Helloween have been widely credited and acknowledged as forerunners to what became widely known and adopted as the power metal subgenre, helping to shape its idioms throughout the second half of the eighties. In that sense, Gamma Ray can't strictly be credited as one of power metal's pioneers, even though they remain firmly rooted in the subgenre's history, evolution and continued popularity into the nineties and beyond. In another sense, though, with founding member Kai Hansen a onetime guitarist for Helloween and a prominent songwriting force on their most seminal works, he simply opted to continue his metal journey within a new outfit, so Gamma Ray could be considered as a natural continuation of the power metal traits he established in his former band. As such, this collection offers a diachronic document of the development of Hansen, the band and the genre.
Rather aptly, it's Hansen himself who selected each one of the twenty five tracks that feature on this double disc collection, with all music remastered by Eike Freese. Those two facts will probably offer at least some incentive for those teetering around the "should/shouldn't I purchase this release?". For newcomers or casual listeners, you can rest assured that the band's predominant songwriter has chosen what he considers to be the strongest and most representative tracks from the band's vast back catalogue of material. And for established fans (no doubt the hardcore Gamma Ray elite will snap this up anyway), you have the opportunity to acquire choice cuts with revamped sonics, for everything does indeed sound great.
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of compilation albums - songs are stripped of their original context, and what precisely constitutes the "best of" a band's material is always going to be a subjective judgement that'll differ to varying degrees between each listener. I guess in the same manner that a live setlist will never please everyone. However, one cannot deny the power metal prowess evidenced on this strong collection of tracks. And what is also undeniable is the strength of Hansen's compositional skills as well as his virtuosic fretboard talents; both are here in healthy abundance. So, with all said, and the fact 2015 signifies the twenty fifth anniversary since the release of the debut album (hence the reason for 25 tracks, I'm guessing), now is an apposite time for their first ever "best of" compilation. Ultimately, is this value for money? Depends how much it retails for, I guess, although I presume it won't be too pricey, as is the general nature of compilation albums.
THE BEST (OF)
Review by Mark Holmes
76:02 & 77:24
2nd Feb 2015
DISC ONE: 1) Armageddon; 2) Heaven Can Wait; 3) Hellbent; 4) Dream Healer; 5) Land Of The Free; 6) To The Metal; 7) Somewhere Out In Space; 8) Real World; 9) Induction; 10) Dethrone Tyranny; 11) Rebellion In Dreamland; 12) Heading For Tomorrow
DISC TWO: 1) Eagle; 2) Avalon; 3) Man On A Mission; 4) The Spirit; 5) Tribute To The Past; 6) Empathy; 7) Valley Of The Kings; 8) Lust For Life; 9) Master Of Confusion; 10) Blood Religion; 11) Time To Break Free; 12) Insurrection; 13) Send Me A Sign
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...one cannot deny the power metal prowess evidenced on this strong collection of tracks."