Whereas Sign No More had felt like the band trying to escape the Keeper Of The Seven Keys formula, Insanity And Genius feels like the exact opposite; as if the band are reacting against Sign No More’s sound and deliberately making the new album bigger, faster, more bombastic and over the top. Pretty much, if you like the main spirit of Power Metal, then this is an album worth checking out. If you like the NOWBHM and Speed Metal sounds that the band are influenced by this is worth checking out, and if you like Gamma Ray in general this is an album that’s worth checking out.
This would be the final Gamma Ray album with Ralf Scheepers who would leave the band to try and join Judas Priest, and later form Primal Fear. It was one album before lead vocal duties were taken over by band founder Kai Hansen, although Kai does contribute lead vocals to one song here, foreshadowing that transition somewhat. As with all the early Gamma Ray records, there was a line-up change. This time the rhythm section changed, with bassist Jan Rubach and drummer Thomas Nack replacing Uwe Wessel and Uli Kusch respectively.
Musically, this album is excellent, in terms of production, this album is excellent and in terms of performances, this album is excellent. Kai is one of the best lead guitarists out there, and if you like guitar solos, Gamma Ray are probably a band that you should be listening to. This album isn’t specifically his flashiest or fastest work, but it does display some of his most creative work and the leads and solos are a joy to listen to. Add that to Priest and Maiden influenced riffs and a primarily thrashy pounding rhythm section (that occasionally breaks into hard rock grooves for variety) and a mix of shrieking and melodic high pitched vocals and you have a winning Heavy Metal formula.
If you want really powerful and driving Power Metal with a lot of bombast and energy, you could do a lot worse.
Standout moments include the groovy and slightly out-of-place ‘The Cave Principal’ which has something of a Victim Of Changes feel to it, as well as the speedy and melodic ‘The Last Before The Storm’ and ‘Future Madhouse.’ My favourite song on the album however, is actually a cover, called ‘Gamma Ray’ which was originally by a German band called Birth Control. The track is one of the catchiest, most fun and most memorable moments in Gamma Ray’s history.
Then again, the whole album is good. There isn’t much in the way of filler, and it flows well from beginning to end. The only thing that I would say is that it’s a grower, that reveals more of its character on repeat listens, as opposed to the two albums that would follow it, where all the character is very up-front and obvious. This makes it worth persisting with if you do find it a little dull on first listen, especially after having heard the band’s later work before hand.
Overall; Insanity And Genius is a very good album that no Gamma Ray fan should be without for long. If you like anything the band have ever did, you’ll probably like this album a lot.