Musically, the band spend half of the album carrying on in the same direction that made them famous, and half of the album concentrating on slower material. The last few albums had been criticized for a lack of original ideas, riff-recycling and stealing too much from Maiden and Priest. To The Metal doesn’t “steal” quite so much, but it does still sound like Gamma Ray.
Basically everything you like about Gamma Ray anyway is out in full-force; Kai’s voice and usual lyrical style is there, the guitar solos last for minutes on end and are of a fabulous standard, there are huge catchy choruses with harmonies and choral backing vocals, there are tasteful and low-in-the-mix keyboards augmenting the music without taking it over, occasional cuts to solo bass or drum fills and everything else you’d expect from a post-Scheepers Gamma Ray album. Michael Kiske even provides guest vocals on the track ‘All You Need To Know.’
There are still nods to Maiden, Priest and Queen but not quiet as blatantly as on the last few records (including the great Title Track, which evokes the spirit of Judas Priest’s ‘Metal Gods,’ without actually ripping it off too much).
Basically, it’s a big, virtuosic, melodic Power Metal album. There are a few ballad-sounding tracks and a few slower groovier tracks that make the album as a whole feel slower, but it still picks up speed when it wants to, which is often.
The only thing for me that is an actual point against the record is that production is very loud, in a loudness war kind of way. This may provide a bit of a challenge for fans who prefer the production on their classic albums like Land Of The Free and Somewhere Out In Space.
There is also some debate among fans as to whether the album works better with the tracks in a different order, as the running order is different on different editions of the album (eg. Japanese and American releases differ). In my opinion, with the Japanese running order, the album can feel a bit too back-heavy.
Regardless of what order they arrive in however, stand out tracks include ‘Shine Forever,’ ‘Chasing Shadows’ ‘Time To Live’ and the aforementioned ‘All You Need To Know’ which has a brilliant bouncy, out of control feeling in the verses and a great, cheesy, sugary sweet chorus.
Overall; there are better Gamma Ray albums available, and if you are a new listener it may not be the best album to start off with, but as long as you aren’t sick of the band’s overall formula too much, and as long as you don’t mind the material being a bit slower than usual, then it is a fine addition to the catalogue. It may take a few listens to really appreciate, but the thing is, its just a good album plain and simple. The standard of musicianship is incredible, and there’s still lots of interesting material on offer.