Review Summary: Hey, remember when Metallica did a tribute to The Beatles?
For a (very) brief period it was thought that the next big thing after SF's Thrash, LA's Hair/Glam and Seattle's Grunge scene would be Houston TX's Progressive Christian-Metal scene. At the forefront of this scene were King's X, Atomic Opera and Galactic Cowboys and while each band, particularly King’s X, made some excellent music in its own right, and garnered a great deal of praise from critics and peers, none of them ever connected with a wide mainstream audience. The consensus was that mainstream audiences never really "got" these bands. Yes, they were metal in the sense that they had loud, heavy, riffy guitars but they combined these heavy guitars with a whole mishmash of styles which commercial audiences were not used to hearing and were not ready to hear.
Galactic Cowboys' modus operandi primarily involves combining Metallica-esque prog-influenced thrash with Beatles-esque melodies and harmonies. If it seems like an insane concept on paper, it is, and it's often just as insane to listen to. When ‘Space In Your Face’ gets the formula right it manages to combine crushing heaviness with undeniably catchy hooks. Fine examples of this are 'If I Were A Killer' and 'You Make Me Smile'. These songs have all the energy, complexity and heaviness of early Metallica combined with earworm-inducing three and four-part harmonies. Even when they slow things down and write ballads their sense of melody remains intact without veering into cliché by being cloyingly overpowering as seen on the ‘Blind’. The band also shows that it is comfortable taking turns into prog-metal territory with songs like ‘I Do What I Do’ and ‘No Problems’ which seamlessly shift between slower melodic passages filled with spacious reverb-drenched guitars and airy harmonized vocals and equally melodic thrash-outs with the latter song also somehow incorporating harmonica solos into the mix.
However, one major problem is that the band often does not seem to know how to develop a song. While the band’s eponymous first album was much more consistent in its songwriting and the songs were much more tightly constructed, the band loses a significant amount of steam over the second half of this album by failing to develop songs and starts to throw random riffs together and calling them songs rather than trying to establish any sort of rhythmic or melodic dynamics. Initially it seems that they are trying too hard not to fall into a verse-chorus-verse rut but towards the end of the album songs start to sound increasingly disjointed, awkward and jarring. In fact the tracks ‘About Mrs. Leslie’, ‘Where Are You Now’ and ‘Ranch on Mars’ are just downright bad, especially in light of the tracks that preceded them. They’re not only obvious filler they’re half-baked filler and make the band seem like it thinks a few riffs and hooks will suffice instead of actual songs.
Despite this, the band manages to make its point rather effectively at least over the course of the first half of the album. They have a unique sound that is incredible when it works and despite the missteps on the second half of the album still usually manage to impress and captivate. While this album has been generally and perhaps unfairly bashed by critics, this probably has more to do with the fact that it was compared with Galactic Cowboys’ superior debut. However, taken by itself ‘Space In Your Face’ is definitely worthwhile listening especially for fans of melodic hard rock and progressive/thrash metal.
If I Were A Killer
You Make Me Smile