Gamma Ray

Skeletons & Majesties

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In 2003, the men behind German power metal royalty Gamma Ray rewarded their most loyal fans with a double-live album named Skeletons in the Closet, collecting seldom-played cuts from their past oeuvre. Eight years later, they co-opted their own original concept for a mini-album entitled Skeletons & Majesties, only this time, fans won't likely be as impressed. That's because the first item's generous 18-tracks can't help but overshadow the second's paltry six-and-half (explanation to follow), which break down as follows. First up are two re-recorded early Gamma Ray classics -- the debut's "Hold Your Ground" and "Brothers," from 1993's Insanity & Genius LP -- whose newfound energy is nothing to scoff at, and arguably sound more natural as sung by guitarist and bandleader Kai Hansen instead of original vocalist Ralf Scheepers, but then that may come down to personal taste. Second in line are two unconvincing, unplugged updates that range from discomfort to embarrassment, since the stripped-down arrangement for 1999's "Send Me a Sign" makes it sound like an even more intolerable carbon copy of Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," and 2000's ten-minute slog "Rebellion in Dreamland" is stripped of all pomp metal gravitas, hanging its suddenly exponentially laughable lyrics out to dry. Third on the day's agenda is an actual obscure B-side (at last!) called "Wannabees," but it curiously only stands out for emulating the sore-throated rave-metal of Swiss techno-metal merchants Samael, and once again suffers from Hansen's rather silly Teutonic humor. And then Skeletons & Majesties really wears out its welcome on the back of a largely unnecessary extended version of "Brothers" and a vocal-free, karaoke mix of "Rebellion in Dreamland" (come on now; that's the half-song!), followed by a hidden coda made up of a patchwork of studio shenanigans that only the most die-hard Gamma Ray fans will be able to stomach, while everyone else will immediately transform the CD into a Frisbee. You get the picture.

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