Gamma Ray – Somewhere Out In Space
Somewhere Out In Space
Kylie’s rating: 5 out of 5
Wait, I actually need to say why this is my favorite power metal album ever? Well, first off, this is where the current incarnation of Gamma Ray first set off to conquer the distant realms of consistently good albums. Rather than Kai Hansen writing 95% of the material, all four members (guitarist-turned-bassist Dirk Schlächter, guitarist Henjo Richter, and drummer Dan Zimmermann penned six of the eleven full tracks, and Kai got a hand on another two) contributed heavily, apparently giving Kai the need to write a half hour of awesome music, rather than cram a half hour of awesome music into 50 minutes like the prior 4 albums.
The first thing that comes to mind is that outside of three short interludes, the entirety of Somewhere Out In Space is nonstop speed metal (“No Stranger [Another Day In Life]” is a bit of a slower-paced song…in the same way that “Dr. Stein” off of Keepers Part II is slower-paced…and the power ballad “Pray”). So yes, this is the “good idea” extrapolation of the Gamma Ray Venn diagram. Gone are the kitschy filler tracks. Even the lone ballad, “Pray,” is incredibly good. This is the next logical step in progression from Walls Of Jericho to the Keepers albums. It’s fast, it’s cohesive, and it still has some brains for all the brawn it’s packing.
The opening salvo of this supersonic speed metal assault is “Beyond The Black Hole,” and its a total winner in the Gamma Ray catalog. The lineup changes really show their improvement here; Schlächter in particular is a better bassist than a guitarist, and Dan Zimmermann is a total beast on the skins. “Men, Martians, And Machines” continues the space theme that Kai really took off with (and, on this album, culminates with the title track, the best song on the album), and is more killer speed metal.
“No Stranger…” is a bit of single bait (even though the rocker “Valley Of The Kings” was the single from the album), but hey, catchy is good here. “The Winged Horse” has some infectious keyboard noodling from Henjo, and it totally works! Really, the only thing I can complain about is “The Landing” is a bit too intrusive, and completely out of place in the tracklisting (it should be the intro for the album or the title track, not “Valley Of Kings,” because when I think of Ancient Egypt, I totally think of aliens…oh crap, DAMN YOU, HISTORY CHANNEL!).
The title track, “Somewhere Out In Space,” is a masterpiece, plain and simple. Great drumming from Dan, great guitar lines, and wow is that one hell of a chorus! “Eagle Fly…” what now? Yeah, it’s that amazing. “Lost In The Future” is the closest Somewhere Out In Space gets to a bad idea, but the overall goofiness of the verse (mostly the disjointed riff) is made up with the inter-vocal riff and a typical catchy-as-all-getup Gamma Ray chorus (I’m trying to figure out what the “Oh Susanna” lick is doing there, but hey, “Dr. Stein” ended with the sample “A Day In The Life” chord, which makes even less sense as a cultural reference… Then again, I can only imagine how awesome a potential future where music is dominated by Americana folk melodies played over metal would be). The Iron Savior “cover,” “Watcher In The Sky,” is a great addition, and fits the overall themes of the album, both musically and lyrically. Finally, “Shine On” closes out the album in spectacular fashion: more all-out speed metal riffing, furious drumming, and an amazingly catchy chorus. Not as good a closer as “Armageddon” from the followup Power Plant, but still a great tune.
If you get the reissue, you get some good bonus tracks. The Uriah Heep cover, “Return To Fantasy,” is very good, and the Judas Priest cover “Victim Of Changes” is killer. “Miracle” is a bit odd…it has the chorus of “Man On A Mission” from Land Of The Free, so my guess is that it’s the “original” version, before it was made into a “true” Gamma Ray track. So, it’s worth picking up!
Kylie’s rating: 5 out of 5