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Okay, I have to say this right off the bat: I am a huge Yngwie Malmsteen fan. Anybody who knows me well will tell you that. I always have been a fan and probably will continue to be. But this does not mean I do not understand his faults. But when people start to whip them out as they often do, I point them towards the direction of this album.
Coming off of Yngwie's last album "Rising Force"(which is also fantastic), one might think what's left to prove? The ability to write good vocal songs.
You see, although I really do like "Rising Force" the problem with that album is the vocals songs. They are not particularly interesting, and although not terrible, not anything too memorable. And overall, that album lacked balance.
But any problems that were obvious on the previous album have nearly completely disappeared(more on that later). First off, Jeff Scott Soto(one of the best vocalists in this genre) has reappeared with a much more prominent role than before(this time even contributing lyrics to multiple songs), secondly, Anders Johansson is the drummer this time who fits the shred genre better then Barriemore Barlow did, and finally, Yngwie continues to show his incredible talent in a few different ways than before(sure he still uses the harmonic minor scale frequently, and shreds a whole lot, but he explores some different areas as well)
So onto the actual music: The moment you pop the album in you hear a typical intro. Nothing special, but it does set up the first real song pretty well. Then we hear the amazing "I'll See The Light Tonight" with it's instantly recognizable main riff. And this is a perfect example of Yngwie exploring some different areas. THE RIFFS! This album is packed full of awesome riffs probably more so then any other Malmsteen album. The vocals are fantastic, and the drums/bass provide a powerful backup. And of course, Yngwie delivers a killer solo.
This represents the overall mood of the album: Fantastic vocals, powerful drums/bass, amazing riffs and killer solos. Now if you look at the list you'll see there is something missing. Keyboard! With a monster like Jens Johansson as your keyboardist you should use him more frequently which is one of the very few flaws in this album. However he does still get some killer playing in songs like "Anguish And Fear", and "Soldier Without Faith".
Highlights here include the crushing "Disciples Of Hell"(talk about amazing riffs), "I Am A Viking"(nice change of tempo), "Anguish And Fear", "Soldier Without Faith", and the melodic "Overture 1383". The first 3 show off the great chemistry between Soto and Malmsteen, "Soldier Without Faith" shows the band's attempt at a more epic track, while "Overture" shows that Yngwie truly can play melodically.
I really can't complain about anything on this album. It's just brilliant, each member contributes what they need to. Even bassist Marcel Jacob(R.I.P) shows he knows how to be in the backround without being too invisible. The vocals are just so godly on this album as well. And Jens' solos are definitely something to write home about. I also love the lyrics. I guess, overall the greatest thing I can say about this album is, unlike the album before this and some after it, this album really sounds like a BAND, not just one person with people backing said person up.
But enough of the great. What is wrong with this masterpiece you may ask? Well the only flaws(and the reason why this gets a somewhat lower score) is Jens not on it enough and the song "On The Run", nothing too terribly wrong with it but it is not very exciting overall.
So overall, it's an amazing album that may not break too much new ground, but it is so much fun to listen to. And when listening to it you can't help but notice the talent of not only the musicians technically but also songwriting wise(which is a talent of Yngwie's that is often downplayed). It's simply fantastic