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While everybody fellates the self titled debut, Rising Force, I don't see the genius in it. It strikes me as endless masturbation. This, on the other hand, has actual songs, with smashing singing and stellar performances from other members. It is this progression that I will talk about.
First off, they dumped their first drummer, whos style isn't fit for shred. Anders Johansson, on the other hand, is a beast. He doesn't wank (although his drums in Johansson's Sonic Winter are deadly), but stands tall with a thunderous thud from the snare drum and an aggressive speed metal style. Barlow Barrymore, I'm sure he's good at some other genre of drumming, but speed metal/shred isn't his style. His snare was too muted on Rising Force, and I always got the zzzz's from him. Anders, on the other hand, rules. A real titan behind the kit.
I was disappointed to listen to this album and hear Jens Johansson's signature keyboard oodles and noodles were significantly reduced on this album. Indeed, while Jens Johansson's role is somewhat diminished from the endless organs of Rising Force, it is to include the added presence of Jeffrey Scott Soto, who puts out smasher after smasher of performances, putting memorable pipes in songs with shout-along chorii such as I'll See the Light Tonight, Anguish and Fear, On the Run Again, and Don't Let It End (the rest of the song might be boring, but I'll be damned if I wasn't singing along when JSS went "No, no, no, don't let it EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNNDDDDDDDDDDDD"). The bass, as per most Yngwie albums, is neglected. Boo frickety hoo.
Which brings me to Yngwie. He doesn't surprise me much on this album, but given the impossibly high standard he set on Rising Force (as per technicality), doing the "usual" is only a good thing. They lowered the guitar volume on this CD, which makes his cat screech guitar tone more tolerable, and the lines here are more accessible as SONGS, not random noodlings.
And that brings up the final point. Here, we have SONGS, songs that are interesting to listen to, get stuck in your head, and make you throw the horns. Not random noodlings of a bored shut-in teenager, but actual SONGS from an actual BAND, not Yngwie Malmsteen shredding on top of accompaniment. And because it sounds like an actual BAND here, playing actual SONGS, I can listen to this and not get bored. It doesn't rely solely on Yngwie's shredding, which is nice. Of course, it's not perfect, nor is it really monumental. But it's 10 catchy songs that get stuck in your head, and a good listen for when you're speeding down the interstate going 30 mph over the speed limit, swerving through traffic.