[Album Review] Galneryus - (2015) Under the Force of Courage - 10/10
#1
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Artist: Galneryus
Release: Under the Force of Courage
Rating: 10/10


My Sword Is Raised

Galneryus is a band I've cherished for a long time. The reality was that it was Galneryus, not the big Euro names, that opened my eyes to wonders of power metal. Hearing New Legend (sorry for not having OG credibility) for the very first time way back in the day was a revelation. In high school, I scraped up enough cash to buy One for All - All for One (the Galneryus album that contains New Legend of course) and was instantly blown away. To this day, I still love that album. Nearly every song on it is absolute gold.

Over the years, Galneryus has rightfully garnered a reputation for both their consistency and high quality. Every album they've released is power metal, but they are all very different works and have their own merits and strengths. To this day, fans still squabble over what their favorite Galneryus albums are. Some releases, such as Angel of Salvation, seem to have a bit more buzz than others, but truly there's no firm consensus. In my case, the question of "what's the best Galneryus album" was extremely difficult and nearly impossible to answer. Certainly, there are some albums I cherished more than others (such as the aforementioned One for All - All for One), but there was no way I could pick just one. But then Galneryus did the impossible and released this masterpiece.

If some spawn from Satan tried to set fire to my Galneryus collection, the first thing I would try to save is Under the Force of Courage. The band consistently blew the competition out of the water throughout their entire existence, but then the madmen decided that they would one-up themselves. On this album, Galneryus go for an ambitious concept album approach. The band has plenty of epic and grandiose songs in their discography, but Under the Force of Courage as a whole is a very epic and dramatic work. Galneryus has also had plenty of flirtations with progressive rock/metal influences in past songs, and on this album they ramp those influences up to the strongest level they've ever been.

This album is a perfect lesson on how to do power metal correctly. Galneryus doesn't try to pass off shoehorning in a million keyboard/vocal layers as "being epic" or "good songwriting." Instead, they actually write good music that naturally sounds grandiose. Galneryus doesn't have the problem of disappearing guitars or autopilot drumming. Instead, every part is crafted with the utmost care to be both engaging and thrilling. This album has literally everything a power metal fan could want. Extremely catchy and sing-along choruses? Check. Thrilling guitar solos and amazing riffs? Check. Keyboards that actually complement the music with great solos and don't overpower everything? Check. Drumming that's more than just double bass droning? Check. Hell, there's even a bass solo thrown in here as well.

It's really something when you can say without a doubt that the very worst part of the album is the rather inoffensive intro track, Premonition. Of course, I use the phrase "worst part" very, very loosely here. The intro track has some fairly awkward spoken word Engrish to setup the story. Even then, there's some neat guitar motifs introduced here that would be used in other parts of the album so it's not like it's just a time killer. I will concede that about the first 3 minutes of the album are a bit short of perfection, but once The Time Before Dawn kicks in, you're listening to some of the greatest power metal ever to be written.

Galneryus has had a long tradition of opening instrumental tracks. Some of these are fairly short while others are more elaborate. And although The Time Before Dawn technically isn't the first track, it effectively serves the same role as the previous openers. It also happens to be literally the best opening instrumental the band has ever written. One of the biggest draws of the band is each musician's mastery over their respective instruments and The Time Before Dawn is an excellent example of this. The song starts off a bit slow and builds up momentum, but you soon lose yourself in that masterful, oddly-timed riff. It has a very chaotic sound to it, and Yuhki plays some excellent, slightly-dissonant keyboard solos to really drive the point home. Later near the end of the song, things calm down and Syu carries it to the end with some very beautiful melodic solos of his own.

A typical Galneryus album is a highly melodic slab of power metal with tons of guitar solos and leadwork to go around. In that sense, Under the Force of Courage isn't a radical departure from what they were doing previously in their career. Rest assured, Syu will still blow you away with face melting solos, and Ono's characteristic voice will carry you to the skies. But at the same time, Under the Force of Courage is truly unlike any album they've done previously. It's still power metal, but the tone often gets darker than one would expect. There's a lot of subtle things about the album that are unusual for Galneryus (or for any band really). For example, the main riff of The Voice of Grievous Cry is unusually long, incredibly technical and ends about two measures later than you would normally expect. The band was never afraid of using odd timings (one of the many reasons why they destroy other power metal bands), but on this album they really just go all out.

And speaking of going all out, Rain of Tears definitely qualifies for that description. As I mentioned before, Galneryus has always had a dose of progressive rock/metal influences that could show up from time to time (see some songs like Save You! or Enemy to Injustice). But Rain of Tears is probably the closest thing to full-blown progressive metal the band has ever done. The song starts off as sort of a dark ballad, but it builds tension over time and intensifies. Eventually, Syu's guitar kicks in with some very heavy riffing with Yuhki playing some haunting, dark keyboard melodies over it. Hell Syu himself even does a few (very good) growls later. It's absolutely brilliant. The song's structure is also pretty weird and pretty much entirely nonlinear (save for a little bit of repetition here and there). Rain of Tears ends on a grand climax with some oddly timed riffs that then fade out to the keyboard motif from the beginning of the song. All in all, it's one of the most ambitious things Galneryus has ever played and also one of my favorite songs from them period. It's even weirder because there's not really a solo section on the song either and yet it still manages to be so captivating.

Soul of the Field is another noteworthy song for the band with its large injection of extreme metal elements. Junichi plays quite a few blast beats, and Syu's harsh vocals show up again. Personally, it's one of my favorite numbers and I find the way it switches between Syu's harsh vocals and Ono's cleans stunningly good. After the obligatory ballad number, Chain of Distress (which is actually quite good), we finally make it to the most eye catching track on the album. The 14 minute epic, The Force of Courage, inevitably brings up comparisons to a previous 14 minute epic on another album, Angel of Salvation. While I do absolutely love Angel of Salvation (which owes much of its melodies to Tchaikovsky's violin concerto), The Force of Courage is easily the better epic number to me.

Even though the song is a whopping 14 minutes long, it's just so good and engrossing that it doesn't even feel half that length. Like much of the album, The Force of Courage has a very strong progressive influence to it and is extremely dynamic. It ingeniously recalls previous motifs from earlier in the album and seamlessly weaves them into the composition. The song goes through countless twists and turns with many extended solo sections. All of the band is absolutely on fire here. Syu and Yukhi's solos are nothing short of mindblowing. Ono is sublime on the chorus. Junichi's drumming is spot on, and Taka even gets a really cool bass solo in here among some other pretty solid bass work. There's no doubt that this epic right here is the absolute highlight of the album for me.

Galneryus has a superb discography. They don't have a bad album and have lots and lots of good ones. But when it comes to picking out their magnum opus, this is the one for me. It is honestly quite surprising that they released an album this creative and this forward thinking so late in their career, but I absolutely love it. Under the Force of Courage is ambitious and risky, but it succeeded. The massive 1 hour and 4 minute length fly by. The unusual experimentation in some of the songs still sound fresh and unique. All in all, I really cannot find a flaw. Yeah okay the spoken word part is perhaps a bit silly, but the stuff that comes later is so amazing and genius that it more than makes up for it. Time will tell if Galneryus can put out another album that can match Under the Force of Courage for me. But for now, this is honestly one of my favorite power metal albums of all time. Nowadays, this is the Galneryus album I reach for the most. There's nothing more I could ask for.
Occasionally, I write music reviews.
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#2
'Raise My Sword' being a relatively weak opener knocks this album down a point for me, but I agree that it's one of the best Galneryus albums. Even the ballad is kind of good.
If you can't get enough of me giving my opinions without having asked for it, you can read more of it on my Kevy Metal weblog.
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#3
Great review with a ton of detail, is this your longest one? Can tell when album has made an impact on its listener as the ideas on things to mention come so naturally and it's not long winded or anything, despite such a thorough break down.
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#4
(02-09-2019, 02:05 AM)Agonymph Wrote: 'Raise My Sword' being a relatively weak opener

That song almost made me die of hype overload when it came out. Laugh

(02-09-2019, 03:34 AM)TadakatsuH0nda Wrote: Great review with a ton of detail, is this your longest one? Can tell when album has made an impact on its listener as the ideas on things to mention come so naturally and it's not long winded or anything, despite such a thorough break down.

It's up there, but I think my Regnum Caelorum et Gehenna one is the longest one. Thanks for the compliment though!
Occasionally, I write music reviews.
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#5
Very nice. Smile
For those who are interested in that sort of thing, my collection on Discogs.com.
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#6
Ummm.... don't you think it's just the tiniest bit cheesy thought....(hides behind sofa Tongue)
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#7
Hell no. Tongue This album is actually pretty low on the cheese factor compared to most power metal imo.
Occasionally, I write music reviews.
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#8
Oh there’s cheese all right - “Raise My Sword” being an excellent case in point - but it’s good cheese.

I don’t think it’s physically possible to have Euro-style power metal without cheese - it’s one of the fundamental ingredients.
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#9
The middle section of the album is surprisingly low on cheese though. I really, really like the instrumental overture to this record too. Maybe not as much as 'Reach to the Sky', but close enough. They have had a lot of those in recent years.
If you can't get enough of me giving my opinions without having asked for it, you can read more of it on my Kevy Metal weblog.
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