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Honestly, I expected more out of this. I was getting tired of listening to all of his post-magnum opus rock/metal albums (listen to Hangar 18 and then Crucify and tell me you can tell a difference) and I wanted to hear his more classical side.
The problem is, they're not much different. Sure, the medium might be different, as instead of a backing band, he has a symphony behind him. Unfortunately, he still treats it like a backing band. He uses the same tired phrasings he's done many times before and does the same tired lines that he's done many times before. I honestly love most of the material he made up to 1997, and after close examination, there's really nothing to like about the material made after that crucial date. This is no different; there's nothing to really hate about it, either, but no song stands out.
One thing I find distracting about this is that this is too free-form, wankish, and classical in format for the metalhead, but too simple and derivative for the classical music fan. Even being both (I listen to the local classical station as well as my collection of metal CD's), I still have a hard time listening to this. The thing is, when you attempt to make classical music, there's a whole different set of standards and judgments that you have to follow, and Yngwie is making a classical album with the mindset of a metalhead. So what if there are no rock drumbeats or typical rock formats and instrumentations, this is still a rock album, whether Yngwie's fat, bloated ego admits it or not. And when you judge it by the rubric that one judges rock albums by, this is a bland and forgettable rock album.
So when you get down to the nitty gritty, this attempts to be a classical album, but it's made with a rock-oriented mindset, and when judged as either a classical or rock album, it's mediocre. Would it be possible to judge it as both? Absolutely. But there's yet another different rubric to judge this by, and when taken into account, this is STILL mediocre. And this lays at the heart of the matter: it's attempting to be rock and classical, but instead of seamlessly blending the two and combining the best of both worlds, it just carelessly mashes the two genres together, ignoring good taste and inspired songwriting and crassly using it as an opportunity to show off how good he is at the guitar (as if we didn't already know.) When you want to make a good classical/rock album, what you do is write music that is BOTH rock and classical at the same time, instead of crudely laying rock guitar over classical music and hoping nobody will notice the conspicuous lack of inspiration. As such, this comes off as oil and water, a failed opportunity of sorts. I guess you could get this if you're a die hard malmsteen fan, but short of that, you could very well avoid this and be none the wiser. It's possible to combine rock/metal and classical, but Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra in E flat minor, Opus 1 falls well short of that goal, and at the end of the day, like I've said in previous reviews, this is Yngwie doing what Yngwie does, and he makes no effort to distinguish this from past efforts.
Having some high quality neo-classical heavy metal records under his belt, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, the undisputed guitar maestro, decided to please himself with making a record without any vocals, bass guitar or pounding drum beats and not only himself, but his devoted fans as well, who have been contemplating and dreaming on this topic for quite some time. Many bands before him (Deep Purple, Rage, Kiss) and after him (Dream Theater, Metallica) have recorded or played live with an actual orchestra but the key difference in this offering is the fact, that the orchestra doesn't break its very foundation in order to fit into the world of rock music, but it happens the other way - a rock/metal guitarist becomes incorporated into the world of classical music in perfect unity with the orchestra.
The record itself consists of beautiful melodies and shredding solos, but unlike his previous albums on this record Yngwie's melodies shine more brightly and seem much more complex. This can be credited mainly to the underlining of the orchestra. A great example is to be heard in the track "Fugue" where homage to J.S.Bach is payed - two melodies are played, whereby one melody is played by electric guitar and the second by the orchestra and than they reverse them. Many key changes in this song is also something new for Yngwie and add more complexity to the whole piece. The solos are once again full of improvisation but this being a trade mark of Yngwie's guitar playing one can hardly complain about that.
It's hard to name any stand outs of this beautiful album, I would have to name all of the songs. My favourite would probably be the afore mentioned Bach tributing "Fugue", the victorious and intricate "Vivace", the happily outpouring "Presto vivace" with a great A minor solo riff in the middle or the furious arpeggios of "Finale".
Very interesting on this record is the fact, that Yngwie reuses many of his trademark solo licks to make the backbone of his compositions. If you hear parts of songs like Demon Driver or Fire & Ice throughout the record, don't deem it for anything unusual. Some solo riffs and melodies recorded here are completely stunning, i.e. outro of "Vivace", main riff of "Sarabande" or the two syncopated riffs in main part of "Fugue".
On this album Yngwie decided to go the right way and to serve his listeners high quality music, that will have its place in history. Although nothing for the casual heavy metal fan, this record subliminally propagates the classical music and even I was turned onto great works of composers like N. Paganini or J. S. Bach by listening to this masterpiece.
Yes, you may need to actually have an interest in classical music to fully enjoy and appreciate this album (although since I do have an interest I can't vouch for both sides, but it seems that may be the case with other feedback I've heard). That being said I think this is a perfect marriage between the worlds of classical music and neo-classical shredding, which Malmsteen has always been the master of.
A lot of the knocks against Malmsteen have been that he plays with no emotion or that his albums are just mindless shredding, which I just can't see. The vast majority of his work is very fast, but he never sacrifices the melody or structure of his songs to simply masturbate with his guitar. The backing music is usually underrated, and this is a perfect example of what's behind his guitar being tremendous. The New Japan Philharmonic plays with him, and they complement each other beautifully. Just as many other metal greats have done in the past (as well as Malmsteen), twin guitar harmonies have become standard, but on this release an entire orchestra is replacing the other guitar. The guitar runs he does in this Concerto Suite are amazing, and the violins, french horns and others follow him note for note in many instances which emotes a very full sound. Look at "Fugue," and you see that while not matching Malmsteen note for note, the orchestra trades off with him on certain riffs going back and forth with different melodies that accent each other perfectly.
There's never a moment to get bored with on this album. Every song has a wonderful flow to it and a brand new catchy melody that seems to sprout from something you've heard earlier on the album. The more listens you give this album, the more each track stands out on its own, but their similarities give this album a great cohesiveness.
And remember that the album is called Concerto Suite for "Electric Guitar" and Orchestra, so it's hard for me to grasp the gripes about Malmsteen being front and center throughout every piece. He wrote it all, he can play it all, and he should be rewarded for that. He takes far too much crap for being an ego-maniacal jerkoff as if that's a negative in his music. There's no doubt in my mind that he's exactly that, but to me that's exactly what an ideal rock star should be, someone that wants the spotlight and works hard to get it. When you listen to this album, remember you don't have to put up with the guy while you do it, you only have to soak in his genius.