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My Sword Is Raised - 100%

Dudemanguy, February 9th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, VAP (Special edition)

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.

Originally written for my blog.

Pretty good fretboard/piano wrangling - 83%

caspian, March 8th, 2018

This is cool, but yknow I'm not sure if I'd play it around other people. Perhaps I have a hard time taking this music fully seriously myself. Perhaps I'm just not interested in loudly suggesting to everyone else that I'm a Naruto fan? I know it's a crass, very basic level "haha they're a Japanese band so it reminds me of mainstream anime" sorta thing to say, but I mean.. listen to the thing. It's not something I'll go out of my way to confirm, but I'll eat my pants if there's not a few million uploads on youtube along the lines of "NARUTO VS SASUKE- Galneryus Raise My Sword.wmv"

It is a good album though, and I imagine if you're hardout into power metal/have a slightly higher tolerance for bombastic cheese you'll probably find this quite sensational. The production is totally on point, light, airy, crispy, and I like the way the guitars and keys are mixed- they both play a lot of fairly busy lines, and neither dominate the other. The singer- well, name dropping power metal singers isn't a strength of mine but I rather like the dude, he's not as powerful as some but he's redolent of a smoother early James LaBrie, especially with his vibrato.

I like how there's not that many ballads. Whether you can really say that something as polished and airtight as Raise My Sword of Voice of The Grevious Cry "rocks hard" is certainly up for debate, but it's got plenty of energy and there's actual riffs, unlike your europower endless chord progression types. It's pretty inspiring, it's fairly uplifting. The tunes are pretty long, but the songwriting is fairly tight- there's enough going on that you don't really get bored, even the fourteen minute title track with all of it's classical pretentions. There's much to be said about the way the guitarists approach it; everything is quite busy, and there seems to be more of an influence from early power metal stuff as opposed to trying to outwuss Stratovarius or whatever.

It's probably the best album in the style- whatever style you want to call it, anyway- that I've heard. It's certainly rather cheesy in places- whenever they slow down and the keys really come out I tend to cringe a bit- but for the most part it's pretty great. Highly recommended, whether you just want to listen some well written power metal or you need some new music for that "goku goes ssj3" video you're currently editing.

Dramatic, epic and darker than average Galneryus - 90%

Agonymph, September 25th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, VAP (Special edition)

Opinions on Galneryus’ previous album ‘Vetelgyus’ were divided. The album saw the band deviating from their trusted formula by injecting more hardrock than usual into their highly melodic power metal sound. Personally I quite liked the record, but those of you who had their concerns need not worry: ‘Under The Force Of Courage’ manages to mix the catchy, yet musically interesting power metal of their era with current singer Masatoshi Ono with the epic, dramatic nature of their early work. And some refreshing progmetal influences to boot. Whoever liked ‘Angel Of Salvation’ will certainly find something of their liking here.

What may help in terms of consistency is that ‘Under The Force Of Courage’ is a concept album. Its conceptual nature is apparent through recurring themes and interludial passages. The record has not one, but two intros and while that may seem a bit excessive, there’s enough proggy power metal euphoria between them to justify them. Yuhki seems to leave his mark when it comes to progressive influences; his keyboard sounds are really surprising and ‘Rain Of Tears’, one of his compositions, bears more than a passing resemblance to Symphony-X. These things are exactly what make this more than just another Galneryus record.

After the two intros, ‘Raise My Sword’ and ‘The Voice Of Grievous Cry’ open the album in pretty much trusted Galneryus fashion. They’re the upbeat power metal tracks one would expect the Japanese quintet to open their albums with. And that is no criticism, because it works. The latter has a main riff that blew me away upon first listen. The story seems to take a dark turn after that; the aforementioned ‘Rain Of Tears’ builds from a dark ballad to a section that even has guitarist and band leader Syu grunting and the following ‘Reward For Betrayal’ is one of the album’s highlights with its exciting structure and dramatic delivery.

‘Soul Of The Field’ also shows a few extreme Metal influences, especially in Junichi’s blast beats, but generally it’s a strong Power Metal track with a rather atypical 3/4 rhythm. But it is after ‘Chain Of Distress’ – one of the band’s better piano-based ballads – that the cake gets its icing. ‘The Force Of Courage’ is a mighty epic that is comparable to ‘Angel Of Salvation’ in more ways than its 14+ minute duration. It builds from an orchestral opening to a monumental, surprisingly catchy power metal track with mindblowing riffs (the one that starts shortly after the 2 minute mark is too good to believe) and virtuoso leads. The finale has a similar triumphant feel as well. Simply brilliant.

Coincidentally, ‘Under The Force Of Courage’ lasts almost exactly as long as ‘Angel Of Salvation’. That’s not where the comparison stops; both records are skillfully crafted, joyous slabs of power metal and a proof that Galneryus is still a force to be reckoned with. ‘Under The Force Of Courage’ just has a bit of a darker edge at times and a more epic, dramatic feel throughout. It may even convert a few fans who – unjustly – gave up on the band after original singer Yama-B left. Power metal seems to be stagnating a bit in Europe, but luckily there’s bands like Jupiter and Galneryus in Japan to keep me satisfied.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Force Of Courage’, ‘Reward For Betrayal’, ‘Soul Of The Field’

Originally written for my Kevy Metal weblog

The Force of Courage - 100%

CaptorOfWinter, May 8th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, VAP (Special edition)

It is not often that terms like transcendental, monumental and genuinely unique can be utilized to describe a metal album in this day and age. The genre as a whole and its many sub-genres have been explored to a depth unparalleled in other music and while this, in of itself is a positive thing, it also makes it more difficult for aspiring and established artists alike to stick out amidst a vast sea of imitators. Galneryus, despite these daunting odds, have ascended above their respective genre(s) to release something that shall, in time, go down in history as a legendary album that has truly risen above not only the competition but the band’s own catalog as well.

Under the Force of Courage, as likely implied by the cover, has a strong atmosphere and aura that nourishes dark and brooding fantastical landscapes one can envision quite easily in his or her own mind whilst listening to this opus. Myself, I am reminded of the video game Dark Souls III specifically here, as the same sense of widespread desolation and determination present in the game also saturates this album. Galneryus is able to convey such a vivid and eloquent atmosphere through a sense of composition that feels very refined and aged which is undoubtedly due to the band’s experience and longevity. None of the songs feel haphazard just as all of the melodies and audible sounds alike feel purposeful and thoughtfully manipulated. As a whole, the songwriting is what takes this album to another level entirely for the power and progressive metal genres, for somehow such a meticulous balance between raw ability and sheer accessibility has been employed to maximum effect. Amidst unusual time signatures, complex keyboard patterns and nearly inhuman guitar playing Galneryus was able to remove any of sense of pretentious pompousness through the listening experience which, to necessarily repeat myself, is because of an elevated sense of composition. Whether it’s the speed and velocity of a track like Raise My Sword, the stoic heroism of Soul of the Field, the heartfelt sorrow of Chain of Distress or the absolute grandeur of the semi title track The Force of Courage, these Japanese men have given us a hardy sonic potpourri to explore time and time again.

Songwriting aside, Under the Force of Courage sounds absolutely phenomenal due to a crisp, airy production and professional performances from all of the band’s respective members. Sys’s playing reaches astronomical heights on a technical level while still maintaining a terrestrial sense of emotion and feeling; likewise, Yuhki utilizes a comparable palette of musical wizardy and heartfelt sincerity. Mr. Ono, the band’s vocalist, has a remarkable voice that soars above the rich musical tapestry of the album through a variety of vocal stylings ranging from a deep, almost operatic tone to a near glass-shattering wail. Lastly, the rhythm section performs more than competently and although I admittedly have paid the least amount attention to this aspect of the album, I nevertheless found that it complimented the other elements appropriately.

Overall, Under the Force of Courage is more like an experience than a mere collection of songs to listen to every now and again. This is an album that will remove you from your earthly dwellings, giving your imagination more than adequate encouragement and space to explore depths perhaps nearly forgotten or never yet even breached. The limited edition comes with a hardy book that has numerous pieces of art that will certainly help with the aforementioned internal journey and the packaging, as a whole, is most aesthetically pleasing. I highly recommend this album with the utmost sincerity to those that enjoy power and progressive metal as well as those listeners who appreciate an album with a dense atmosphere, exceptional performances and superior composition. This is a transcendental piece of art that makes me proud to be a metal listener.