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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.