Alongside 'Land of the Free', Gamma Ray's first ever live album, which was simply titled 'Alive '95', has received the reissue treatment by earMUSIC under the "25 Years of Metal from Hamburg" banner. Originally released in 1996, and with Gamma Ray now in their 27th year (well, 27th since their debut album... 28th since forming), like 'Land of the Free', I'm unsure as to why this has the "25 Years..." tag. Sounds better than 21, 27 or 28 years, I guess!
Featuring the same lineup as the one that recorded 'Land of the Free', frontman Kai Hansen, guitarist Dirk Schlächter, bassist Jan Rubach and drummer Thomas Nack have been captured in all their power metal glory on this live recording. With a setlist slightly biased, as expected, towards the album they were promoting at the time on their 'Men on a Tour' run of shows, several 'Land of the Free' tracks sit alongside a few other fan favourites from their discography to that point. Plus their Holocaust cover of 'Heavy Metal Mania' and a more than welcome inclusion of two Hansen-composed Helloween numbers - 'Ride the Sky' and 'Future World'. It's everything a live recording should be - dynamic, raw, energetic and with just enough crowd noise brought into the mix as a reminder this was live, but never overly distracting from the music itself.
With recordings of the songs lifted from various shows on the tour (Milan, Paris, Madrid, Pamplona and Erlangen), I'm guessing they cherry-picked the best renditions back in the day, rather than featuring an entire show and resorting to the overdub route to iron out any sonic blemishes. And 'Lust for Life' is also featured as the final track, which was originally omitted from European versions of the album. A nice addition, I'm sure, for Gamma Ray fans.
A bonus disc is also included, with 1993 live recordings that feature former vocalist Ralf Scheepers. An odd inclusion of bonus material, it could be said. Further live material from the period might've been more appropriate, but I guess seeing as this was Gamma Ray's live album debut, it could be construed as more complete by offering up tracks of the band in live action prior to the 1995 recordings. And fans of Scheepers' vocals (personally, I prefer Hansen's) will undoubtedly be delighted.
All in all, this is a nice little reissue package, despite the ambiguity around just what anniversary this is celebrating in 2017. There are better live albums out there, but this one succeeds in conveying the energy, passion and great musicianship of these power metal mongers.
ALIVE '95 (ANNIVERSARY EDITION)
Review by Mark Holmes
71:18 & 30:25
29th Sept 2017
DISC ONE: 1) Land of the Free; 2) Man On a Mission; 3) Rebellion in Dreamland; 4) Space Eater; 5) Fairytale; 6) Tribute to the Past; 7) Heal Me: 8) The Saviour; 9) Abyss of the Void; 10) Ride the Sky; 11) Future World; 12) Heavy Metal Mania; 13) Lust for Life
DISC TWO: 1) No Return; 2) Changes; 3) Insanity and Genius; 4) Last Before the Storm; 5) Future Madhouse; 6) Heading for Tomorrow
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"It's everything a live recording should be - dynamic, raw, energetic and with just enough crowd noise brought into the mix..."