For big, or even moderate Gamma Ray fans like myself, this DVD was a long time coming. I'm not simply talking about the fact that it should have been released over a year ago originally. Gamma Ray haven't released any form of an official live video since Ralf Scheepers was still their singer... over 13 years ago. Until now they had failed to catch the band in their current (and top) form, and luckily this DVD has finally done that.
Disc 1: Live in Montreal
Ah, where to begin. Well, there are a few mild complaints I have, so I might as well get the big one out of the way now. The crowd is mixed too quietly. I advise any first-time listeners to not turn up their speakers during the crowd intro and "Welcome", because you may blow them out once "Gardens of the Sinner" starts. Ah yes, Gardens of the Sinner. Things get off to a great start, and it becomes pretty apparent right away that the band sounds fantastic. All the instruments are represented at just the right levels, the band is having a great time, and they are playing quite well. The first few songs really get you going, namely the pleasant surprise of "Man on a Mission", which does much to showcase just how tight of a live outfit Gamma Ray are, ditto for "Fight". My other complaint is the use of split-screen editing to show 2 or 3 different things at once. The layering effects of this type are neat, but the plainly bordered 2-3 camera views are just kind of unproffesional looking, not to mention kind of annoying because obviously it's difficult to look at two thingsat once. However, they don't use the effect all that much, and the editing aside from that is downright enjoyable, a nice compromise of fast and slow editing, and the lighting just adds to the atmosphere. In my personal opinion the inclusion of tracks such as "Heavy Metal Universe" and "Dream Healer" wasn't the best decision, but it hardly hurts my opinion of the DVD. Things are great throughout, but really pick up once we hit "Beyond the Black Hole". "Somewhere Out in Space" may have been the most enjoyable song of the DVD for me, the best way I can describe it is simply "EPIC". Gamma Ray loves their singalongs, and the one in the aforementioned song is about as great as they come. The encores are fantastic as well, including a performance of Kai's "I Want Out" that should make Helloween green with envy in comparisson to how they perform it these days.
Simply put, the main concert on this DVD is a fantastic watch, which casual and hardcore Gamma Ray fans should really enjoy. The band play brilliantly, the sound is excellent, crowd interaction is superb. I can't register a solid complaint that would detract from my overall enjoyment of this show.
Disc 2: Special Features
I'll be honest here, I was a little dissapointed here. Points were not deducted off of my score for it though, as they are simply added bonus material. "Historay" is a nice compilation of pro-shot bootleg songs, backstage, and studio footage spanning their career, but mainly from the mid-to-late 90s and forward. Good stuff, but I think it would've been a good call to include subtitled on the majority of the stuff where they're speaking German. The whole feature runs about 45 minutes, the longest of all of them.
The Unplugged in Japan footage offers a nice stripped down approach to 4 tracks: Rebellion in Dreamland, Land of the Free, Fairytale, and Send Me a Sign. Nothing special and probably could've been done better, but they're neat to have.
The North American Tour "Documentary" let me down. As with "Historay", it's merely a compilation of footage rather than any form of a documentary with commentary. It does offer a number of laughs though and is worth the 20 minute watch.
The promo videos are all neat to have, but I had seen them before and really they're nothing too impressive. The DVD also features a live version of "Heavy Metal Universe" from Melbourne, Australia.
The final, and in my opinion best of the special features is the Wacken 2003/2006 footage. The 2003 songs (Last Before the Storm, One With the World) are the superior in quality and performance. They've been circulating on the internet for a while but are nice to have here. The 2006 footage (Rebellion in Dreamland, Heavy Metal Universe, Somewhere Out in Space) is of a bit lesser quality in both audio and performance itself, not aided by the unfortunate fact that the show was during the day.
So, all in all, what we have here is a fantastic feature DVD with some nice but not amazing bonus features. For Gamma Ray fans big and small, it is definitely worth the $20 you will likely pay for it, and finally captures the Hansen/Richter/Schlacter/Zimmerman lineup live in all its glory. I highly recommend this.