Carry On, Carry On
It's only been five years since Gamma Ray's last live venture 'Skeletons In The Closet'. It could be argued that half a decade isn't enough time past for another live album to hit the shops. The more cynical of us would cry cash-in especially as it's a live set from the 2005 Majestic Tour. But with seven studio albums under their belts and a member that could be credited with collectively inventing the whole power metal genre, I think we can give Kai and his buddies the benefit of the doubt on this one. Especially as this new live album "Hell Yeah! The Awesome Foursome Live In Montreal" is a highly enjoyable listen from the opening chants to the final cheer.
The aspect that helps 'Hell Yeah' is the track listing. In comparison to 'Skeletons In The Closet' it's quite a different set. Of course there are the usual songs that a Gamma Ray set wouldn't be without. 'Heavy Metal Universe', 'Gardens Of The Sinner' and 'New World Order' have become stock songs that can turn a responsive crowd to a rabid crowd. Whereas 'Skeletons In The Closet' contains a set list that plunders the band's rarely played material, 'Hell Yeah', apart from tracks from 'Majesty, have included such classic tunes as 'Land Of The Free', 'Valley Of The Kings' and the utterly brilliant 'Rebellion In Dreamland' (played a little too fast in my opinion). In fact it's a treasure trove of the band's greatest material and it's as if there's been a conscious effort to make the set lists as different as possible from previous releases. If you're a big Gamma Ray fan then it should instantly make this live album worth collecting. If you're only a passing Gamma Ray fan then this recording is also worth getting hold of because the performance, sound and song choice are all first class.
What also marks this recording for special note is it's from the band's first ever headlining American/Canadian Tour. Who can blame them for wanting to preserve the moment for all time? It's probably the reason why the set list is crammed with their best tunes. From the outset it's obvious that the band are on top of their game. 'Gardens Of The Sinner' and 'New World Order' have an energy that suggests the band is thoroughly enjoying themselves. The leviathan that is 'Man On A Mission' seems to be played even quicker and 'Dreamhealer' has a fresher feel to it now than it did in 1991.
The much loved 'Heavy Metal Universe' is drawn out to over ten minutes with the usual messing around and audience participation. It's perhaps a couple of minutes over long but I guess it was perfect if you were actually there. Only 'The Silence' is plucked from their debut release but it'll have you singing 'Carry On, Carry On' with the rest of the band and ignoring the rest of the cars on the motorway if you're listening to it on the way to work.
The mix is perfect. Even without the studio overdubs and perfect tracking the songs are just as powerful, a testament to the actual song-writing itself. Kai and Henjo trade solos as if they've been doing it all their lives and Dan Zimmerman is the drummer seemingly with eight legs. But the one thing this album will do is make you break out your Gamma Ray collection to listen to the originals all over again and again and again and again and again.
This is a great release from the German metal titans. It contains a great set, a good sound and excellent performances. On top of that the CD contains four bonus songs of live recordings of songs from their latest album 'Land Of The Free II'. I would argue the package doesn't really need these tunes tagged on the end because it seems like an effort to make it contemporary rather than just a live recording of a gig they performed a couple of years ago. Having said that they don't detract from the overall enjoyment of 'Hell Yeah!' which is the important thing. This is just the CD of the concert but there's also a separate DVD of the event with the usual DVD extras such as a road movie and Wacken footage. If you're lucky you'll be able to get both for around twenty pounds, which is a bargain if you ask me. Ok everyone all together now, Carry On, Carry On…