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As the biggest name in modern Japanese power metal, Galneryus certainly has a high reputation to live up to. Now two years removed from what many consider to be their magnum opus, Angel of Salvation, it’s safe to say that the band had a roadblock ahead of them with their newest outing, Vetelgyus. After having spent the past two years releasing two rerecording albums with their singer, Masatoshi “SHO” Ono, I was a bit wary that Syu, the guitarist and songwriter, may have hit a mental block. Galneryus have never been a band to be slow on putting out albums, and this two year gap is the longest they’ve waited between full-length albums, but it’s been more than worth the wait.
The most glaring omission for most fans was that of an epic track that characterized Angel of Salvation so well. Instead we get the occasional seven and eight minute long tracks on Vetelgyus. All in all, Syu’s melodies absolutely dominate this album, with his neoclassical solos and keyboard dual harmonies being the biggest highlight. SHO’s vocals similarly have only become even more “soaring” than that of his last few albums with Galneryus, cementing the band as the premier Japanese power metal band. The first half on Vetelgyus is crammed full of speed, catchiness, and harmonies; a track like “Enemy to Injustice” will feature possibly a melody you won’t be able to forget, and a chorus like that of “There’s No Escape” completely represents the majesty and epic proportions that the power metal style prides itself on.
There’s a couple songs which just scream “filler” at me on the latter half of Vetelgyus, but that’s just when “The Guide” and the final couple tracks will put your worries to rest. If there’s one thing I can commend and condemn Syu for at the same time, it has to be his consistency: there’s no real change of style or any curveballs thrown at you here. Depending on the person, that trait could affect your opinion of the album, but both halves of the album sound very much of the same flesh and bone. The two halves, however, are separated by the title instrumental track. “Vetelgyus” may be the most perfect instrumental of this year. It masterfully combines neoclassical passages, shred section, orchestral interludes, and even a folky finale into what is definitely the highlight of the whole album.
I’m still torn between whether this is my favorite Japanese album this year (and I’ve reviewed a lot of them), but it’s in the top three without a doubt. Here I thought I had seen Syu’s compositional skills and technicality sufficiently on Angel of Salvation, but that album almost seems like child play compared to some of the complexion present on Vetelgyus. The lack of any major identifying factors for some of the songs does make the album take a small hit in terms on rating, but any power metal fans will know exactly what they’re getting with Galneryus, and Vetelgyus is the most complete and comprehensive package of everything that Galneryus has to offer.
Written for The Metal Observer
Power metal, in the neo-classical or symphonic style, has been one of my favorite genres of metal to the point that for a while, in the early parts of this century, I listened to nothing else. Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, Rhapsody (before "of Fire"), etc. were the leaders of the genre. But it seems all three of those bands just ran out of steam, putting out several albums that were not even close to their previous glory. Actually some were even less than mediocre. Luckily when I need that speedy, riff laden metal, those insane solos, and soaring vocals I can still count on Japan's Galneryus for my Euro-power metal.
Seriously, this band has not put out a bad album, from what I heard of them. So I jumped at the chance to scoop up their eleventh full length, Vetelgyus. Wow, what a beautiful breath of fresh air. This album is as close to perfect as any album of this genre can be. Even the intro is catchy. Yeah...the minute and a half instrumental that most usually skip on a power metal album? Well, don't skip it this time. It's actually catchy and powerful. Then you get the storm of speed and riffs with "Endless Story," the first song. The riffs are catchy and the keys are cheesy. The tempo is speedy and Masatoshi Ono's vocals are just spot on. He sings predominantly in Japanese with some lines of English thrown in. His melodies are infectious and his voice is powerful. The guitar solos are fucking godly on this song as well as the rest of the album. Another song with a monster solo is "Ultimatum." But this is not all wankery and no substance. The opening keyboard goes right into a main riff that is heavy as fuck. The chorus is catchy, but that's to be expected here. Then comes this fucking godly keyboard solo followed up by a guitar solo that gave me goosebumps.
And just when a song is finished and you say, "Goddamn that song was amazing," comes another one. "Enemy of Justice" is one of the longer songs and is absolutely amazing. Clocking in at almost seven and a half minutes, this song showcases the dynamics that make up this band. The melodies, the bombastic orchestral sound of the keys with the guitars. There's some acoustic passages as well. Everything you would want in an epic song like this. The title track is another of the longer songs. It's actually just over eight minutes and it's an instrumental. Yep, you read right, instrumental. But have no fear because they are the band who can pull that off. Of course it's a wank fest but when you can write great songs and play as good as this, a wank fest is a beautiful thing. There is a cool part in the middle where the song slows down and even incorporates some traditional Japanese music sounds. Those traditional sounds carry over to the melody leading to the last few minutes of the song. For an instrumental, it really grabs your attention and holds it.
I think that the problem with most of the bands of this genre, and especially the aforementioned bands, is the the lack of memorable riffs. With this band you get the riffs. The keys are predominant but the guitars still drive the songs. The riffs give that punch that lets you know that this is still heavy metal. "The Guide" is one of those songs that have some kick ass riffs driving the song even if the keys are in your face. This is the proper way to do this type of music. "I Wish" is a song that has some killer riffing but with some 70s sounding organ going right along with the riffs. I think of it as the "Jon Lord" effect because of that organ sound. The guitar solos on this one is fucking amazing...as they all are but this one needed to be mentioned on it's own. He goes by the name of Syu and he is just incredible on this one. Just when I thought the previous one was good. Closing out the album is, "The Voyage." This is an instrumental that feels more like a ballad than an outro. Slow, tasteful and melodic, this is the perfect way to end a perfect album.
This album is amazing, there's no other way to put it. There is not one song on this album that is less than amazing. I could listen to this album over and over again and not get tired of it. All the elements that make an exceptional power metal album are here on this album. This band is no joke. They are masters of their craft and this album is the proof. If you love, or have ever loved, symphonic power metal, then you must get this album. It's essential.
I'm not overly familiar with the work of Japanese power metal maestros Galneryus, though they have been on my radar for some time. J-Power is overly saturated with lacklustre bands from Double Dealer to Concerto Moon, and it's refreshing to hear a band hailing for the East that actually delivers, given how big the neo-classical take on the genre is in their country. Now, we have some pretty decent bands releasing the female-fronted equivalent, the most noteworthy of which is the excellent Light Bringer, but Galneryus are all about power metal as it stood at the turn of the century, and with their latest release, the pelting “Vetelgyus”, the band prove there is indeed a fair amount of thunder to be heard from the East.
These guys have always had a snifter of classic-era Stratovarius to them, with their penchant for penning fast, double-kicked anthems full of classically adept guitar runs, tinkling keys, and high, soaring vocals, and things are no different here. Galneryus have thrown a good deal of Angra-like musicianship into songs like ferocious opener “Endless Story” and “The Guide”, which recall “Temple Of Shadows” in their over the top execution. But this isn't all about speed; Galneryus push forth a staggeringly creative and diverse set of songs here, all of which are positively brimming with catchy J-Pop melodies, stunning guitar work, and the Kiske-meets-Kotipelto croon of vocalist Masatoshi Ono. The mid-paced and anthemic tunes are the best numbers, with “There's No Escape” bursting at the seams with Strato keys, and the yearning “Ultimatum” taking the crown as the pick of the bunch, but the dexterous nature of tumbling semi-epics like “Enemy To Injustice” need not be overlooked, as this is where the inventive songwriting prowess of the band becomes unashamedly revealed.
This is a long album, and while the first half is absolute magic, the second half does tend to fall victim to a slouch imposed by how well-crafted the songs preceding it were. Sticking an eight minute instrumental in the middle of the album unfortunately hampers the flow a little, making the first half stick out more, but that's a minor complaint, as if you dip in and out of this record, you tend to find something of interest. With a crystal clear production job and a keen melodic ear, fans of Euro-styled power metal circa 1997-2004 will be enthralled by this, so get on it if you want to know what Japanese metal sounds like at its peak.