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Galneryus is a band that originates from Osaka, one of Japan's largest cities, with an extensive discography and an even more extensive range of influences. This album is no different. This is Galneryus at their best. With Angel of Salvation they've bought everything they have to the table; full neoclassical metal compositions, beautiful guitar work, powerful vocals, insane drums, inspiring keyboards, and orchestrations that can compete with Mozart if he played heavy metal, which would be fascinating.
The first thing that attracted me to the album, like I'm sure many people will agree with me, is the awesome artwork. The logo's pretty awesome, too. When was the last time the artwork reflected what was to come? It's rare. Well, that's exactly how I feel listening to this album, like an angel has descended upon my ears with a (seemingly awkward) rainbow spear. Sho is a magnificent singer and I'd be inclined to say he is in some ways better than Yama-B. That's a huge compliment to the vocalist as Yama-B was the benchmark for eastern Asian power metal vocalists in my book. He has a very powerful and catchy voice, hitting highs like he's a pro.
Syu here is fantastic. He's been one of my favorite guitar players for awhile now. He can make a guitar "speak," much like in "Longing". Instrumental music of any type is usually hit or miss with me, but that song nails it. Syu uses a wide variety of techniques which all compliment each other, like the aforementioned guitar work "speaking", melodic parts, and heavy parts, and almost thrashing, speed-like interludes. His solos are outrageous to say the least, like his solo in "Angel of Salvation", which is probably the highlight of the entire album at an epic standard of 15 minutes. "Hunting for Your Dream" is another highlight where Sho shines and Syu destroys. It has a catchy chorus and an awesome riff with near perfect drumming and a solo that'll pound your face to oblivion. What more could you ask for?
Next are Yuhki's keyboards and orchestrations (I'm assuming he wrote the orchestrations since that usually is the work of the keyboardist in any symphonic outfit), they make the album what it is. He uses a variety of nice compositions, especially within the intro track "Reach to the Sky" which really is an amazing opener. Taka's bass here is nothing amazing; he keeps up with the guitar, but it really works.
The drums are rather awesome and bombastic. Junichi does an amazing job here with straightforward, no bullshit drumming. All in all, during this album you find Galneryus at their finest; bombastic, catchy, downright hypnotic with energetic singing where you'll be catching yourself mouthing the words (this applies to the non-Japanese-speaking metal world, too), awesome leads, powerful symphonies, and brazen guitar solos. It's amazing that they can still write such awesome music after one of the most extensive careers in the Japanese metal scene.
For some reason, ever since the departure of Galneryus‘ ex-vocalist Yama-B, the band’s new material have never really caught my attention. New vocalist Masatoshi felt somewhat awkward after being so used to Yama-B’s vocals on albums like Advance to the Fall and One for All – All for One, some of my favourite Japanese power metal releases. But with the release of Angel of Salvation, I decided to check them out once more for nostalgia sake, and man, I certainly got more than what I had expected.
The powerful Reach to the Sky helps to bring in a rather electrifying atmosphere, and it is nice to hear how the classical music influence has not only been retained in Galneryus‘ music, but has even been intensified, and this will be extremely evident throughout the album. With such a memorable and impactful introductory track, expectations have been set rather high, and the band doesn’t disappoint as the album begins proper with The Promised Flag. The rather uplifting melodies that I know Syu for hit the listener immediately, and it is now up to vocalist Masatoshi to make or break the experience so far. Fortunately he doesn’t disappoint, and more than hits the expectations here. His vocal prowess is evident, as he hits insanely high notes with much ease, and even has some slight resemblance to his predecessor Yama-B, and this is definitely a welcome thing. Also, rather than just powerhouse vocals, he also displays his versatility, being able to capture the emotions on softer moments on the album. Furthermore, as the album progresses, it becomes obvious how he has managed to fit into the band tightly, and is in fact one of the key elements in the music of Angel of Salvation.
With the rest of the band having played together for the most part of the band’s history, their growth as musicians and as a band are obvious, from the flow of the tracks on the album to their playing as individual musicians. There is a nice balance of aggressive moments and more melodic moments on the album, such as on Stand Up for the Right, where the aggressive speed and almost thrashy verses are balanced by the uplifting melodies that are on the chorus. Drummer Junichi provides most of the energy on the album, with his insane and constant blasting for most of the songs. The orchestral and classical elements are also displayed in full here as well, not only with the neoclassical-influenced style of Syu but also through the heavy symphonies that shroud the music at times, courtesy of keyboardist Yuhki. Also, while Syu seems to be the main guy displaying the classical side of the band through his at the same time technical yet melodic leads, Yukhi also constantly engages in lead duels with him, like on title track Angel of Salvation.
The personal highlight for Galneryus‘ music, as always are Syu’s guitar playing. While the rhythm playing style bears some slight resemblance to legends such as X Japan in their speed/power metal era, his leads are the main attraction here. When not engaging in the challenging, complex neoclassical shredding moments, his solos tend to be extremely melodic, and brings out the emotional side of the band, and is easily the main thing that steers the direction of the music on Angel of Salvation such the instrumental closing track Longing, building on the epic, 15-minute title track. There are even moments where the feelings of nostalgia are brought in heavier than ever, especially on the leads on Lonely As a Stranger, sounding similar to Silent Revelation.
With releases such as Angel of Salvation, I am once again reminded how Galneryus became one of my favourite neoclassical power metal bands in the first place. Perhaps it is time to revisit Japanese neoclassical power metal once more…