Gamma Ray – Skeletons & Majesties EP

Gamma Ray – Skeletons & Majesties EP

Twenty plus years and ten albums sees German band Gamma Ray at the forefront of European power metal as well as having made waves worldwide. The band originated back in 1989 after its founder Kai Hansen, having left Helloween the year before, teamed up with long term friend Ralf Scheepers. Through numerous line-up changes Gamma Ray grew into a powerful and well followed unit that always excites its fervent fan base when releases and tours are announced. May 31st sees the release of their new EP Skeletons & Majesties via Armoury Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment. The EP contains a collection of songs gathered from previous albums and delivered in two different styles.

The first section Skeletons consists of two tracks, “Hold Your Ground” and “Brothers”, which are brand new recordings of rarely played old songs. The former is a vibrant track loaded with humour and an enticing sense of theatre – it sounds like a stage production of Scandinavian folk metal meshed with the glory days of Meatloaf. This description might sound scary, but this is actually a great, fun song that grabs hold of the listener. The latter is a more straight rock ‘n’ roll track with strong riffs and a great guitar solo. The Majesties section of the EP again contains two new versions of rare tracks – “Send Me A Sign” and “Rebellion In Dreamland” – but this time delivered acoustically. The two songs are both strong but do feel a little barren up against the opening duo. However, with good piano and an almost narrative, grizzly vocal delivery they continue the lighter element in the package.

The line-up of Kai Hansen (guitars, vocals), Henjo Richter (guitars, keyboards), Dirk Schlächter (bass), and Dan Zimmerman (drums) combine well to infuse  a new life into the tracks and though they are not new songs they do make them worth checking out with their new interpretations. Also included on the Skeletons & Majesties EP is the ultra rare “Wannabees” which was previously only available on the To The Metal 7” single. It is a good solid track and though the original’s package is sought after it is not hard to see why it never became a major sign post in the band’s catalogue. The last two tracks, the extended version of “Brothers” and a karaoke mix of “Rebellion In Dreamland”, are really nothing more than fillers; though the band has launched a special contest where fans can submit a recording of their version of “Rebellion In Dreamland” via physical demo submission or digital sound file which then could possibly be integrated in a “choir” of voices on the upcoming album version of the song.

Whether there is enough for old fans to need a copy of the Skeletons & Majesties EP will be seen but the tracks included for the most are good variations on old songs. For newcomers to Gamma Ray though, this EP is a great introduction to their power metal fun even if the included music is not maybe the truest sound of the band. For more information check out the band’s website at http://www.gammaray.org