Gamma Ray - No World Order

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Noise Records
Catalog Number: N03542ux
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:51

While I'm fully aware that Kai Hansen is a legend in the annals of progressive metal guitarists, producers, etc., I must be honest and say that I'm not very much inspired by Gamma Ray's No World Order. It is a case of "like it, but..." That "but" is that there is so many other releases that came out the same year that are so much stronger and so much more thrilling. From conversations with others, long time fans of the band, it seems that there is a consensus that No World Order is not the strongest Gamma Ray album. Their opinion certainly hasn't coloured mine, but at least I know that it's not just me missing some essential Gamma Ray-ness by not being familiar with their music prior to hearing this release.

Hansen has a voice that would be well-suited to dark or black metal, without having to go to far to sound demonic. It's rough hewn but not overly growly. It gets shrieky at times, which I dislike, and that he sounds as if he's singing from deep inside his throat can be a little...well, it can give one a slightly tight feel, as if Hansen isn't quite sure he wants to give his all to his performance. But then, maybe he always sounds like that.

During the title track I thought of The Sweet as there are some echoes of "Ballroom Blitz" in the rhythms here, and I thought of Krokus (who, incidently, covered that very same track), because Hansen sounds a bit like Marc Storace and a bit like restrained Geddy Lee, whom I also thought of during "Solid," a track about which I scribbled in my notes: "Rush on testosterone"--- which suggests so many things that weren't in my thoughts at the time, I suppose, and really aren't now, either, except that I slipped out of my own head for a moment...

The album rocks hard, to be sure, there are some thunderous moments. And there are some nice melodic moments, the choruses portend something interesting leading to and from them, but not necessarily. I do like some of Hansen's guitar excursions, and see why he is a "legend," but... I can't work up much enthusiasm for this and it's not my mood affecting things, because I was just wowed by Avant Garden and Angra before that -- and mention them because I'd rather direct you there than leave you here, other than that I spent some time writing what follows and wouldn't want the verbage to go to waste...

The concept that underscores the album is that there are secret societies out to take over the world - by name, the Illuminati. But either the members involved (the Illuminati, that is, not the band) are in positions of power already or there will have to be a lot of members - which makes it not quite so secret anymore. I understand the basis for this theory - one that some call paranoic - though I don't necessarily believe it to be true. Oh, I don't doubt that there are conspiracies; a species that is capable of doing it at least once is capable of doing it a million times over, on small or large scales. But a conspiracy of the magnitude suggested by Gamma Ray? ...Not as long as there are forces recognizing that just such a probability (though not, perhaps, a possibility) exists and are conspiring to stop the conspiracy.

But, as for the album itself... I see -- that is, hear -- a kinship musically with Blind Guardian, the choral opening ("Induction") and "Damn The Machine" being the examples I noted. The first is an operatic overture that sets the groundwork for the basic conceit. "Dethrone Tyranny" comes thundering in and doesn't hardly let up, Hansen plays a wicked guitar solo, and the track has an memorable chorus. "The Heart of The Unicorn" begins with the ferocity of Metallica's rendition of Danzig's "Green Death" (I'm sure of the Danzig's original, too, but I've heard only the Metallica version), and I get the symbolism of the loss of unicorns signifying a species losing it's innocence (innocence represented by fantasy). Perhaps Hansen is saying that while this band over here is singing about heroic fantasies, there are larger, real world issues... I don't know.

The lyrics have been mostly written by Hansen and drummer Daniel Zimmerman. I guess with so many albums released in the last few years that speak to similar themes, and album that seems so-so in execution just makes the themes seem too well worn. "Damn The Machine" is an example of that... "Solid" doesn't make much sense to me, other than conceptually... though I'm not quite sure if we are "erasing the alien planet" or if we are seeing things from the point of view of those "aliens" who are "erasing" our planet (sounds like the Vogons of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, if that's the case). Let the album artwork be your guide, I guess -- Earth is caught in the vice-like grip of some devilish character - one that looks not a wit like Bush, your country's villian --, whilst two equally devilish looking warriors square off against each other. Actually, given their Lightsabre (tm) like weapons, they look to be the darkest of the Dark Jedi, making Darth Vader/Darth Maul/Emperor Palpatine appear to be mere pussy cats in comparison. It's evil vs. evil being controlled by a larger evil -- is Hansen pessimistic or what? Anyway, I've made an overlong digression. Back to "Solid": declaring "we're solid...," well on the one hand it sounds like a 70s term for great... but perhaps the aliens were previously ethereal beings made "solid" by the increase of evil on our planet (yes, they do go from tatters to solid). Maybe I'm trying too hard. Okay, there is interest in Hansen concept, at least.

Lyrically, "Fire Below" is the strongest of the Hanson penned tracks resulting in one of the album's stronger tracks (though the "aye-yiy-yiy" at the end puts an unnecessarily comic punctuation to the track). "Eagle" (another well worn icon) makes me think of Jag Panzer (perhaps for that reason) also rocks with a Judas Priest like intensity. As I kept listening to this disc, this is one of the tracks that rose up out of the wall of noise through the chorus of "cry like an eagle..." When this goes into speed metal mode, Priest is out of the picture, but there are a number of other metal bands that fit the bill. Transmorgification seems to be the solition that Hansen posits - or, more simply put, if you can't beat them, flee. Would I be too very unkind by saying that he must have been thinking of this album as well?

Of the two lyricists, Hansen is the strongest. However, there are two tracks written by guitarist/keyboardist Henjo Richter, the first being "Follow Me." And while it isn't unique in that the protagonist is entincing others to follow, yet we, being removed from arm, see it for the sinister corruption it is. And in that, it's well written because you must read between the lines (and the whole album provides the context to make that possible). Taken at face value, it could also be the hero rallying support to over through the "tyranny." So it's a track that works on two levels Actually, three, because musically I like it quite a bit, too. It's rather typical and generic for the genre, but...(chuckle)'s solid.

The second Richter track is "Lake Of Tears," which is a slower paced piece, dual guitars plays the opening lead (or a single guitar doubled), while an acoustic plays underneath. The are parts of this that are balladic, but the "you" being sun to is, I think, God rather than a significant other. Again, this track doesn't do anything that isn't part and parcel of the genre, but it is well done. Though flipping through the credits of past Gamma Ray albums, it does appear that Richter is guilty of falling back on clich? as well.

Well, I had quite a lot to say about an album that didn't excite me. Okay, I always have a lot to say.

If you listen to prog metal merely for the sonic assault, the testosterone fueled energy, are one who likes just the attitude, then you'll find that a plenty here. But if you are looking for that and a bit more, then you'll have to look elsewhere.

Induction (1:01) / Dethrone Tyranny (4:14) / The Heart of the Unicorn (4:46) / Heaven or Hell (4:16) New World Order (5:00) / Damn The Machine (5:04) / Solid (4:23) / Fire Below (5:34) / Follow Me (4:43) / Eagle (6:05) / Lake of Tears (6:47)

The Japanese edition as also a bonus track Trouble

Kai Hansen -guitars, lead vocals
Henjo Richter -guitars, keyboards
Dirk Schlächter - bass guitar
Dan Zimmermann - drums

Heading For Tomorrow (1989)
Sigh No More (1991)
Insanity And Genius (1993)
Land Of The Free (1995)
Alive '95 (1996)
Somewhere Out In Space (1997)
The Karaoke Album (1997)
Powerplant (1999)
Blast From The Past (2000)
No World Order (2001)
Skeletons In The Closet (2003/2004)
Majestic (2005)
Land Of The Free II (2007)
Hell Yeah! Live In Montreal (2008)

Heading For The East (VHS/DVD) (1991/1998)
Lust For Live (VHS/DVD) (1994)
Hell Yeah!!! The Awesome Foursome (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: August 25th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1390
Language: english


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