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If it wasn’t previously evident that Yngwie was heading towards a more pop-oriented sound on his previous album, Trilogy, then it had to have been clear on this album. Having already mastered the art of electric guitar technique, Malmsteen honed his sights on mastering the art of songwriting, rounding out his neoclassical chops with catchy melodies and pop hooks. It worked for Eddie Van Halen, so why shouldn’t it work for Malmsteen?
Sure enough, just as on Trilogy, the result is a spectacular, not to mention less self-indulgent, success. With new vocalist Joe Lynn Turner (who, despite lacking the edge of previous singer Mark Boals, makes up for it with a much stronger, more confident presence) in tow, Odyssey finds Malmsteen cutting synth-laden rock tunes like “Hold On,” “Crystal Ball,” and the borderline glam metal hit “Heaven Tonight.” Considering the sheer volume of criticism against Malmsteen’s ego, his songwriting is surprisingly pure: the main riffs are solid and rarely inflated, the vocal melodies demand most of the songs’ focus, and though he always throws in a blistering solo, he confines it to a traditional bridge section rather than wanking all throughout the song. Even if the title of a particular track slips my mind, I can always recall it just from the opening guitar line, as it usually mimics the chorus melody. Seems to me his critics need to find something to bitch about besides his arrogance: he doesn’t dominate this album and his songwriting kicks ass.
Anyway, top everything off with a strong synth presence (courtesy of the mighty Jens Johannson) and you’ve got yourself a rock solid pop-metal album. But just in case you happen to be a fan of Yngwie’s older, heavier power metal material and are worried about the strong pop influence on Odyssey, there’s still plenty of hard edge guitar songs to be found. The opening cut, “Rising Force” is a devastating power metal tune which Yngwie uses to open his shows even to date. “Riot in the Dungeons” is another startlingly heavy one, and “Déjà Vu” is pretty strong as well. In addition to these, there’s a mini-shred fest entitled “Bite the Bullet” and another worthy instrumental (from a long line of worthy instrumentals) by the name of “Krakatau.”
Also of particular note is the song “Dreaming,” a delicate, expressive marriage of acoustic guitars and keyboards that blows all his other emotive songs out of the water. Joe Lynn Turner delivers arguably his best performance and anyone who retains the notion that Yngwie is incapable of “playing with feeling” after hearing this masterpiece is incorrigibly obstinate.
Fans of impressive guitar technique and catchy tunes have yet another great album worth purchasing.
As a reviewer for Heavenly's "Sign of the Winner" said, there's nothing wrong with taking a formula and applying it with success. Sure, it might seem dated rather quickly, but the fact that Yngwie really didn't do anything new didn't detract from Trilogy or Marching Out and it sure doesn't detract from this release. Sure, there are a couple upbeat and slightly sugary rockers (Heaven Tonight, Now is the Time), but there are also some fast paced cookers (Rising Force, Faster Than the Speed of Light) and we also have two damn good instrumentals that conjure up images of Yngwie erupting with power from playing his arpeggios slightly TOO fast.
One thing is for sure, and that is Joe Lynn Turner can fucking SING. This man has lungs, and while his speaking voice is rather low compared to others such as Jeff Scott Soto and Mark Boals, he can still belt out those high notes with raunchy gruffness. I have no complaints in the vocal department. Yngwie, despite having some drama around the time of this album, still puts out a memorable performance, and does some mind bending solos in "Bite the Bullet" and "Faster Than the Speed of Light", though every song has an incredible solo; those songs just had MORE incredible guitar solos.
The content here is SONGS, not suites, not trilogies, not opii, not instrumentals, but songs, and damn catchy songs. As I said before, if you can take a formula, and use it well to fill an album with catchy songs, then there's no reason we should hold it against you. No matter how much fans will fellate the self titled debut Rising Force, I'll tell you this: I remember many more songs from this album than from Rising Force. Every song on here is easily memorable and you will find yourself humming these songs. They display a variety of moods, from the downbeat (Dreamin') to the mystical (Crystal Ball) to the straight up medieval (Riot in the Dungeon). But they're all consistently good.
This album gets a lot of flak from so called "true" Yngwie fans as being overly commercial. Maybe so, but not at the expense of artistic integrity, technicality and listenability. These songs are 100% solid, even the cheezy as hell "Heaven Tonight". Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
Yngwie and the guys of Rising Force have had a pretty charmed career up until now, blazing away for 3 full studio albums in only 4 short years. This album ranks high among all the albums that Malmsteen has been involved in, but unfortunately, it was the last one that was done with the Johannsen brothers, thus ending the 80s era of Rising Force with the disbanding of one of the most amazing line-ups a band could have.
The one weak link from the last release is gone as Mark Boals has been replaced with Joe Lynn Turner, best known for his work with Rainbow in the early 80s. Though at times he sounds a little bit similar to Steve Perry from Journey, his overall performance is amazing. His high range is a lot smoother and less piercing than that of Boals, and his lower range is also a bit more powerful. Furthermore, although Yngwie has his moments, Joe Lynn Turner is a much better lyricist and his work helps bridge the gap between the heavier music and the lighter stuff.
This album is often smeared as being overly commercial because of the amount of 80s influences that have crept into his music. News flash everyone, THIS ALBUM WAS RECORDED IN THE 80s!!! As to the commercial elements, this could be argued equally as strongly as far as "Marching Out", and "Trilogy" are concerned as they too are quite accessible for public consumption. However, there is nothing in any of these albums, nor this one, that suggests any short-changing of the guitar work in order to increase the fan base. Nor is there anything else to suggest that Yngwie specifically geared this album towards MTV. The only thing that I see different about this album and the others is that the so-called "Winger Homage" known as "Heaven tonight" has a chorus that is a bit too catchy and some fluffy lyrics. This description can easily fit in with both "You don't remember, I'll never forget" and "Fire", both of which were not savaged nearly as much as this one has been. Being one who doesn't rate an album solely on how well it sells (in the positive or negative sense), I will now get to this amazing music.
We have some really amazing fast songs on here. "Rising Force" is by far the best with it's triumphant chorus, dramatic sectional changes, and insane shred fest interchange between the guitar and the keyboards. "Riot in the Dungeons" is a bit less epic sounding than the former, but equally as powerful and aggressive. "Faster than the Speed of Light" highlights Yngwie's amazing playing ability, as well as some rather well placed high notes courtesy of Mr. Turner.
We also have some more mid-tempo works that have some amazing moments. "Deja Vu" has a furious intro riff that I spent many a day toiling with before learning up to speed, matched with some very intricate lyrics. "Crystal Ball" is another mystically influenced track with some similarities to the previous song, but with a more power ballad-like feel, and some neat blues like licks at the intro. "Hold On" is a straight forward rocker with a very memorable main theme, although it does get repeated a bit much, Joe Lynn Turner really sings his heart out on this one and keeps it interesting.
More accessible tunes include "Heaven Tonight" which is basically a standard rocker with a highly catchy chorus, very easy to sing alone to, actually sounding like a slower version of a Power Quest song when compared with today's music. "Dreaming" is a rather surreal sounding ballad which displays Turner's lower range and his ability to tone down his otherwise triumphant vocals, as well as Yngwie's ability to write a catchy guitar line and do some interesting bass noodling. "Now is the Time" is another love song with a more rocking feel, reminding me a bit of "Fire" off the Trilogy album.
The instrumentals on here consist of 2 short preludes and 1 rather amazing full length shred fest. "Bite the Bullet" is basically 1 and a half minutes of crazy shredding to introduce "Riot in the Dungeons", which is quite appropriate in my view. "Memories" is a rather somber sounding acoustic outro that was a dedication by Yngwie to his recently deceased mother. For those of you who get your rocks off laughing at the "Unleash the Fury" audio file that shows Yngwie in one of his less favorable moments, know that that tape was made not long after his mother had died. If anyone here can keep their shit together while someone is anonymously recording what you say after some accident occurs in the aftermath of something like that recently happening to you, then you're a fucking cyborg.
Anyway, the final song to consider here is "Krakatau", which basically does for this album what the Trilogy Suite did for the previous one. It's structured a bit differently, but is loaded with just as many amazing guitar gymnastics, and some rather amazing work in the rhythm section of the band. Unfortunately we don't see the visual of a huge volcano exploding on the cover of the album to associate with the track as we did with the tiamats on Trilogy, because that is the exact visual I get when I listen to it.
This album basically represents the opposite extreme of Yngwie's songwriting. Where on the debut he displayed his love of instrumental music, this one displays his love for writing well structured songs that are highly accessible. This album's accessibility is the biggest negative by the standards of most Yngwie fans, because they like being unique in that they are the few who appreciate great music. While I can sympathize with this a little, why should we care who else listens to the album? If the is worthy of rocking out to, what difference does it make?