I consider myself somewhat of a Gamma Ray fan since I owned "No World Order" and "Majestic" in my collection for years. Eventually, around 2006, I decided to give "Land Of The Free" a proper listen, seeing that it was the band's biggest hit to date. Unfortunately this was when my personal tastes started to deviate from Power Metal sound and I never really give the album it's proper time.
Skip to 2012 and the year where I finally began to embrace Kai Hansen's Helloween-era material. Helloween has never been my favorite Power Metal act but that all changed when I heard their debut EP and "Walls Of Jerico", showing a completely different side of Hansen and the band that I was finally able to embrace. Skip a few weeks later, where I revisited "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" albums and the two Gamma Ray albums that I own, and I was finally ready to give "Land Of The Free" a chance to rediscover itself!
The first spin was not really as enjoyable as I wanted them to be, but this soon changed once I moved on to "Somewhere Out In Space" which managed to give its predecessor a whole new perspective! The two albums are pretty similar in their songwriting, with lyrical themes being their most distinctive features, but somehow I found "Somewhere Out In Space" much more accessible with well defined melodies, lyrics and instrumental sections. Ultimately "Land Of The Free" definitely managed to win me over in almost all of the mentioned categories and thus becoming my favorite release from the band!
The opening 9 minute opus "Rebellion In Dreamland" is probably the main reason of why it took me such a long time to digest this album. It might be considered a classic from the band but I honestly don't enjoy it all too much and think that it's far from a perfect album opener. Just compare it to the "Somewhere Out In Space" opener "Beyond The Black Hole" and you'll know what I mean! The rest of the album flows on by pretty smoothly, except maybe for "Salvation's Calling" which I personally prefer to skip through due to its bland and repetitive chorus. Some of my favorites include "Man On A Mission" with its obligatory followup "Fairytale", "All Of The Damned", slightly cheesy but very appropriate ballad "Farewell", the magnificent title track, "Abyss Of The Void" and "Time To Break Free" with Michael Kiske on lead vocals!
As you might tell there isn't really much space for filler here, which is probably why the album has become the great Power Metal classic that it is.
***** star songs: Man On A Mission (5:48) All Of The Damned (5:01) Land Of The Free (4:37) Abyss Of The Void (6:03)
**** star songs: Rebellion In Dreamland (8:44) Fairytale (0:49) Rising Of The Damned (0:43) Gods Of Deliverance (5:01) Farewell (5:11) The Saviour (0:40) Time To Break Free (4:40) Afterlife (4:46)
*** star songs: Salvation's Calling (4:35)