Released: 2003, Noise
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
2003 seems to be shaping up to be the year of the live album with some ten or so live albums thus far, and honestly, I almost feel burnt out by live albums. Fortunately, the majority of live releases thus far this year have been of consistently good quality, and SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET is no exception.
It’s been eight years since Gamma Ray released ALIVE ’95, and I feel that the time is due for another live album from one of Germany’s best exports. 2 discs, nearly 2 hours of Germanic speed-power metal. Need I say more?
I guess more is in (New World) Order here.
If you’re gonna do a live album, do it right. SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET manages to nail down all the important aspects of a great live album.
The tracklist on SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET was determined by internet fan-voting, so in addition to classics like “Razorblade Sigh,” “Armageddon,” and “All of the Damned,” we also get some rather unexpected tracks like “One with the World,” “Rich and Famous,” and my favourite track on this album, “Rising Star/Shine On.” If only Iron Maiden would use this format for their next tour...c’mon “Flight of Icarus” and “Prowler”!
Has any Gamma Ray album in the last 8 years been anything but flawlessly produced? I thought not. SKELETONS is no exception, achieving an excellent balance between a clean sound and the live energy. Kai Hansen and Dirk Schlacter handled all the mixing, mastering, and production duties, so I’m sure that the only way to improve this would be on a DVD (Please, Gamma Ray, get me a DVD!) or front row at the concert itself. I’m taking some points here because SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET is not a complete single show recording, but pieced together from the Barcelona Razzmatazz on 10-31-02 and Strasbourg La Laiterie, 11-02-02 shows. In reality, the songs are so finely edited together that it is nearly impossible to distinguish between the venues.
3). Crowd Interaction:
In addition to the production successfully capturing the live energy, the crowd interaction significantly contributes to the overall energy of the disc. Kai Hansen really works the crowd well, especially with some obligatory extended silliness on “Heavy Metal Universe.” Personally, I wouldn’t mind if Kai goofed around a little more between and during songs.
As soon as I got this baby unpacked from the mail, I stand in awe of the packaging. Derek Riggs has contributed some wonderful cover art to the album, and the layout is just incredible. Considering that Gamma Ray ranks among my ten favourite bands, it is difficult for me to select highlights from the album, but here are some of the most enjoyable songs:
“Armageddon” – 9 minutes of speed metal, this one has been a Gamma Ray favourite of mine since the first day I got POWERPLANT.
“Victim of Fate” – Reaching way back into the Helloween days, I was totally surprised to find this one on SKELETONS. What a great rendition of this classic, too. Oh the solos!
“No Return” and “Last Before the Storm” – my two favourite songs from the criminally underrated INSANITY AND GENIUIS album.
“Rising Star/Shine On” – The happiest Gamma Ray song ever, this one would certainly appear on my personal Gamma Ray dream setlist.
Hell, every one of the songs on here sounds as good, if not better than the album versions. “Heaven or Hell,” Gardens of the Sinner,” and an extended “Heavy Metal Universe” also stand out. Just listen to the whole damned thing loudly!
Unfortunately, there are a couple drawbacks that prevent SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET from earning full points. First of all, as good as the recording is, this is not a full show, as I would have liked. Secondly, the abscence of certain key songs such as “Beyond the Black Hole,” “No Stranger,” and “Rebellion in Dreamland” is largely unforgiveable. These shortcomings are minor, however, and any Gamma Ray will find SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET to be worth every penny.