To me, 2012’s Angel of Salvation is always gonna be the quintessential Galneryus album. There was a perfect harmony of melody, technicality, and the title track of the album thoroughly showcased the band’s ability to communicate emotions without sacrificing their musicianship. The follow up album Vetelgyus was an excellent follow-up, which left 2015’s Under the Force of Courage feeling a little underwhelming after riding on 2 rather groundbreaking albums. Galneryus this year releases their brand new record, Ultimate Sacrifice, their 13th full length release, and it leaves one to wonder if it would impress.
With the teasing of the album with the release of the MV to the title track, things seem to be looking rather good. Fortunately, as the album is finally dropped, it seems that the band has gone back to their more familiar style. The moment Heavenly Punishment kicks off, one is brought back to that unmistakable sound of Galneryus. The high-octane speed that the band goes at is perfectly fused with the melody of the lines unleashed by Syu, often with a rather symphonic backing by the keyboards of Yuhki. Masatoshi’s vocals are on point here, as he hits every note with ease, and is often the means of conveying the messages of hope and positivity to the listener.
While fans of Galneryus often tend to place heavy focus on Syu’s guitar-playing, it is the way every instrument plays a significant role and collaborates that makes Ultimate Sacrifice such an entertaining listen. (On a sidenote, I found Syu‘s solo album rather boring compared to his output with Galneryus.) For instance, there is lots of room for Yuhki to really shine as he keeps up with the pace that Syu and the rest of the band has set with much ease, particularly on his solos.
There is a lot more orchestration on Ultimate Sacrifice. Although already hinted at by that climactic intro with Enter the New Age, these orchestral elements are often infused in their songwriting and music as well. Songs like With Sympathy, with the epic soundscape created by the orchestra, gives one the feeling of catching an epic war scene in a movie, leaving one almost breathless.
And of course, there is that obligatory ballad-y track, this time presented in the form of Wherever You Are. It is songs like that, that present the more sensitive side of the band. The track veers towards a more j-rock territory, and the beauty in the track definitely leaves no rooms for complaint. In fact, I for one wouldn’t complain about a compilation of all the ballads that Galneryus has written over the years, which often at once incorporate sadness, and a sense of hope towards the end.
Interestingly, the tracks on Ultimate Sacrifice are arranged in increasing lengths, from the 3-minute intro track Enter the New Age leading up to the epic finale that is the title track, lasting in excess of 12 minutes. While it certainly gives a sense of building up of a climax, there is the risk of listeners falling off in the mid point as the songs get slightly too long – which happened to me the first couple of times listening to the album. Multiple listens though, one discovers the ingenuity in such an arrangement, as the album does seem to get progressively better as it progresses. This leaves one feeling as though one had to go through some form of trial before savouring the oh-so-sweet fruit – only that the journey itself should already reward enough.
Though it has only been a short 2-year wait after their last album, Ultimate Sacrifice comes at the perfect time for Galneryus, especially for my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of Under the Force of Courage. While one could hardly ask for a repeat of Angel of Salvation, Ultimate Sacrifice does come close enough to be as enjoyable as the aforementioned album.
To re-emphasise my fanboy-ness of Angel of Salvation: