This shit is why I don’t do top 10 lists.
There’s always gotta be that one band that comes along and ruins it. You’ve picked over everything, over the hundreds of albums that have gotten your blood flowing and your head banging over the course of the year, and you’ve narrowed it down to a paltry ten to represent what you think is best. It’s published, discussed, dissected, and acknowledged. And then some little bastard comes along a week before the year is out and ruins everything. In 2015’s case, that would be Galneryus with Under the Force of Courage.
Galneryus holds a special place in my heart for being one of my introductory metal bands. Their 2007 album, One For All – All For One, was one of the first albums I ever bought and was a driving force in my taste in music at the time. Everything about it was captivating; the speed, the accuracy, the way that everything stuck in my mind; it was unlike anything I’d experienced before in music. It should mean something, then, when I say I had completely written off the band after their last effort, Vetelgyus. All those elements that had made the band special were gone, and they sounded like every other safe J-rock group on the market. It was truly a disappointment, and it wasn’t until TovH infrequent commentor It’s All Fvcking Heresy pointed me to Courage that I considered giving it a shot. I’m very glad I did, because it may very well be Galneryus’s best album to date.
Under the Force of Courage opens typically enough for a power metal album, with the fairly low-key intro track, “Premonition.” As intro tracks go, it’s surprisingly interesting, with a chill dual lead over a clean chord progression leading into a spoken-word introduction to the album’s story (which is reminiscient of Conan the Barbarian). The second track, “The Time Before Dawn,” is when I started to get excited. This opens up with a sweet guitar lead into some riffage truly worthy of the moniker “power” metal. However, halfway through the track, when no vocals showed up, I realized something: this was a second intro track.
This is where my mind broke. I was not prepared for the implications of a double-intro, and my fragile mortal consciousness was snapped in two. The world before me shattered into millions of pieces, each fragment spiraling together into a kaleidoscope of possibilities. I felt myself being lifted upwards and away from my flawed mortal body, my shelter of earth and meat, and into something more. The futures laid before me spun faster and faster as I ascended until they coalesced into a brilliant white light, and I, overwhelmed by its radiance, was swept into blissful oblivion.
I awoke some time later- days, weeks, I cannot say- on the remnants of a massive battlefield. Hundreds of bodies lay at my feet, broken and gutted, and the stench of blood and decay festered in the air. I felt not sickened, but empowered by the sight and smell of this vicious slaughter. Gazing at my new form, swollen with muscle and glistening with blood and body oil, I realized that I had engaged in the slaughter of countless posers during the time I had been unconscious. I raised my sword in triumph, Masatoshi Ono’s voice echoing in pride over the distant mountaintops. Now truly ready for the full listening experience of Under the Force of Courage, I began my voyage home.
When I say that this might be Galneryus’s best album to date, I’m not exaggerating. It exemplifies everything I love about the Japanese power metal scene; it carries the unadulterated guitar worship of American power metal and combines it with the bombast of European power metal, all the while evoking powerful cinematic imagery of glorious battles. Galneryus prove themselves to be the frontrunners of their scene on Courage; the sheer amount of riffs on this album is overwhelming, the solos are both complex and emotive, and Ono’s massive Timo Kotipelko-esque vocal delivery seals the deal. Whether its on the unstoppable “Raise My Sword” or a proggier track like “Soul of the Field,” there is not a trace of disappointment to be found.
I honestly can’t think of any drawbacks to Under the Force of Courage. This is power metal at the absolute top of its game, with memorable writing, a fun story, and some truly staggering performances. It’s everything I wanted from the genre and much more, fully deserving of:
5/5 FLAMING TOILETS OV HELL
Under the Force of Courage came out December 9th, 2015 (jerks) via VAP and is available internationally from CD Japan. Find them on Facebook and tell them the Toilet sent you, which will likely sound surprisingly normal to a Japanese band.