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HARDWARES

GAMMA RAY

Skeletons & Majesties Live

(Armoury)

Reviewed by : Mark Gromen
Rating : 8.0

A double CD collection and accompanying DVD from last year’s performance in Switzerland, unearthing lost GAMMA RAY gems and a few alternate (acoustic) renditions of more well known material. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of how great Kai Hansen’s catalog is, discounting the glorious Land Of The Free or without the HELLOWEEN connection (although a ten-minute ‘Future World’ brings the concert to a close). Strangely enough, former Weenie bandmate, singer Michael Kiske was aboard for this show, a collaboration that ultimately spawned their Unisonic collaboration, although this material is infinitely stronger than that disappointing eponymous debut. He can be heard on the finale, ‘Time To Break Free’ and ‘A While In Dreamland’. Following the band introductions which open the show(?), the one-two punch of ‘Anywhere In The Galaxy’ and ‘Men, Martians & Machines’ (both from the somewhat overlooked, late Nineties, post-Land era) are the rousing anthems that cause audiences to go power metal mental. There’s only a trio of studio cuts from the new millenium (‘Rise’, ‘Insurrection and ‘Dethrone Tyranny’ off 2001’s No World Order). Love the speedy, twin leads in ‘Wings Of Destiny’. Piano and Hansen’s voice introduce a slower, epic production ‘Farewell’. Prefer the original. Speaking of which, nice to see/hear long-forgotten moldy oldies included, from the Ralf Scheepers (now singing for PRIMAL FEAR) era, namely the debut’s ‘Money’, ‘Hold Your Ground’ and ‘The Spirit’ from Sigh No More. The first disc concludes with acoustic versions of two of their bigger songs, ‘Rebellion In Dreamland’ and ‘Send Me A Sign’. Like ‘Farewell’, they add piano (and orchestral) accompaniment. Nice to hear, once (as the full metal version of ‘Rebellion’ has always been a killer live tune), since you can’t just record the same songs repeatedly, but hopefully that’s out of Kai’s system now and he’s ready to rock once more.

Although there are ten songs on the first platter, just eight appear on disc #2, which begins with a VAN CANTO styled, multi-sexed choir leading into the aforementioned ‘Dethrone Tyranny’. Also loved Hansen’s attitude, tongue-in-cheek, as when he announces (during) ‘Hold Your Ground’, a two decade’s old, rarely played number, “I can’t fucking remember the lyrics!” Honest. Later, he and Kiske stumble a bit through the ‘A While In Dreamland’ ballad/duet. Kiske’s good-naturedly laughing, humming and whistling when he doesn’t recall the words. A poppy, piano heavy ‘Brothers’ features the requisite audience sing-along. ‘Rise’ and ‘Insurrection’ get things back on course, or as PAT BOONE once “said”, in a metal mood, before ‘Future World’, which Kiske (thankfully) has no trouble handling. He and Kiske joke with the crowd, who also add their voices. Not the definitive versions for some of these tunes, but certainly a well played and heartfelt show. Diehards (like myself) will notice enough variation to warrant exploration, but newbies might want to seek out Alive ’95 or even Skeletons In The Closet (as it contains quite a few Gamma Ray standards) instead.




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