Gamma Ray - Skeletons In The Closet

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Noise Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 48:37:00

Gamma Ray.

It's only been 8 years since their last live album [only? ? Ed (PPO)], their Alive 95M disc (was) released in 19... [yes, we're not that dumb ? Ed (PPO)], and what an interesting kettle of metal they've put together. Not only have they stayed away from anything remotely earmarked as "Gamma Ray Hit Songs" but they've managed to enthral for the entire 100 minutes with some remarkably (honest) performances across the board.

But first, let's go through some tacky promotional points:

  • All up, there are 16 vocal tracks with an added intro and drum solo from Dan Zimmerman.
  • The majority of the songs were taken from the Barcelona shows with a few songs taken from Strasbourg during their "Skeletons In The Closet" tour.
  • There are two editions ? the Limited Edition Digipak will contain exclusive video bonus tracks ("Gardens Of The Sinner" and "Razorblade Sigh") and backstage footage as well, whilst both editions will come with a 32-page colour booklet.
  • For the freaks out there with money to burn, the Japanese version will come with the classic Helloween track "I Want Out"

Ok, let's hit the album itself. All of Gamma Ray's albums are covered here, in particular their last two studio albums PowerPlant and No World Order (7 tracks in total) as well as the Helloween track "Victim Of Fate."

The deliberate, and quite bold, move of performing the less notable hits is one that the band have pulled off with ease. Performances all around are at an all-time high, with special mention going to Dan Zimmerman on drums. And I'm not specifically talking about the drum solo but his overall performance is mesmerising. I've always been skeptical about Kai Hansen's vocal performance (we all know how good he is on the guitars). I still think he struggles a bit but considering the style of metal he's singing (and who he replaced), the fact that he's up there on stage playing guitars as well, he certainly pulls out all stops to sing as well as he possibly can. Alongside Kai is Henjo Richter and, like Kai's guitars, there are absolutely no complaints to be had. The foursome (including the unheralded Dirk Schlachter on bass) know what they're doing and it's great to hear so many non-classic Gamma Ray tracks played live. Playing alongside on keyboards is Axel Mackenrott (who plays for the Helloween-inspired Masterplan).

The sound is a tad low compared to other live albums of late (except Angra's Rebirth World Tour Live which is about as empty as you can get) but that said everything seems in place without the need to play with the sound too much (although due to the fact the recordings are from different shows there's a little movement in and around the levels).

There are a number of outstanding songs on this album including "Armageddon" (this lengthy song is ripe for a roaring live version), "Heavy Metal Universe" (an extended version appears here and completely slays the studio version), "No Return" (the variation in Kai's vocals show the rawness of the album along with the power), "Victim Of Fate" (the crowd just loves it), "Rich And Famous" (one of the more "classic" numbers from Gamma Ray), "New World Order" (they couldn't not play this track, another epic), "The Silence" (the simplicity, the emotion), "One With The World" (wow, this is such a great song) and "Heaven Or Hell" (the catchy song-writing is something they are very well known for).

It's funny but my first time through this I thought what a great album. The second, more intense, listen was: "Why aren't they playing [insert hit Gamma Ray] track?" and subsequent listens has revealed why this band have remained at the top of the German metal front. This is a fine album indeed, and if you're a fan of live albums then add this to your recent Edguy and Blind Guardian live CD purchases.

JVC and Victor released the album in 2004 (62272/3, 62419) and Metal-Is as well (73106)

[This review originally appeared August 2003 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

Disc One: Welcome (1:05) / Gardens Of The Sinner (5:48) / Rich And Famous (5:13) / All Of The Damned (5:00) / No Return (4:13) / Armageddon (9:24) / Heavy Metal Universe (7:43) / One With The World (4:50) / Dan's Solo (5:21)

Disc Two: Razorblade Sigh (4:59) / Heart Of The Unicorn (4:42) / Last Before The Storm (4:38) / Victim Of Fate (7:00) / Rising Star/Shine On (7:53) / The Silence (6:44) / Heaven Or Hell (4:17) / Guardians Of Mankind (5:21) / New World Order (8:23)/ Japanese Bonus Track: I Want Out

JVC/Victor total time: 54:42

Kai Hansen - vocals
Henjo Richter - guitars
Dirk Schlachter - bass
Daniel Zimmerman - drums
Axel Mackenrott - keyboards

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: December 19th 2004
Reviewer: Gary Carson
Artist website:
Hits: 982
Language: english


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