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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.