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Well, I guess I underestimated this album's quality, I re-approached this expecting it to be mediocre shit with the exception of a few tracks that stood out as I remembered it. But fortunately, I was all wrong, Malmsteen grabbed me by the balls, kicked my ass and flipped me face first into a well of awesomeness as punishment (?) for assuming too much. I was afraid that I would have to give this album a ranking in the 40's or 50's, but nope. Anyway, I'm just beating around the bush, Allow me to dive right into this album.
I notice that a lot of criticism goes to Malmsteen's playing for being "too fast" and "unemotional". But I think that's a stupid and close-minded reason for disliking a guitar player, any guitarist is free to play as fast as they want to... if they can do it, and Malmsteen prevails at this. Saying that someone plays so fast that they can't play with emotion is an invalid argument, it's like saying "David Gilmour plays so slow that I fall asleep before he puts any emotion into his playing, so therefore, he sucks." I'm not saying Malmsteen is the most talented and emotional axeman around, but he's certainly written many catchy riffs and flashy solos to complement them throughout his career.
Now let's talk about the music, there are three instrumentals on here, the opener "Blitzkrieg", the album bridge "Blue", and the epic closer "Asylum". "Blitzkrieg" is an energetic opener and features the Paganini-influenced music that Malmsteen plays so well. I also really like the tone of his (acoustic) guitar, it's very clear and vibrant. "Blue" has a rather bluesy feel to it as well as some neo-classical influences added to it, making it a very memorable instrumental. Think of B.B King and Lucca Turilli co-composing a piece for Malmsteen and you could probably get the picture. "Asylum" is an eleven-minute, three-part epic (on my version, the three parts are separated into three different tracks), and it's predictably awesome coming from a guitarist who loves metal and classical epics and deciding to make an epic that sounds like a mixture of both. It goes from loud and fast neo-classical ("Asylum), to soft and acoustic neo-classical ("Sky Euphoria"), to bombastic and heavy neo-classical("Quantum Leap") all in one song. Although, I must say that the ending of "Quantum Leap" got kind of redundant after a while.
Now let's talk about the non-instrumental songs: Mark Boals is a fucking awesome vocalist, and it shows on "Leonardo" (my favorite song on the album.) He has range, energy, control, and confidence in his voice. Not to mention, he's a male-soprano and can belt out high-ass notes for a really long time, for example: "You know art is my CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURCH!!!" God, I could make love to his voice. He really does breathe life into these songs, at times he sounds like an opera singer who's just figured out how to be metal ("Wield My Sword") and at times he just sounds "hard-rockin'" ("The Stand"). In other words, his voice complements Malmsteen's guitar playing and this album in general. Also, he's also the only singer who could sing a number and make it sound awesome "Seven million, four hundred, five thousand, nine hundred and twenty six." My new favorite number just ahead of twelve (don't ask).
The songs with Boals are also very catchy, it features fast-paced power metal songs like "Playing With Fire", "Deamon Dance", "Hangar 18, Area 51" and "Wield My Sword." These songs are all filled with fast licks and solos from Malmsteen as well as catchy riffs and choruses. After all, what's a power metal song without a catchy chorus? Well, actually, it's a progressive metal song, but I'm going off track. Songs like "The Stand" are one of those mid-paced fist-bumpers that have those balls to the walls performances to complement the balls to the walls songwriting that kept popping up like dandelions during the 80's. It shows that Malmsteen still loves the 80's and wishes the decade never ended. The three best songs on here are "Voodoo Nights", "Legion of the Damned", and "Leonardo". "Voodoo Nights" is a slow paced song with a crushing riff (something that's not too common with Malmsteen) and features a haunting over-all composition. Although, it has one of the cheesiest vocal effects I've ever heard. At the beginning, it sounds like someone's burping, and then it sounds like a villain from a low-budget PC game about "1001 Arabian Nights". It's pretty hilarious, but also very entertaining. "Legion of the Damned" features an absolutely skull-fuckingly awesome riff that's heavy and catchy as fuck with a simple but effective chorus, "LEGION OF THE DAMNED!" I can't stop my head from banging when that part comes up. In my mind, the best song on here is "Leonardo." It starts off with a Gregorian chant in Latin and the rest of the song is based off of that melody. The chorus features Boals hitting an extremely envyingly high note in the chorus, it's a good way to start the album off and gets the listener exited. The lyrics tell a story of the mind of Leonardo Da Vinci and how he thought of questions to express his genius side and his art. It's an amazing song both musically and lyrically, one of Malmsteen's best.
This album is relatively solid, but there are just some minor complaints that I'd like to point out, the production for one thing. I can usually get over the poor production, as it is not anything too extreme, but it does bring the album down a bit. The guitars sound thin, the drums are rather tinny, and the keys seem to be audible whenever they feel like it. Malmsteen has never been a good producer and probably should pay someone else to do it. Also, the lyrics can be really cheesy. At times, the lyrics are really good, like in "Leonardo", it tells a great story that gets the point of view from Da Vinci almost perfectly, but then there's
"Playing with fire, you'll get burned"
Oh, really? NO SHIT SHERLOCK! Are you going to tell me that water can put out fire too? Also, rhyming "stand" with "understand" in "The Stand" is uncreative and lazy.
Even though this album has it's flaws, it was definitely not the shit bomb that I was expecting, so that's a good thing. It features awesome riffs, solos, vocals and an energetic performance and songwriting from the whole band. Malmsteen is a rather misunderstood guitarist and definitely doesn't deserve all the criticism that he gets. Again, it's not perfect, but the album does hold up well. Should you buy this? Why, yes you should.
I have been thinking to do this for a long time and I have read the previous reviews for this album. This was in fact my second album from the Mr. Ego himself. At first I was quite impressed but once I started to dig deeper into Malmsteem’s back catalogue I became absolute bored of this album. It is not anymore in my collection shelf and in the end I am writing this review because I want to say something about it but be fair enough with it as a metal album. I want to cast out my demons and piss off a friend of mine who is nothing but a close minded sodo-wanker moron-in-love guitar player whose suffocation with Yngwie’s pestilence stinks’ every time I am around him. He is a good guy but his excruciating blindness with Yngwie made me hate the guitar hero. As of today I vomit this neoclassical genre because of the overwhelming fingers stunts at warp speed and because of assholes like my friend.
So, being as objective as I can I must say this album has some good songs (3 or 4 top), plenty of good heavy metal all over referring to those songs. There are some serious kicking ass riffs in ‘Leonardo’, ‘Legion of the damned’, and ‘Playing with fire’. That does not mean they are fast because they are not. They are solid and make the songs interesting. Of course the instrumental is what drags this album to shit. Why? Simply: as with ALL Yngwie’s albums he repeats the same shit over and over, on and on to boredom. My asshole guitar friend says he can truly appreciate each album because he distinguishes all different things the guy plays (I say masturbates) on the fretboard. That is of course the mind numb of a copycat guitar worshipper.
Mark Boals does a good job in the vocal department and I really like him. His high pitch is actually really cool and his voice fits the song really cool although in some instances the riffs are a little heavier for his melodic voice (i.e. Legion of the damned).
There is nothing to say bad about the guitar solos. We all know they kick ass and taking into account just the intro for ‘Playing with fire’ well, you can certainly be impressed and enjoy it every single time you listen to this song.
The problems arise just passing this. 1. Take for instance the instrumental ‘Blue’ where Mr. Neoclassical father plays blues. Ok, so far so good, but once you analyze the song you realize immediately that he plays the same thing, the same notes, the same pattern throughout the entire song. This of course made me nauseous by the third time I listened to it. Then I realized listening to more of his albums that he does this hundreds of times through the album, album after album. Thus, this is the perfect opportunity to state: ‘Hey pity learners, I am the guitar god and I am going to show you how fast I can play and technical skills I have, even thou I cannot even write an interesting solo of 3 minutes because, well, I can only play fast’’. That my friends is what Yngwie is all about.
2. This is also the main reason why shredding metal stays reserved only in the underground metal world for guitar players. I am sure Yngwie did not plan to be reserved only for guitar players and he wanted to have success (which he accomplished with his first 3 or 4 albums), otherwise his albums would not be found on regular music stores these days.
3. The difference between being objective about an artist and being a moron who thinks he is the guitar god just because he masturbates the guitar on each album and ‘think’ every album is different is that you can identify a good song writer whenever you see it and certainly this guy is not a good song writer. This is, to put it simple: fucking boring crap by all means.
4. This is the other freaking reason he is no longer a driving force in the metal community. Him burnout with around 3 albums and got out of ideas, and I mean interesting ideas. He can still write good songs but he thinks playing at warp speed makes an album cool. No my friends, that is just playing boring show off that could last for a couple of minutes before you take the damned cd out of the player. Filling in every single inch of space with guitar solos does not make you a good musician; on the contrary, it demonstrates your lack of ability to compose a good song. It doesn’t matter how much classical music you are into, know of or can translate into an electric guitar.
So, I am giving a 50 score because of 10 points for 3 or 4 songs we have that are cool although not heavy metal anthems and the rest of the points because of Mark Boals job on the vocals. The production is, as you have come to expect, not crystal clear (even though this was put out in 1999) but listening to the last album ‘Perpetual flame’ I have come to realize that Yngwie cannot get a decent sound as of today because, well, he thinks that playing fast and putting current famous singers (poor Ripper Owens who felt into Yngwie’s trap) will make a good album. But since this is about Alchemy it sounds good yet not stellar. The curtains have fallen and thank the gods of alchemy, this fucking crap show off is end. I think I’ll go to listen to Petrucci, Satriani or Tony Hernando who are by far good song writers, now that it is interesting. I played with fire and I got burned with this artist.
I find this album impossible to enjoy. It, like its follow up, The War to End All Wars, has some incredible songwriting and blazing neoclassical leads that rip your head off. It also reintroduces some fury into the Malmsteen sound. However, all of these accomplishments are null and void if the production doesn't allow us to hear it properly. The production here effectively ruins the music, pushing the lead guitar WAY out in front of everything else, and with a piss poor guitar tone too. The drums, like all albums after this, are muted and thin, and are in stark contrast to the thundrous boom of drummers like Mike Terrana, Anders Johansson, and even Bo Werner. Thank god the musicianship is still good (unlike the newest turd) and Mark Boals can sing.
This album is a turning point, because it marks a path that would eventually turn Malmsteen's great name into a joke. It started with this muddled production, (which contrasts to the crystal clear productions of albums Odyssey through Facing the Animal,) and then it eventually consumed the songwriting and performance, as Yngwie grew sloppier with each album, and his compositions became less and less memorable. Oh well. While not as stale and embarrassing as his newest efforts (with the horrid singer Doogie White), these two albums I sense are going to continue to be a fans-only affair, as they're not going to make new listeners. For that, you need his 80's Rising Force albums. Those were the real classics. This could've been a classic, too, if the production had been better. Given the direction that Yngwie chose to pursue with this album, it doesn't surprise me that Mark Boals left after the War To End All Wars.
The overall sound of Yngwie’s tenth studio effort “Alchemy” is that of a throw-back, albeit one that covers a sizable collection of past efforts. It is fitting that this release has been the first one since “The Odyssey” to carry the band name Rising Force, because most of the music on here sounds like it could be placed into that era of his career. Even the production of this album sounds like the polished atmosphere that was present on “The Odyssey” (minus the more low toned guitar tracks which maintained the same character that was present on Facing the Animal).
The first difference between this album and the other post “Odyssey” work is the larger collection of fast songs. “Wield my Sword”, “Legion of the Damned”, “Demon Dance” and “Hanger 18, Area 51” are all reminiscent of such classic Rising Force cookers such as “Riot in the Dungeons” and “Fury”. Throughout all of these songs the guitar does an excellent job of allowing the vocals to shine where they need to and then taking command when it’s called for.
The instrumentals in the bunch also carry some similarities with older material. “Blitzkrieg” is probably the most impressive technical display on here and at certain sections reminds of the Trilogy Suite. “Blue” is a blues driven number that showcases the more pentatonic side of Yngwie’s shredding; the background music is a bit more geared towards the “Eclipse”/”Fire and Ice” era of his early solo career. The rather lengthy 3 part “Asylum” suite is cut from the grain of the debut album. You can hear some paraphrased themes from “Little Savage”, “Black Star” and “Evil Eye”.
The newer sounding material is pretty much localized to the slower tracks. “Leonardo” has a nice Gregorian chant line and an overall solid set of riffs, but is a bit overlong. “Playing with Fire” is another amazing technical display, but Mark Boals stands out the most here with a solid vocal delivery. “Voodoo Nights” is an ultra slow and heavy track that features some evil sounding vocal work by Yngwie using a harmonizer. The music is a hybrid of the thematic elements of “I am a Viking” and the heavy atmosphere of “Heathens from the North.
But the true standout track on here is the atmospheric yet groove oriented rocker “The Stand”. Out of all the tracks on here this is probably the easiest one to sing along with, as it carries a very tuneful and simple melody. The guitar riffs are heavily similar to those found on the title track to “Facing the Animal”, but the accompanying sounds and Mark Boals vocals give it a more “Trilogy”/”Odyssey” flavor that alters the character of the song quite a bit. The lyrics are essentially a summation of the plotline to the first 25% of the famous Steven King movie/novel that carries its name. Although this is far from the whole story, the plaque portion of the plot is by far the most metal appropriate and the most well-known of the book.
The biggest surprise on this release, which is the first effort that Yngwie has done with Mark Boals in 13 years (save a few songs on “Inspiration”), is how much Boals’ voice has improved. The high notes are not nearly as strained as they were back in the mid-80s, and the overall character of his voice has matured quite well. Soon after this album came out the lesser acclaimed Malmsteen vocalist began making music with 2 separate solo projects. Both of them are musically quite similar to what is found on this album, so fans of his self-titled solo project and Ring of Fire would do well to pick this release up.
To sum up, an absolutely solid Malmsteen release that will undoubtedly appeal to most fans of his music. Although it is not quite as classic as the debut and “Marching Out”, it is worthy of the Rising Force name. Although it does carry some remnants of “Facing the Animal”, it is mostly geared towards the older style that was present before the Rising Force name was dropped. I recommend this album to fans of shred, power metal, and the traditional metal faithful who liked the “Trilogy” and “Odyssey” releases.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 6, 2009.
When I picked up this, my first Yngwie album, I was quite impressed for a long while. Yes, the lead guitar was fast, lengthy, neo-classical insanity making it clear that Yngwie is out once more to impress and awe with his guitar acrobatics. My only other experience with the man has been the self titled Rising Force album from way back in 1984. And all things considered, that is a much better effort, being that Yngwie's strength as an instrumentalist far outweighs his abilities as a songwriter. Whereas he only wrote two "songs" for that album, the majority of this album is made up of such works. Picking a vocalist who hits a note so high in first proper song "Leonardo" that I wouldn't be surprised if his balls exploded from it. While maybe somewhat cool with amusing overtones when my ears were fresh to this album, I now wince each time I hear it. I also find I scanned this album for the riffs that I remember caught me when I last listened to it instead of sitting through each song to reach the two + minutes of guitar show off in the middle.
Regardless, the album begins strongly with an interesting instrumental "Blitzkrieg" which is once again a 4 minute display of speed and technique. It works well to kick things off having the man doing what he does best at his best. The songs now shift in with their usual problems still there from the polar opposite self titled album. The riffs are somewhat catchy and majestic power metal constructions, but at the same time just have an empty feel as if they're just there because the structure of a song demands it, and then quickly make way for the extended noodling centre of each song. Which leaves the whole thing with a very dry and unispired feel, while catchy enough at first, is quick to start wearing down. The more memorable songs on here include: "Leonardo", "The Stand" and "Legion of the Damned", but even for those memorable riffs and solo sections, those parts still feel very disjointed. "Leonardo" in particular also feels overlong when it comes down to it. There are some more instrumentals to break up the action here and there, with the unsurprisingly bluesy "Blue" taking on that role during the middle of the album. The album also comes to a close with an instrumental trilogy, which survives fine for the first two parts working once again in Yngwie's favour. But with the last part, it feels like it should just explode into more untamed neo-classical stylings any second but instead never comes to fruition and just well, ends!
This was an album I was initially very fond of and played a lot, but as I did so it started to reveal its flaws slowly until I can't help but give a pretty disappointing review now. Nevertheless, as the instrumental neo-classical guitar rock Yngwie is famed for is still here and in fine form, this album does have some pretty high moments, but for those craving more, the self titled Rising Force album is the place to go for that.