of the album is totally forgettable. “Father And Son” is quite the boring ballad with a solo section shoehorned in in such a way that it makes an iceberg off the coast of Oahu seem natural. “(We Don’t) Stop The War” and “One With The World” both come off as bad attempts at some kind of “boogie metal” with riffs lifted from Eddie Van Halen’s bag of discarded ideas (rather than Kai’s usual Judas Priest worship). “Start Running” and “Countdown” are more or less non-entities, and don’t really add (or for that matter, subtract) from the album experience.

This is the best of the three Ralf Scheepers Gamma Ray albums (and yes, I gave Insanity And Genius a few spins, so I won’t be eating more crow when that review comes out!) with the most coherent songwriting on the “winner” tracks. The songwriting is more straightforward than it was on Heading For Tomorrow, and at least shows some promise that would fully emerge on 1997’s Somewhere Out In Space.

What really gets my attention about Sigh No More is that Ralf Scheepers decided to step up and be more prominent in the songs. However, this is the musical equivalent of the senior defensive tackle in your freshman remedial math course “helping” you with your class project. Sure, the effort is there, but sometimes love means saying, “You’re better off without me.”

The production is a bit thin and tinny as well, which only serves to make Ralf stand out that much more, while the drumming (which is quite good) is buried in the mix. Similar to Metallica’s …And Justice For All, we get an experienced band totally regressing on their production values at the cost of a few points on the rating scale…because sometimes presentation matters. Getting a styrofoam box for your take-out dinner is one thing, but at a four-star restaurant? You expect better!

 Kylie’s rating: 3.25 out of 5.

(Side Note: I fail at being a total Gamma Ray nerd and only found out about the Kai-On-Vocals re-recording compilation Blast From The Past 10 minutes ago.  A preface to my Iron Maiden rewind is that you, the reader, will be directed to b-sides and bootlegs for the most amazing versions of songs.  You have been warned.)