Released: 2011, Armoury
Gamma Ray have just released a neat little EP called Skeletons And Majesties, to be known forevermore as the S&M EP. Like most EP’s this has limited value to casual fans of Gamma Ray and is mandatory for the die-hards.
This is my theory. When Gamma Ray write songs they don’t write a whole bunch of songs and pick the best ones. They probably write just enough and tweak them until they are happy and do alternate versions. Why? Over the years the band has had very few actual unreleased, full studio songs. Even the mega Gamma Ray box-set ULTIMATE COLLECTION released in 2003 had 18 bonus tracks but not a single cut was a ‘real’ new song, not demos, live, acoustic, cover songs etc, that had already been released on various singles, EP’s or Japanese imports. So is that relevant? In this case, yes, because again, this EP really doesn’t have any ‘new’ songs. There are two reworked versions of old songs, two acoustic versions of old songs, and the ‘bonus’ tracks were available of the vinyl edition of TO THE METAL. Still, it’s nice to have them collected here for us guys who don’t didn’t buy the expensive limited edition vinyl thing and the band are giving the fans what they want.
As alluded to, the 7-track EP is broken into three sections; the Skeletons (the reworked stuff) the Majesties (the acoustic stuff) and the three bonus tracks. This is where the various global pressings of the bands discography come into play about the value of the bonus tracks to the individual consumer. For example, my 1993 Noise/Futurist cassette pressing of INSANITY AND GENIUS did not include the song ‘Brothers’ (and for the record the track sequence was messed up). All these years (almost two decades) I had NEVER heard the song ‘Brothers!’ When I looked at the track list on the S&M EP, I did not recognize the song, so for me personally it was a cool rarity. I suppose for those fans who had the European pressing of INSANITY AND GENIUS (or the reissue) and were familiar with the original song, it would be neat to hear Kai singing ‘Brothers’ instead of Ralf on the original version. But for me, now I have to track down the original Ralf version from 1993 CD pressing to be able to accurately compare with the Kai (2011) version!
It’s always cool to hear acoustic versions of songs, but back to ‘Brothers’ again, is there really that much difference between the 5:12 minute version of ‘Brothers and the 6:17 minute ‘extended’ version of ‘Brothers’? Watch for the hidden ‘bonus’ track after the Karaoke version of ‘Rebellion In Dreamland’. I say ‘bonus’ (in quotes) somewhat sarcastically because a couple of minutes of Hansen vocal out-takes and goofing around in the studio are part of an in-studio, in-joke that 99.9% of us were not present for. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all cool material but would it hurt the band to throw on a new song or two to add some real value?
Over all S&M is cool, it’s fun, it’s collectible, it’s rare, it’s a stop-gap until the next album. It’s also pretty average (with a dull cover) but my love for the band means I bumped up the score from an average 2.5 to the 3 out of five. For die-hards, collectors and librarians only.