Gamma Ray are one of those bands that have never released anything extraordinary, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying some of their albums and while fans have mixed feelings about their earlier works, I can’t help but enjoy these, too. Does this make me more of a Gamma Ray fan than I should be? No idea, but what can we do about our musical tastes, anyway? I’m rather clueless about this topic and all I can tell is that Sigh No More makes me feel good… at least, for the most part.
It’s true: Sigh No More is a mixed bag and it embodies rock as much as it embodies power metal and while a part of me could imagine why fans would prefer Gamma Ray’s later works, I find the criticism towards their earlier material to be slightly unfair. Heading for Tomorrow may be slightly more consistent and from Insanity and Genius and onward, the band would explore heavier territories, but there’s just no way that I dislike this album. Ralf Scheepers continues to dominate the record with his melodic snarl that you can’t get around and I think that he’s quite an underrated vocalist who, at least based on my experience with him in Gamma Ray, deserves more credit. The guitars aren’t always played with fury; often alternating between speedier licks that are Kai Hansen’s strength and rock-solid rhythms, but most importantly: the songs are mostly enjoyable.
In fact, it’s not until ‘Father and Son’ that I start to become less enthusiastic about Sigh No More. Lyrically, it seems like some serious stuff… but musically, it’s a tad too superficial for my taste. Is this meant to be a heartfelt ballad or a relaxing campfire track? It’s hard to tell, really. Interestingly enough, I can’t help but think that the chorus sounds strangely familiar and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kai Hansen borrowed it from someone else (let’s face it; with him you never know where he’s got inspiration from). Seriously, though, whereas plenty of bands know how to write a convincing ballad that hits you in the gut, Gamma Ray aren’t one of those bands.
But for a while, Sigh No More works absolutely fine with little to complain about. ‘Changes’ is a big, hook-driven rocker that might seem like an unusual track to open the album with, but it works well enough for me. Ralf Scheepers remains the star here; wailing right off the start around the bluesy rock licks that surround his presence and while the guitars hardly explode into high gear, it doesn’t bother me. ‘As Time Goes By’ is a classic Priest-inspired piece of craft that’s pure speed metal with an incredible pre-chorus and I also enjoy how the keys add a retro feel to it (think of Deep Purple for a specific example). ‘(We Won’t) Stop the War’ is a bass-driven punchy rocker that reminds me of a funkier ‘Of Rage and War’ by Savatage. It’s more of a head bobbing than a headbanging tune and while I can see why people would dislike it, I have a soft spot for it.
The rest remains slightly inconsistent; there’s no point getting around it. Sometimes Gamma Ray try to rock, but forget how to do it properly. ‘One With the World’ reminds me of Judas Priest’s less-inspiring 80’s stuff; it features a decent anthem of a chorus, but those shitty keys bring to mind ‘Blood Red Skies’. ‘The Spirit’ is another weirdo; starting off fine with noodling bass lines and catchy rocking leads, but once that lightweight chorus appears, my interest is immediately gone. Fortunately, even some later material saves Sigh No More from collapsing. The thundering speed metal of ‘Start Running’ is a joy to behold and so is ‘Dream Healer’, which gallops back into the metallic realm that’s occupied by horn throwing freaks and headbanging maniacs and it’s a breath of fresh air between the two uninspired surrounding songs. The guitars bounce back and forth with fury here and there’s a suspenseful feel to this tune I can’t help but think that it foreshadows Gamma Ray’s later direction that the band would take with Insanity and Genius.
It could have been better, absolutely, but it could have also ended up way worse. Either way, Sigh No More is a decent piece of work, even if it’s not something that I’ll spin on a daily basis.
Score: 70/100 – Bearable
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