Skeletons & Majesties Live
Released: 2012, EARMusic
Unless you’re a forest-dwelling black metal orc, winter is a time to find a warm place to hide, and what better place than a packed club filled with people head banging to heavy metal? To get you comfortable, this month we’ll be covering six recently-issued live albums from the likes of: Gamma Ray, Helstar, Mr. Big, U.D.O., Vicious Rumors, and Y&T. Grab a beer (or your drink of choice), get warm, and enjoy the music!
Note: some of these were released as CD/DVDs; however the reviews cover the CDs only.
Sometimes a band puts out a live album seemingly just for the hell of it (Iron Maiden anyone?), other times a band does it to mark an occasion. Well this, Gamma Ray’s fourth live album, marks a significant time in the Germans’ long-running career: the amicable departure of long-time drummer Dan Zimmermann. He’s since been replaced by Michael Ehre, so this release marks his final recorded contributions to the band. Fittingly, Kai and the boys have made an effort to make it more than just another live album as the double length release is filled with songs that you normally wouldn’t hear the band play, guest vocals from none other than Michael Kiske, and a couple of acoustic versions just for fun.
As I said, the band took care to make sure that SKELETONS & MAJESTIES LIVE isn’t filled with the same old concert staples fans expect from the band, so you won’t hear “Valley of the Kings” or “Somewhere Out in Space” here. That said, it’s great to hear the band unearth some “buried treasure” as it were, even if they occasionally “forget the fucking lyrics” as Kai hilariously admits during “Hold Your Ground”. In fact, that points to another refreshing point of this album – it’s possibly the most honest sounding live album I’ve ever heard. What I mean by that is, you can hear all of the little mistakes the band makes, and later on in the set list, Kai’s voice audibly tires. It’s not perfect, but kudos to the band for their bravery.
As for the songs, they may not be as well-known as some others, but this is quite a collection of power metal songs. I mean, for any other band, a song like “Men, Martians and Machines” would be a classic! In all, 10 Gamma Ray releases are represented, and although a few of the ballads are best left in the vaults, the album closes with a rollicking cover of Helloween’s classic “Future World”.
This is an incredibly fun album, totally keeping in the Gamma Ray spirit. It’s not perfect, but it is a wonderful send off for one of power metal’s most underrated drummers.