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This is where it all began.
Grind your axes, raise your Stratocasters, turn up your speakers, and shred till death! I can't imagine how the common toddler of 1984 who just bought a classic guitar last week reacted when this piece of lethal overdose shredding that just randomly popped out of his speakers, forcing him to throw away his guitar thinking,"I'm just a noob who'll never reach this level" and surrender to his future lame-assed career of a fat bourgeois clerk with a fat wife and two fat kids. Hell yeah.
'Rising Force' is a fundamental lesson in how to play guitar, how to compose music of high quality, how to combine classical music with metal. and how to fucking rule this world. The teachers are: 'Yngwie J. Malmsteen' (fret burning guitars, compositions and general awesomeness), 'Jens Johansson' (keyboards wizardry), 'Barriemore Barlow' (drums and brutality) and 'Jeff Scott Soto' (vocals and dinosaur's balls); a top notch team of musicians that perpetuate for YOU some of the best musical pieces ever written.
'Black Star' opens this album with some beautifully arranged classical guitars, leading to a mid- tempo track with dozens of melodic and high-soaring guitar leads. What's so noticeable in this track is the clear mix, the precise accuracy of each instrument, and the beautifully clean sound of the Fenders that Malmsteen shred so heavenly. Yeah, this is undoubtedly an amazing opener and a true highlight. The next song is 'Far Beyond The Sun', opening with a majestic neoclassical theme accompanied by wonderfully ecclesiastical keyboards and blazing drums. This song is just a pure guitar masturbation where each note is located perfectly and sounds brilliant. 'Jens Johansson' joins the shredfest at around the third minute with a highly complex synth solo of his own, inviting Malmsteen for a brilliant duel of synth against guitars. Malmsteen finishes this song off with some thunderous guitar shrieks and rapid scale attacks that will make your jaw drop, your ears sweat, and your overwhelmed mind beg for more!
'Jeff Scott Soto' is present in only two tracks (rest of the album is instrumental) and he's doing quite a good job. He has kind of a dirty yet melodic voice that suits the riffs quite well and his overall character is dominant enough to not let the songs go down. He's a pretty fitting choice for the vocals department, I would say. Now, one of the more epic track that Yngwie ever wrote, a truly epic piece, is 'Icarus Dream Suite' that only by its title you can guess how amazingly this one's gonna sound. The track begins with some power chord strikes that lead to a beautiful hypnotizing preface with cosmic choirs and mellow lead guitar. Later on comes some acoustic guitars with an overwhelmingly catchy riff that leads to another majestic section and then...Malmsteen comes in with thundering lead guitars to prove once again that he is simply awesome. Pure ear orgasm is guaranteed.
Each track in this album is just well structured, complex, deep and full of young ambitions and imagination. I can't remember how many times I've put this cd on, closed my eyes and let this rich world of brilliant notes guide me to fantasy landscapes and imaginary districts that belongs in the fantasy world of Tolkien and his colleagues. Except for being an astonishing milestone in the world of music, 'Rising Force' is also a great influence for endless amount of musicians of our era, and is partly the reason for why YouTube is so full of little Japanese kids with giant heads that manifest extraordinary guitar skills.
Ignore all the ignorant critics or anemic minds that can't comprehend highly complex and fast music. They can talk forever on how Yngwie is an egomaniac or that: "all h3 d0 i$ playing f@st!!". This album has passed the test of time and is officially declared a classic. Get this album, learn it in depth, and enjoy every moment.
One of those few examples of a largely instrumental album that features strong writing and not just pyrotechnic wanking, we witness Yngwie Malmsteen’s first solo offering. First off, you pronounce the dude’s name “ing-yay,” okay? Second, those hip at the time already knew this Swedish meatball from his stints with Steeler and Alcatrazz. Thus the man’s guitar techniques were not unknown, but here they assume full flight. Using a style not unlike that of Ritchie Blackmore or Uli Jon Roth, Malmsteen’s sound is bereft of rock or blues influence, and pushed the envelope for both velocity and dexterity in the maligned guitar shredder category of metal. All of this technique is used to create music with sound compositions, something the majority of guitar geeks failed to manage.
“Black Star” rides a loping pulse, with quite memorable melodic barbs along it’s way. “Far Beyond The Sun” is a likable duel between Yngwie and ex-Silver Mountain keyboard basher Jens Johansson with dandy results. “Icarus Dream Suite OP.4” is as pretentious a title as you could want, but this emotional and brilliantly constructed piece is so well written that it’s 8 and a half minutes seem more like 3. In fact the only real snag is the two vocal cuts, which feature singer Jeff Scott Soto in less than inspired performances. He doesn’t get much help from the tunes themselves, which sound like they weren’t written with vocals in mind. A dry, almost demo like sound pervades, and it’s dusty ambience is favorable to the digital clarity nightmares often preferred for this kind of show-off style record.
From here Malmsteen would enjoy a varied and colorful career, often dotting his records with flecks of the sustained brilliance he reveals here. Guitar worshippers should grab ‘em all, but for those more concerned with quality music uber alles should snag this one first, and perhaps only.
In 1984 Yngwie J.Malmsteen released his debut Rising Force in my opinion it’s his best and most accomplished album to date. Rising Force is also one of the very first neo-classical metal releases. Rising Force unlike the rest of Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s albums is much more focused on the classical side of this genre than the metal. Rising Force takes a lot of influence from the baroque style of classical music albeit with a guitar and other metal instruments. The album as a whole is nearly flawless in terms of execution and really shows how great a virtuoso talent Yngwie really is.
Most of the songs on Rising Force are instrumental’s besides Now Your Ships Are Burned and As Above, So Below (which showcases Jeff Scott Soto’s excellent range and vocal ability). Even for Yngwie the songs are very solo based but unlike the rest of his albums, they are put to great use in adding emotion instead of the more aimless shredding he is known for. Rising Force is also far more melodic than anything else Yngwie has ever done, hence the atmosphere is much more present which really adds great effect to each song. Keyboard use is present and works to great effect on Rising Force it adds crucial atmosphere (it also solos with Yngwie on some of the songs). Each song does something different and really shows that Yngwie should have gone this direction instead of simplifying his songwriting for the masses. The production is top notch albeit it could use a remastering job just for the sake of having a louder more modern volume level.
The band’s performance is excellent on Rising Force each one of the band member’s already being experienced before this release. As said before Yngwie’s guitar work and soloing is certainly at the virtuoso level and is the highlight of Rising Force. Jeff Scott Soto’s performance is excellent he hits the high falsetto notes with ease and really fits the music on Rising Force well. Jens Johansson is a master keyboardist and he is very effective at providing background effect and atmosphere throughout Rising Force. Barriemore Barlow is the low point of Rising Force because he rarely changes his drum beats, barely even uses drum fills, and just provides the beat.
Unfortunately Rising Force isn’t perfect and has its share of faults. Rising Force’s length is too short for this style of metal being just under 40 minutes with only 8 songs. Rising Force’s length would have worked more effectively if each song was longer and the album length was around fifty minutes. As said above the drumming could have been much better but I believe it was more the fault of Yngwie. Slower and more simplistic drumming takes notice away from the drums for listeners and focuses them more on the guitar work.
Overall Rising Force is a landmark neo-classical metal tour de force of compositional and virtuoso talent. The best songs are Black Star, Far Beyond the Sun, Now Your Ships Are Burned, Icarus’ Dream Suite Op.4 (the most epic song I have ever heard from Yngwie), and As Above, So Below. I highly recommend this release to any fan of neo-classical, symphonic, and even progressive metal.
-3 points drum work is simplistic
-2 points album length could have been increased for greater effect
While future efforts will most likely fall into the power-meets-pop metal category, this album (of which most are instrumentals) takes the concept of a guitar solo and builds an album behind it. As you would expect, the guitar playing is very excellent, with a then 21 year old Malmsteen wowing everybody with his striking shredding. And since most of this album consists of shredding, most of it is of fairly good quality.
Not that any of that will interest you, of course. With the exception of Jens Johansson's noodling on the one of the 2 "real" songs (As Above, So Below), I can just see the other 3 bandmates falling asleep at the wheel. Repetitive doesn't quite describe it; it's more that the rest of the instruments' levels are way down in the mix, so really all you hear is the shredding, which is good, but can't prop up an entire album. So Yngwie recruited Jeff Scott Soto to do singing on 2 of the songs, which by any stretch of the imagination aren't really interesting; Soto's performance doesn't match his shattering screams on Marching Out. Nay, this is Yngwie's showcase and he's gonna prove himself beyond a reasonable doubt.
Nevertheless, after the first two songs, I'm fully convinced the man can play. Yet he continues, on and on and on. There are only so many permutations of his basic formula that he can do, and he doesn't even excercise those to a complete degree, either. After "Now Your Ships Are Burned", the first of the 2 "real" songs, the album really doesn't pick up until, well, actually, it doesn't. Evil Eye, for instance, is alright but the main riff is kinda boring and a lot of the soloing is done over midtempo rhythm arrangements and boring riffs, which is exacerbated by the recurring problem that the only instrument that dominates the mix is the lead guitar. That's forgivable if the guitar is doing more melodious arrangements (i.e. syncronisation/harmonising with the keyboards) but when it's just up and down and up and down the fretboard it tends to blot out the commanding melodies. That problem crops up again and again in this album and it really hampers what could've been a good album.
The sad thing is remains to be that at this point, Rising Force wasn't so much a band as backing for Yngwie Malmsteen's gigantic ego. I get the feeling that all the musicians were instructed not to do anything that would steal Malmsteen's thunder, which is a tragedy, because Jens Johansson and Jeff Scott Soto are definately not used enough here. The drums fail to do anything interesting, though that was rectified on Marching Out when Anders, Jens' older brother and a beast of a drummer, joined the band. Barrymore fails to really provide any "oomph" here as a drummer should, especially in a metal/hard rock band.
But again, this isn't a band, this is a solo effort done by a man who was in Alcatrazz and wanted to have a chance to showcase his abilities. Luckily, Alcatrazz failed and Yngwie combined the more accessible approach of Alcatrazz with the more neoclassical underpinnings that make the first couple songs great. Do yourself a favor and download "Black Star" and "Far Beyond the Sun" as those are the only songs here worth your time. The rest aren't necessarily bad, but they're not great either due to the aforementioned flaws.
Just as the Overkill song says, Yngwie Malmsteen emerged onto the musical world and wowed the world with his shredding of the guitar. The virtuoso that he was, he set out to show the world how good he was and his debut is a showcase of that with all the numbers being instrumentals except two with short vocal parts provided by Jeff Scott Soto.
The tracks mostly consist of Yngwie showing his ability with some riffage then going into the shredding and playing numerous arpeggios. Sometimes he does some acoustic playing, like on "Black Star." He also does some more melodic parts like on "Icarus Dream Suite" which features an awesome middle interlude that grabs the listener and is just amazing. "Evil Eye" has a particulary neat intro followed by a pounding guitar riff that emerges and well put together. This is one of the highlights on here.
Yngwie is a neoclassical shredder and it shows. His influences consist of a bunch of classical composers as well as Ritchie Blackmore. It can be found throughout all of the album and at times it is great, but at other times it just feels out of place. Like in "Now Your Ships are Burned" there is a fierce riffage and vocals and then it drifts into some mindless wankery and then goes back into vocals. Another example is "Far Beyond the Sun" where Yngwie is following the drum beat and riffiing then giving a little lead, but then just turns into wankery again with the keyboard coming into play.
Speaking of the keyboard, this happens to be a problem on this release. It has this obnoxious sound when it goes into dueling solo with Yngwie and totally detracts from the overall tone and feel of the album. It is definitly a minus on the album, but would luckily be rectified on later releases.
A couple other highlights found on this is album is "Little Savage" which features an addictive creeping, fast riff then it slows down and Yngwie delivers a beautiful lead and then picks up again. The above mentioned "Black Star" also is a great track featuring the acoustic guitar in the intro and then a controlled, running playing by Yngwie that sets the tone for what is to be heard on the album.
This is a must have for anyone who loves hearing great guitar playing and Yngwie is truly a master of his craft. He would only continue to get better in later releases, but just beware of the awful sounding keyboard. So stop reading this and go buy this now!
Yngwie is probably the most criticized shredder out of all those crazy fellows who play very fast. Malmsteen is very criticized because he "doesn't play with any feeling" and "uses the same scales all over again". Well, maybe he does overuse the A Minor Harmonic at times, but at least in this album, being his first, it's not as noticeable. This was one of the first proper neo-classical metal or shred albums ever; and I believe that it hasn't been dethroned, there are moments of genius everywhere, sandwiched between moments of "fuck how is that humanly possible" virtuosity. 'Rising Force' marks the beginning of the Swedish shredder's career, and it also inspired a LOT of people to pick up their guitars and burn the frets with some shred (well at least it inspired me!).
Yes, this is wankery; complete and pure guitar wankery, but even the most famous classical music symphonies are filled with wankery too! And since Yngwie's instrument is an electric guitar, he has some disadvantage in a way, since you can't put dynamics in a song with an electric instrument as much as somebody with a violin would. We have 'Black Star', which starts with an acoustic guitar, and proves that there are dynamics after all, the little harmonics at the end are a very good example of this. But even then, after the distortion kicks in, he uses a little effect called a Bass Pedal, which Malmsteen uses in almost every album; it's a good way to make the song sound softer, without turning the distortion off.
Everything sounds harmonious, even though the bass and drums don't really do nothing but give a little punch to the songs at times, like a very fast and shreddy bass solo a little before the end of 'Evil Eye', and there's also another one in the middle of 'Now Your Ships Are Burned'. The guitar solos are fucking amazing. There's no other way to say it; Yngwie can shred and there's no denying that, and I would have wished that instead of doing the two pointless vox tracks, he should have just kept the whole album instrumental, and with non-stopping shredding; that's what he's good at. 'Now Your Ships Are Burned' starts with a really cool intro, but the singing is not necessary at all, Malmsteen just plays the same notes the vocals hit, Yngwie's formula to most songs is to put slow melodic passages, accentuated by fast licks, and 'ostinatos' (repeating a phrase repeatedly in parts of the song) which give that feeling of classical music, since this one makes use of ostinatos as well.
The first time I heard 'Rising Force', I liked it; but not enough to be a classic which I hear several times a month. You must let it grow on you, pay attention to every note (and there's a shitload of those!), stay focused on the epic melodies instead of the shreddy parts, since one thing leads to the other, the most obvious example I can think of is 'Far Beyond the Sun', listen to the melody at 2:04, and allow yourself to be moved by the faster parts, while the leads kick in. The sound of the guitar solos is very clean, there are no mistakes or bum notes, it almost sounds like Yngwie is using legato all the time, even when hes picking notes. But 'Far Beyond the Sun' also has that really cool keyboard/guitar trade off solo; Jens Johansson provides some really interesting stuff, but it's kinda bad since he's not used a lot (yeah, that costs this album some points).
But the best track in here isn't 'Far Beyond the Sun', even though I just praised it like if it was some kind of deity or something. It starts loud, with power chords and drum fills; then it becomes soft, elegant and filled with more emotions than a bipolar clown. I'm talking about 'Icarus' Dream Suite Op. 4' (I don't know why he puts those 'opuses' on song names, probably to look cool? It doesn't work!). 'Icarus...' has one of the best acoustic passages I have heard, which follow a very slow guitar solo. It's so amazingly epic, just 8 minutes, and he doesn't shred like a madman all the time; in fact, there's just a single shreddy solo in the middle. Most of it is very slow, with acoustic passages with keyboard melodies over them, or very melodic leads like the ostinato at 4:01, which appears several times during the song's length. After this one the solo starts, and I believe that it's just not as majestic as the other parts of 'Icarus...', however, when it ends, theres more acoustic interludes! Then the song just stops, and the best part comes now--6:40, and we get the best acoustic phrase ever! Then you just wait for it: You know it's gonna come, because at 7:02 we have a melodic passage that...Well, if that's not emotion I don't know what the fuck it is. The song fades away softly, with some little acoustic solos that you can't notice very well unless you turn the volume up.
Malmsteen's debut album is nothing short of a masterpiece in the instrumental/neo-classical metal. But to truly appreciate it, you need to stop focusing so much on the shred parts, and more on the slower, more melodic passages. I assure you that if you do it that way, the fast parts will seem to flow easier, and the whole experience will be much better! You need to get this if you like anything related to guitar solos.
Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Godfather of instrumental shred. Egocentric virtuoso. He almost single-handedly inspired the term "wankery" in regards to excessive guitar soloing. He is many things, but the thing I want to focus on in particular is that he is the reason that we have the mostly instrumental shred masterpiece Rising Force. His guitar playing inspired a whole generation of players, and continues to inspire more, mainly because of this album.
Sure, you can say that Yngwie is an egomaniacal bastard. It's somewhat apparent in every interview and most live footage. But let that not be held against this album. The guy is good, and this is not another soulless stereotype of virtuosic performance. There is feeling in every note of this, even when there's a shitload of them delivered in a short amount of time. The arrangements are complex, the themes are memorable, the guitarwork is inspired; this is long before Yngwie devolved into self-parody and repetition. HIs riffing is just as good as his leads, although the latter is much more abundant on this release. Six of the eight tracks are instrumental, with much of the instrumental parts being rapid-fire shreddery (though his baroque-inspired acoustic work is quite beautiful, despite the annoying flamenco-esque acousti-shred at times). The ones with vocals are just as good as the rest. Jeff Scott Soto is one hell of a singer, most obvious from his unbelievably high wail from the "As Above, So Below" chorus. The lyrics aren't spectacular, but actually aren't as bad as they first appear. They're incredibly generic, but Soto delivers them convincingly enough that it's not a big deal.
Since Yngwie is the focal point of this (and pretty much every other) album, the drums and keys usually get ignored. Granted the drums are pretty standard issue, serving as glorified metronomes for the shredding, but the keyboard work is magnificent. Generally serving as atmospheric enhancement, Jens occasionally pulls out a power metal style keyboard solo as impressive as anything Yngwie does here, plus the cool harpsichord thing in "Little Savage." Don't just listen to Yngwie on this one, as you'll be missing a lot of good stuff.
Just as virtuosic composers from Frederic Chopin to Joe Satriani have been criticized for their emphasis on performance over emotion, so has this album often been slighted. And I couldn't give less of a shit. If there's too many guitar solos for you, listen to something else. You can have your shredding and your emotive playing too, you just have to know where to find it. This is as passionate as it is pretentious, and there's few other shred albums (and just as few prog rock albums) that can honestly claim that.
Yngwie has been something of a lightning rod during his long tenure as a neo-classical metal guitarist who pretty much standardized the shred style of guitar soloing. You can hear bits of his influence in the work of such guitarists as Roland Grapow, Timo Tolkki, Michael Romeo, Kai Hansen, Stephan Forte, Luca Turilli, and a bunch of other guitarists in the symphonic and power metal genres.
This album highlights one of two extremes which the stalwart Viking has exhibited during his career (the other one being Odyssey), that of an uncompromising love for instrumental guitar worship. There are only 2 tracks on this album containing a vocalist, both of which are loaded with enough guitar work to disqualify them as radio friendly. If there is any flaw in Yngwie's music at this point, it is only that it is geared towards a fairly narrow audience, but fortunately for Yngwie the opinions of the masses can not touch the objective greatness of what he has done here.
Each one of these tracks has it's share of catchy themes, although the one that really grabs you is the main melody to "Icarus Dream Suite". Others with moments where the melody is catchy are the introduction to "Far Beyond the Sun", the intro and outro acoustic ditty that opens and closes the album, and the intro to "Evil Eye". "Black Star" is more distinguishable by it's rhythm section, which is very tight and together.
The shredding on this album is relentless, but it does vary from track to track. "Far Beyond the Sun" and "Black Star" have a good bit of interchange between thematic devices and what the Baroque maestros would call tocatta sections (shredding). Other tracks feature Jens Johannsen doing some amazing keyboard soloing, putting him on almost equal footing with Yngwie. This album is also the first example in the metal genre that I know of where the unison lines of guitar and harpsichord sound occur, something which has now pretty much been standardized in many current bands like Stratovarius and Rhapsody.
The vocal delivery on the two songs with lyrics is also a plus. Soto has a very rough and scratchy voice which provides a good contrast to the almost squeakly clean production of the accompanying instruments. "As above, so below" showcases the scope of his range, while "Now your ships are burned" displays a bit less of a wide range but an equal amount of passion.
In conclusion, this is a must have for any guitar player who wants to introduce himself to the art of shredding. It is also a good buy for any fans of classical music who are curious about how Baroque and Classical period influenced themes sound on an electric guitar. However, people who can't handle the energy, or lack the brain power to comprehend anything that goes outside the blues box, don't waste your time. It is said that Yngwie has an ego problem, which is pretty much true. However, this is also true of every person who has ever picked up a guitar and fronted a band (even Kurt Cobain is guilty of this, the difference is him and others like him were in denial). What separates Yngwie from most of the others is that he is one of the few who are actually entitled to an ego problem by virtue of the great music they produce.
Yngwie goes up the scales; Yngwie goes down the scales…
“My name is Yngwie J. Malmsteen and I am here to BORE. YOUR. ASS OFF!’
If you have any interest in the archaic concept of songs please, please disregard the very positive reviews this album has received here and indeed, in the majority of the mainstream press. Don’t let the ‘too cool for metal’ cover fool ya, this is a waste of your time and mine. This is a massive ego-trip by a man who’s ego can only be compared to those true giants of near misanthropic psychosis like Axl Rose, Michael Schenker, and Scott Weiland. Essentially this is Yngwie soloing for forty minutes and damn the consequences!
“I write the songs, I produce the album, I design the cover art, if I weren’t so busy multi-tracking my guitars I’d play all the other instruments, and yeah, that nigh-unreadable gothic text in the liners is mine too!”
Here Yngwie elects to do everything, and outside of the shredding very little of it well. The production on this thing is horrible, particularly on the vocal tracks. I noticed on a first listen that the vocals weren’t very loud, so I turned the volume up a little and discovered the only thing that got any louder was Yngwie. The drums and bass extremely low in the mix and often merging into one time-keeping thump, and (due to the egomaniacal writing) forced for the most part to keep the same beat or to do that ‘stop start’ thing wherein THE STAR solos in the spaces. Furthermore, I’m not even sure if there are keyboards on every song, because if they are they are hopelessly overwhelmed by… you guessed it. There are a few keyboard leads capably if uneventfully handled by hired gun Jens Johannson and these at least are given somewhere near the same volume as the guitar.
“And here is where I pull out my acoustic guitar and then uhh… shred some more.”
I am not just out and out against virtuoso albums in general. I like Joe Satriani quite a bit, Steve Vai is the man, and of course Liquid Tension Experiment is just genius. What I don’t like is the fact that Yngwie doesn’t even bother (or can’t) coming up with anything you’d care to remember. I appreciate the power metal-ness of this release particularly coming out in ’84. but the fact is the two vocal tracks are some of the worst power you’re ever likely to hear, everything hesitant except for, god forbid, the guitar with what seems to be capable rhythm section playing nothing on interest and Jeff Scott Soto doing a limp-wristed Dio (although granted he’s chopped off at the knees by the self-indulgent bastard twiddling the knobs) and being forced to sing simple and lame even for power metal lyrics. Check the rhyme scheme on these, it’s laughable.
“I call this one ‘White Porpoise Operetta in G’… hey, is anybody out there?”
Kids, I defy you to listen to this album and actually be able to recognize a song an hour later. You might think, ‘hey, that’s a cool guitar part’ but literally seconds later it’s just disappeared. Other than “Icarus Dream Suite Op.1” (and I only mention it because it’s on right now) which has an interesting intro and outro acoustic riff, none of the instrumental sections are even catchy. Put this up against “Surfin’ with the Alien” or “Summersong” and watch it whither like the pretentious pap it is.
“I think Rising Force is my least favourite record out of my catalogue, which means it’s only 100 times better than anyone else.”
This album somehow became a holy grail of shred, perhaps only because the nebbish, elitist school of neo-classical guitar aristocracy realised it was something that would take them more than two hours to know front to back. Personally, I feel that the next album from Malmsteen, Marching Out, is actually a pretty good album, an integral piece of power metal history. However, Marching Out is not the album I’m reviewing right now, and most certainly not the album I’m handing a whopping 17% to. Rising Force is the only metal album I’ve ever fallen asleep listening to… in the middle of the afternoon.
“Thank you people, you’ve been great! Well, at least I have.
Wow, is this album completely out there or what. More so than any other Yngwie album, this is just an endless sequence of guitar soloing. There are really only two 'songs' on here: As Above, So Below, and Now Your Ships Are Burned. Contrast this with something like Marching Out, where most everything is an 80s-metal song, except for the inevitable track titled "Opus #83210" or something - here, its all opuses (opi?), except for those two, which are 80s metal.
Pretty good 80s metal, when all is said and done, actually, and the opi are not bad either. Though I am hard-pressed to differentiate between all the songs: the only ones I can readily identify are Black Star and Far Beyond the Sun. The rest of all his works are completely interchangeable for all I care, and that includes this album, the other albums, the album with the orchestra, the random stuff in the live albums, and of course that legendary rehearsal from '83 that I have on video - the rest of the band is standing around, occasionally supplying a rhythm, while Yngwie unleashes Domokun after Domokun.
Well, this album isn't quite as bad as that demo, and in fact it's pretty enjoyable, just don't go looking for 'structure' or 'coherence' or any of that. If you like guitar solos...
OK, so Yngwie Malmsteen does have an enormous ego on a par with his hero Ritchie Blackmore, and he can't write a decent song to save his life if it involves vocals. But damned if this album still holds up as one of the greatest, if not the greatest instrumental metal guitar album ever released. How can you not respect a man who pioneered a whole new style of guitar playing on a par with Edward Van Halen and the late great Randy Rhoads in terms of influentiality and sheer recognizability? This album, as I said, is still a great example of what a great instrumental guitar album should sound like.
"Black Star": That haunting classical guitar intro leads right into the drum fill, then the familiar throbbing mantra of a bassline starts up over rock soild drumming. From its soft entrance to the swelling harmonies that kick in to herald the beginning of the song proper, the guitar on this opener owns. His sweet, throaty tone commands your attention and the melodies are arresting. Definitely one of the most emotional songs on this album, and a great start.
"Far Beyond The Sun": The first real "arpeggios from hell" tune, and it delivers! Full on shred from start to finish, and this song features the first of Jens Johannsson's terrifying keyboard solos that, unlike most keyboard wankers, actually make musical sense and have character as well as staggering chops. His blistering solo exchanges with Yngwie in the middle of the tune show he can hang in the face of Malmsteen's technical fusillade with the best of them.
"Now Your Ships Are Burned": OK, truly goofy lyrics here, but to be fair, Jeff Scott Soto delivers them with conviction in a strong, distinctive voice. And it is redeemed by some of Yngwie's fastest, most fluid shredding on the album to make up for the lyrics being so awful. And the riffing is dynamic and complex, spitting out notes with riveting intensity.
"Evil Eye": Another quiet intro goes straight into one of the best and heaviest riffs on the album, and some of his most unhinged soloing yet. A really nice acoustic middle bit ushers in some more frenzied keyboard/guitar solo exchanges, and it's into a passionate fadeout that seems to say they went on for some time after the fade in the studio.
"Icarus' Dream Suite, Opus 1": Pretentious title, but a nice tune that develops from a quiet and subdued beginning into a moody tone poem that starts off Side 2 of my vinyl version perfectly.
"As Above, So Below": Another vocal tune with, again, goofy lyrics yet strong vocals that make up for that, with Soto hitting some really intense high notes near the end. Quite possibly the best soloing on the album, here, and Yngwie makes the best of his time in the spotlight. Even though the guitar still dominates with arresting harmonies in the beginning and a tricky unison passage with keys and guitar that beings in the solo, and what a solo it is!
"Little Savage": A syncopated speed metal tune of sorts with a neat riff that interweaves with the guitar melody in the verse very smoothly. The drumming is really good on this tune, and the slow middle part with the harpsichord is beautiful! Fades out with wild leads and double kick drummign driving the song to a higher level of intensity just...as...it...ENDS! Arrrgggg...
"Farewell": Too short to be a proper song, but still a sweet ending along the lines of "Black Star" on unaccompanied acoustic guitar.
This album, had I been a guitarist, would have owned my life and made me spend hours in my room trying to cop licks! It still holds up and deserves its rightful accolades as one of the all time great metal guitar albums. You know it, I know it.