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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…