To start my review, I'll state that Gamma Ray is to me the only power metal band having the right to sounding like early Helloween if they want to. Of course we all know why; but if you didn't then I'm telling you that late eighties European power metal mainly was Kai Hansen's brainchild -- as Kai Hansen was in fact the founder of Helloween and still *is* the leader of Gamma Ray (well, you did know 'that', didn't you? :-)). It's all a matter of authorship and authenticity.
So, in spite of still being the same (good old) power metal band; with "Majestic" I think Gamma Ray has outdone themselves. Firstly, its production is sharp as a razor blade. I don't remember Hansen's vocals sounding so amazing previously, nor having a so thick wall of voices on the choirs. Secondly, many songs here sound less "predictable" than before. Several new influences can be noticed. Take for example the dark mood and almost nu-metallish riffing on "Condemned to hell"; or the "Judas-Priest-ish" chorus of "Strange World"; or the pretentious "Blood Religion"; or the Arabic and progressive touches of "Majesty" (Dio or Sabbath or Halford come to mind); or the right-to-the-point opener "My Temple", which spares us this time the usual instrumental intros. Man, every single song on this album is a killer, believe me!
Ok, ok... let's face it, the guys are not braking any ground anymore. Nevertheless, they do know how to write good songs by borrowing from several great sources. And certainly this release is less catchy than previous efforts, but no less good -- I even dare to say that this is their best album so far, how'bout that? :-) At least, in my opinion this is indeed Gamma Ray's "dark ride" -- a very true and powerful one. Ballads are lacking, but this is power metal at its best. You'll still get quite a shot of the genre's best clichés -- including "bombastic" choirs, high-pitched vocals, double-bass drumming, anthem-like melodies and frantic guitar soloing and riffing. But most importantly, you'll also get a very enjoyable and varied set of pieces, authored with pride and good taste.
Finally, I would like to warn power metal detractors (myself included the most of the time) not taking Gamma Ray too seriously -- but rather openly and joyfully. This is a band that is playing this stuff only because they're having a blast, and that's all they want from you: making you to have a power metal blast with their music. They're 100% able to mock at themselves, and it is in this self-awareness and humor sense that Gamma Ray scores high as "thinking-man" metallers -- not brainy or nerdy, but tasty and spontaneous. Remember: even the smartest guys around need having some fun from time to time, and Hansen's army does know how to do it. In few words, this is a power metal attack just for having some good time and therefore should be consumed "as-is". That's why I welcome and thank this music with a big set of five brilliant stars, dedicated to the contemporary living metal icon Kai Hansen is, as well as to his partners in crime. :-)