Look at that title. Just look at it. Bask in it. Drink it in. Ponder it. Take your time. This review ain’t going anywhere, sunshine. Now, if you didn’t crack a smile at that title, take two fingers, apply them to your wrist, and make sure you’ve still got a pulse. Such a gloriously cheesy title can only mean one thing: power metal, my old foe. Someone as musically lactose-intolerant as myself typically steers clear of most power metal, but I’m happy to make an exception for a title like that. But more times than not when taking a chance with power metal, I’m reminded why I’m so inclined to give it a wide berth.
Fortunately, Galderia not only made me regret my short-sighted power metal biases, they completely converted me to their camp. Return of the Cosmic Men is a great album: not one without flaws, but one that stands tall in spite of them.
Right of the bat, we’re introduced to the band’s MO: they make catchy, bombastic music with some seriously uplifting lyrics. “Shining Unity,” the album’s first track, is a fast-paced ripper with a winner of a chorus. It’s got the frantic riffs, driving percussion, fantastic vocals and razor-sharp hooks, and even climaxes with a piano leading into the final chorus. No matter how you look at it, it’s a great track, and being the big lyrics guy that I am, I can’t help but be enamoured with the heartwarming lyrics about brotherly love and affection. I’m a softy, I know. Just don’t let my editor know. Weakness is frowned upon at IMV [ed. note: not true. Weakling is one of my favorite black metal bands].
The follow up track is just as good. “Blue Aura” features a stellar performance from the lead vocalist, known only as “Seb”(according to the Encyclopedia Metallum hive mind). It’s after this song, however, that we hit our first speed bump, though thankfully, this one’s minor. “Living Forevermore” is the band’s first attempt at a power ballad. Some bands just aren’t meant to write power ballads, not everyone can be Avenged Sevenfold [ed. note: for which we are all thankful] (I’m gonna get fifty lashes in the IMV correctional facility for that one) [ed. note: nah - we just won’t feed you for another week]. and I wish Galderia would stick to what they’re good at: massive, catchy choruses and delicious leads/solos. I’ll give “Living Forevermore” a pass because it does eventually pick up, but it’s symbolic of a larger problem on Return of the Cosmic Men.
Fortunately, after “Living Forevermore” we’re treated to another great one-two punch in the form of “High Up in the Air” and “Celestial Harmony,” the former being an infectious, dance-worthy number, and the latter being one of my favourite songs of the year. Let’s face it, we live in tumultuous times, so the song’s chorus of “On our way to better days/Still we write in the sky, wanderers/We believe in love again” is a much-needed breath of fresh air amongst all the doom and gloom. It’s just a happy, hopeful piece of art all about love, and while cheesy, it’s something that’s pretty nice to hear nowadays.
Unfortunately, what comes next, is not. “Wake up the World” is power ballad attempt number two. This time, however, there’s no flashy midsection to save it. It goes on far too long, and doesn’t reach the emotional high points it’s supposed to, especially not after the corny beauty of the track that came before it. Again, though, momentum is restored by the following track, “Legions of Light.” If you thought to yourself “boy, I hope this track has a super catchy chorus, we haven’t had enough of those yet,” you won’t be disappointed. It’s one of the most fun songs on the album, and aside from “Celestial Harmony,” it’s the one I’ve found myself replaying most. Gang vocals, slick riffs and entertaining solos dominate this song, and it makes for an empowering listen, and I almost wish it were a minute or two longer, something I never thought I’d ever say about a power metal song.
After the title track, we’re “treated” to “Pilgrim of Love.” Its vague-cowboy/outlaw feel is so out of place it’s almost laughable. It’s an alright song when taken for what it is, but it simply doesn’t fit with the rest of the album, and makes for an odd conclusion to a disjointed album.
Considering the amount of criticism I’ve leveled against it, I was fully prepared to give Return of the Cosmic Men a B-. But then I realized, that would be extremely unfair of me. I’ve had ridiculous amounts of fun with this album, and if I’m honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up putting it on my year-end list. It’s an undeniably flawed album… but I can’t think of a single release this year that’s been this fucking fun, and it even made me rethink my stance on power metal. I’m awarding this album a loose A-. Your mileage may vary, but after much deliberation with myself, I wouldn’t feel justified giving it any other grade.
You can purchase Return of the Cosmic Men from Massacre Records’ website.