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GALACTIC COWBOYS - Long Way Back To The Moon

Galactic Cowboys - Long Way Back to the Moon

Embrace The Hype

I can’t think of too many bands that I have more looked forward to a complete reunion (of original members) from than the Galactic Cowboys. Okay, yes, that 2000 reunion of Iron Maiden was pretty amazing, but we all knew that was coming, right? When GC last graced us with the perplexing Let It Go in 2000, most of us thought it was the end of the enigmatic progressive metallers from Texas for good. And that album definitely left a sour taste in the mouth of many fans – it wasn’t a bad collection of songs, just somewhat disjointed and less than the stellar quality of everything else they had delivered up to that point in time. Fast forward 17 years later (yes, patience is a virtue), and we not only have new material from the band, but original guitarist Dane Sonnier has returned to the ranch on Mars. Yep, that’s correct … Monty, Ben, Alan and Dane are back! And it is safe to say that they have returned, for the most part, to the crunchy, groove-laced, melody-layered metal they made notorious on their first 3 albums. No, this is not Space In Your Face II, but I think there is enough of the original sound present on these songs to put a smile on the face of those fans willing to give them “one more listen.”

One of the greatest attributes of age is wisdom. Those familiar with the early releases know quite well this band never takes themselves too seriously, and they have also tended to focus on the negative experiences in life to drive their aggressive, somewhat punkish progressive metal forward. Instead of going back to high school, with this release GC have decided to impart some of their life experiences in a positive way – these, without a doubt, some of the band’s best lyrics ever. Instead of “feeling the rage coming off of the stage” this album opens (“In The Clouds”) with a very ethereal approach to viewing the world from the more heavenly perspective from above. “You’re high above, where the mind’s at peace, the answers clear, the heavenlies bring inspiration.” “Internal Masquerade” brings back those probing guitar melodies and the upbeat grooves that make your foot tap in joy as the joint melodic vocals harmonies of Huggins and Colvin expose the innermost lies we all believe. “Blood In My Eyes” brings the metal crunch with Colvin’s churning bass driving this song. The catchy Beatle-esque chorus melodies juxtapose the heavy riffs in true-to-form GC fashion on this song, making this easily one of the best tracks on this release. And the bass guitar leads off the “tongue-in-cheek” “Next Joke” – a song that really hearkens back to the sarcastic brilliance of the early years. This is one of the faster-paced tracks here, re-honing the edge the band carved out on Machine Fish. “Zombies” similarly has that edgy, almost punkish riff that is reminiscent of Machine Fish. I love the power cymbal crash/power chord bursts throughout accompanying these absolutely “sing-along” choruses – that GC attitude still prevalent with the final vocal cry. This song provides great commentary about the state of our world. As good as the opening salvo, the next 3 tracks demonstrate the brilliance of this band in full swing. “Drama” is that slower, melody-laden, rocker with insightful and scathing lyrics that just screams Galactic Cowboys. One of the best songs here, at least lyrically without a doubt, is “Amisarewas.” If there any doubt as to where the Cowboys stand in their worldview – check this out. Not only is this one of the best guitar songs, but the lyrics absolutely bleed truth. “Am. Is. Are. Was/All that has been done/Be. Been. Being/All that’s yet to come./Thy will be done.” I love how the guitars march through this song in King’s X fashion, and Doss gives us a bit of his groove and flair on drums as well. “Hate Me” is the “in your face” confrontational tune in the musical vein of “Killfloor” and “If I Were A Killer.” A rant against intolerance, this is easily the heaviest and fastest song on the album. Things stay groove-heavy with “Losing Ourselves,” a song that deals with dangers of escapism. “Agenda” keeps the crunch going as well, commenting on how we are all so programmed to the agenda of the way things flow in the world. The title track is a wonderful melodic song that hearkens back to the debut album, and seems to suggest that sometimes we have to go back to our roots (our “ranch on Mars”) – to the place that is our base/our sanctuary – in order to regain perspective in the world of chaos and struggle that surrounds us daily. I love the smooth guitar solo, almost bluesy, that adorns the outro.

Not surprisingly, the token “bonus songs” are quite good. “Believing the Hype” is the band’s way of expressing their frustration (at their lack of more commercial success) while simultaneously jibing themselves. ‘So underrated you’re overrated.” Ironically, they remain, to me, the best metal band that (despite a strong underground following) never really made a bigger impact on the scene. The song lyrics really do tell the true story. “Say Goodbye to Utopia” is a great closer, encompassing everything so appealing about this band. I love the bass-driven break-out section with guitar solo on top in the middle of this song.

Well, what’s missing? Not much. I think I would like to hear more guitar soloing (especially with Sonnier back) and some polyrhythmic and faster paced drumming. There is a definite Machine Fish vibe to this release, this one not as abrasive as Space In Your Face and not as diverse as At The End Of the Day. I think it would be fair to say that many of the songs have a similar tempo and groove. Those things aside, this album represents a glorious return for these guys – a return to their own brand of highly melodic progressive metal. The layout and presentation is first rate and the lyrics have to be some of their best ever. Welcome back to the ranch, Cowboys!

The 2LP vinyl

First off, the artwork and imagery and layout on this set are fantastic. This wide groove, 2LP approach is my favorite, especially with lyrics printed on the inside of the double gatefold jacket. The record sleeves are cheap paper and can easily be replaced with higher quality, static-free product. The records themselves are heavy-weight 180 gram black vinyl. The center labels feature the scintillating artwork of Monty Colvin. These records are flat with little surface noise and really sound great. I give Mascot a lot of credit as their vinyl formats always sound amazing, this one no exception. [Mascot Music Productions]

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