Land of the Free (Gamma Ray album)

Land of the Free is the fourth studio album by German power metal band Gamma Ray, released in 1995. It is considered a concept album, telling a story of rebellion of Good against Evil.[1] Continuing a trend that would conclude with the band's fifth studio release, the lineup for the album was different from the previous one, as Land of the Free was the first Gamma Ray album to be released since the departure of Ralf Scheepers, leaving guitarist and founder Kai Hansen to take up lead vocals. While not his first stint as a vocalist (Hansen had sung lead for Helloween until 1987 and had also recorded lead vocals on "Heal Me" from Insanity and Genius), it would be the first time he had performed lead vocals exclusively in 8 years.

Land of the Free
Land of the Free (album) cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released29 May 1995
RecordedNovember 1994 - January 1995
Studio
  • Hansen Studio, Hamburg
  • R.A.S.H. Studio, Gelsenkirchen, Germany (drums)
GenrePower metal
Length56:43
LabelNoise
ProducerKai Hansen, Dirk Schlächter
Gamma Ray chronology
Insanity and Genius
(1993)
Land of the Free
(1995)
Somewhere Out in Space
(1997)

Additionally, bassist Jan Rubach was to swap positions with guitarist Dirk Schlächter. Rubach initially agreed, but then resisted making the move. Rubach and drummer Thomas Nack instead decided to leave Gamma Ray. Rubach left towards the tail end of Men on a Tour; Schlächter took over the bass duties and Henjo Richter took over as the second guitarist. Nack would complete the tour and then leave, with both Rubach and Nack rejoining their former band Anesthesia.[1]

Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween) and Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) were featured on the album as guest vocalists.

The track "Afterlife" was written as a tribute to Ingo Schwichtenberg, Kai Hansen's former bandmate in Helloween, who committed suicide prior to the album's release.

Along with most of the band's past catalogue, the album was re-released in 2003 with a different cover and expanded track list which featured three tracks that had either appeared as bonuses on various editions of the album (namely "Heavy Metal Mania", which was a Japanese bonus track on the original release) or were unreleased tracks.

The face of the figure in the cover is the same of the Helloween album Walls of Jericho.

ReceptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [2]
Classic Rock          [3]
Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal7/10[4]
Rock Hard9.5/10[5]
Sputnikmusic5/5[6]

In a contemporary review by the German magazine Rock Hard, Land of the Free was elected Album of the Month and described as "the best, heaviest and most polished Gamma Ray album since Heading for Tomorrow".[5]

Modern critics praised the album, with Antti J. Ravelin of AllMusic stating that it served "the definition of power metal well and is indeed one of the most metal albums of the late '90s".[2] Mike Stagno of Sputnikmusic wrote that "if there was ever an essential power metal album, Land of the Free would be that album" and noticed how "Gamma Ray took their songwriting to a new level", putting "an emphasis on speed and melody, but also aggression and power".[6] Canadian journalist Martin Popoff was less enthusiastic and stated that Land of the Free was too similar to a Helloween album for his taste, remarking how speed metal was more "insistent and persistent than in the past."[4] Jerry Ewing of Classic Rock lamented the absence of Ralf Scheepers' vocals and defined the material on the album as "merely adequate".[3]

The album was ranked fourth by Loudwire in their list "Top 25 Power Metal Albums of All Time"[7] and at fifth in a similar list by Metal Hammer in 2019.[8] ThoughtCo also named it in their list "Essential Power Metal Albums."[9]

Track listingEdit

All music and lyrics written by Kai Hansen, except where indicated

No.TitleLyricsMusicLength
1."Rebellion in Dreamland"  8:44
2."Man on a Mission"  5:49
3."Fairytale"  0:50
4."All of the Damned"  5:00
5."Rising of the Damned"  0:43
6."Gods of Deliverance" Jan Rubach5:01
7."Farewell"Dirk SchlächterSchlächter5:11
8."Salvation's Calling"RubachRubach4:36
9."Land of the Free"  4:38
10."The Saviour"  0:40
11."Abyss of the Void"  6:04
12."Time to Break Free"  4:40
13."Afterlife" Rubach4:46
2003 release bonus tracks
No.TitleLyricsMusicLength
14."Heavy Metal Mania" (Holocaust cover)John MortimerMortimer4:49
15."As Time Goes By" (pre-production version)Hansen, Piet SielckHansen, Sielck4:53
16."The Silence '95"  6:29

Anniversary Edition bonus discEdit

No.TitleLength
1."Heavy Metal Mania"4:49
2."As Time Goes By" (pre-production version)4:53
3."The Silence '95"6:29
4."Dream Healer" (instrumental - live at Chameleon Studios 2017)8:23
5."Tribute to the Past" (instrumental - live at Chameleon Studios 2017)4:57
6."Heaven Can Wait" (instrumental - live at Chameleon Studios 2017)4:48
7."Valley of the Kings" (instrumental - live at Chameleon Studios 2017)3:45
Total length:38:04

PersonnelEdit

Gamma Ray
  • Kai Hansen – lead vocals (all but track 12), backing vocals, guitars, producer, engineer, mixing on tracks 4, 7, 9
  • Dirk Schlächter – guitars, keyboards, producer, engineer, mixing on tracks 4, 7, 9
  • Jan Rubach – bass
  • Thomas Nack – drums, backing vocals
Guest musicians
  • Sascha Paeth – keyboards and programming
  • Hansi Kürsch – co-lead vocals on track 7, backing vocals on tracks 9 and 11
  • Michael Kiske – lead vocals on track 12, co-lead and backing vocals on track 9
  • Hacky Hackmann, Catharina Boutari, Axel Naschke - backing vocals
Production

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Historay". Gamma Ray Official Website. 10 October 2006. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b Ravelin, Antti J. "Gamma Ray - Land of the Free review". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b Ewing, Jerry (March 2010). "Gamma Ray - Reissues". Classic Rock. No. 142. p. 93.
  4. ^ a b Popoff, Martin (1 August 2007). The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal: Volume 3: The Nineties. Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Collector's Guide Publishing. p. 167. ISBN 978-1-894959-62-9.
  5. ^ a b Kühnemund, Götz (1995). "Review Album des Monats: Gamma Ray - Land of the Free". Rock Hard (in German). No. 97. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  6. ^ a b Stagno, Mike (22 September 2006). "Gamma Ray - Land of the Free". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  7. ^ DiVita, Joe (5 July 2017). "Top 25 Power Metal Albums of All Time". Loudwire. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  8. ^ Chantler, Chris (14 November 2019). "The 25 greatest power metal albums". Metal Hammer. Future plc. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  9. ^ Marsicano, Dan. "Essential Power Metal Albums". ThoughtCo. Archived from the original on 29 October 2018. Retrieved 18 August 2019.