Gamma Ray, to me, are the best force of power metal going today, after all, Kai Hansen practically invented the genre. They have released some of my favourite metal albums, and I have never been disappointed by any release of theirs. This includes "To The Metal". Although this isn't the best work of Gamma Ray, it certainly isn't anywhere near a bad album. They succeed in creating a very solid piece of work, in which there are very few things to complain about.
To The Metal starts off with “Empathy”, it is a slower moving track, but once it picks up it puts forth a solid intro, pretty much following the standard Gamma Ray formula. After “Empathy” comes “All You Need To Know”, which is only worth mentioning because of its special guest singer Michael Kiske. It has a catchy chorus, and Kiske shines. It sort of reminds you of early Helloween, which is really a very enjoyable memory. The album keeps moving steadily, pretty much staying up to par. The music on Gamma Ray albums has always been above and beyond, and this is no exception. The solos are well played, the drumming is very good, and Dirk Schlacter proves himself to be a very talented bass player. Schlacter really stands out on the song “Shine Forever”, in which he plays a very talented solo. “Shine Forever” is clearly the standout track, with Hansen reaching Halford like vocals, an amazingly catchy chorus, and it seems to be one of the few inspired songs on the album. Another thing I enjoyed about this album is that you can really hear the influence of other bands, but there isn’t the blatant stealing of riffs that annoyed others on “Land Of The Free II”. Here you can make out the Judas Priest or Iron Maiden sound, without saying "Haven't I heard this song before?"
This album is not without flaws though. The editing on the album was not done very well. At times you can't make out Kai's voice over the guitar, and at other times you can't hear the guitar over Kai's voice. There is never a good mix of both, it's always one or the other. Also, the songs (although good) are not overly inspired. It seems almost as if the band had some songs left over, that weren’t exactly right for previous albums, so they just put them together to form this one. These songs are very well performed, but they lack the spirit you usually get with a Gamma Ray album. There isn't a "New World Order" or "Rebellion In Dreamland" to be found here, with the possible exception of the previously mentioned “Shine Forever”. I guess the question is "does there have to be?" These songs are still good, and maybe they didn't feel like writing about previous things, because they've been around so long that they don't have to. My only other complaint is about the song “No Need To Cry”. It was written about Schlacters deceased father, and what was supposed to be an emotional, inspired track, comes a little too close to 80's hair ballad. There is also this weird little acoustic bit in the middle, that doesn't really fit in. I had higher expectations for that track, than any of the other ones, and it was the disappointing one.
Overall, when you look at the album as a whole, the complaints I brought up, are quite minimal. This is a competent album that does exactly what it's supposed to, which is provide good music. This album isn't going to win over any fans, but if you’re a fan of this band already this won’t be the reason you stop listening to them (unless you weren't a very big fan to begin with). Even a casual listener probably won't find that many flaws. So if you like Gamma Ray then go ahead, pick up this album. Here’s to the metal.