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Pioneering Instrumental Shred. - 100%

hells_unicorn, September 14th, 2006

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.