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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.