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Something got lost in the rebirth… - 65%

naverhtrad, July 5th, 2012

After the departure of Yamaguchi Masahiro, the groovy experimentation of Galneryus was brought to a complete dead stop, it seems. The man they eventually replaced him with, Ono Masatochi, is a kick-arse vocalist (as one absolutely notices on the ‘Rÿche, Scorpions and Dokken covers on Voices From the Past III EP, and here on this album from ‘A Far-Off Distance’), so I’m not complaining about him in the slightest, but it seems the band as a whole seems to have lost something with Yamaguchi. A certain vivacity, an eagerness to push the boundaries: Alsatia was not your average J-power album; it had grit, a keen tendency to subvert the obvious pop hook with a liberal sprinkling of brief ventures into discordance, and a sense of pacing which allowed the listener to be carried away by the groundswell (see ‘Wings’). Resurrection, on the other hand, sounds after Alsatia the way a TV dinner might taste after a fine three-course at an upscale New England club: everything is up-front, easily digestible and pre-packaged, with partially hydrogenated soybean oil and high-fructose corn syrup taking the place of fine seasoning; the juxtaposition merely makes the shift that much more painful, and the end result is a bad case of heartburn. (Yeah, sadly, that pun was intended.)

‘Burn My Heart’ is actually a good example of what I’m talking about. Galneryus just frontload the opening passages with as much shit as they can possibly squeeze in, as though they couldn’t decide whether to open up with a drum solo or a signature Syu shred – and it kills the potential for what might otherwise have been a pretty catchy song. Galneryus can do the neoclassical style incredibly well, but the song rather misses the point: classical art music is characterised by varying styles on a particular theme, and here we just get the theme shoved in our face repeatedly on a basic verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus structure, sadly scant variation to be had. It’s frustrating because the song was technically very amazing, and you know the band is capable of so much more.

To use another example, ‘Still Loving You’ uses an annoying, swingy tempo and some really hammed-up organ and brass work – the bass and drums are unexceptionable, and of course Syu’s guitar work is phenomenal, but they are wasted on the style (and the all-out hard-rock wankery of the last twenty seconds is pretty painful, too). Galneryus, rather than attempting to subvert themselves and offer up something interesting (which Alsatia was, no doubt about that), here just go straight for the obvious melodic progression. On the other hand, if you can wade through that, you will find some gems hidden in the rough: the first two minutes of ‘Emotions’ are very much worth waiting out for the sheer undisguised brilliance of the second two, before they go back to the rom-com anime opening theme stylings of the intro to close it off. ‘Save You!’ is actually fairly incandescent on this album, an example of the neoclassical style at its finest, starting out darkly, building up the tension, keeping the pacing lively until the inevitable Syu-driven crescendo (accompanied by a harpsichord, much to my pleasant surprise), and most importantly, mixing up the variations on the main theme (from all-out hard rock to serenade). ‘Fall in the Dark’ is a pleasant-if-brief return to a darker Alsatia-style sound which incorporates the more throwback pop-power elements subtly and artfully, and ‘Destiny’ varies between the insipid and the inspired. It would be fair to say that the album finishes off much stronger than it starts.

The lyrics are about equally divided between English and Japanese this time around, instead of being mostly English with a couple of songs in Japanese, which is a pleasant surprise. The themes bend more toward the personal this time around, with relationships and personal destiny and existential ponderings playing more of a role than – well, flags, blood, steel and glory.

It may sound at this point as though I’m being tough on Galneryus for being, well, Galneryus. I’m really not. This album is really not all that bad, but the fact that it is in many ways a throwback to a Flag of Punishment standard makes it all the more frustrating that they couldn’t get that kind of quality back. My problem is not with their style at all, but rather that here it comes wrapped in plastic instead of heavy fucking metal.

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