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"The Seventh Sign", Yngwie Malmsteen's 1994 effort, was a welcome follow up to 1992's perhaps too commercial effort "Fire & Ice". While "Fire & Ice" didn't seem entirely out of place in Yngwie's catalog, there's no doubt that his first (and only) album on Elektra was put together with more commercial appeal in mind, particularly in tracks like "Teaser" (and the sticker on the front of the CD was only too happy to announce it as a "hit single").
The deal with Elektra bottoming out, and metal not exactly flying off the shelves at that point, proved to reinvigorate Yngwie's songwriting. Bouncing back to the independent labels stateside gave him more freedom to make the sort of albums he specialized in without having to butt heads with industry suits, and "The Seventh Sign" found Yngwie hitting all the right notes. Vocalist Michael Vescera was a perfect fit for him, capable of handling whatever vocal acrobatics Yngwie wanted to throw at him. Mike Terrana puts in a wonderful job on the drums, and the late Mats Olausson tightens everything up with some really amazing keyboard work here.
The opening track "Never Die" hearkens back to the original Rising Force sound, and seems like it would fit well enough on anything from the first two solo albums. Yngwie bounces into some fun blues on "Bad Blood", and the requisite heaviness is on full display with "Pyramid of Cheops". The production quality is fantastic, and Yngwie has rarely sounded better on tape.
Material wise, if you're at all familiar with Yngwie's output, there isn't a lot here that would sound particularly shocking or surprising. But the feel of "The Seventh Sign" is that it's a good meeting ground between the first two Rising Force albums and more latter-era Rainbow-esque material; some detractors might find problems with that but fans would welcome it. It's not overly long or filled with any unnecessary fluff (a problem persistent in a lot of Yngwie's work), and that fact alone raises this release above a lot of his others for quality over quantity.
While there are certainly better albums to discover Yngwie with, "The Seventh Sign" is a fine album to spin in order to get reacquainted with him; I can't imagine any fans of "Odyssey" or "Eclipse" being upset with this disc at all. The strongest point is that, again, this is a filler-free release with fantastic production quality, and that alone for Yngwie fans is a big bonus.
What the hell is happening to me? Am I actually… enjoying… Yngwie? What became of all those years spent despising anything that didn’t sound like various zoo animals being tossed live into a meatgrinder? WHAT DA FUCK?
I think I can safely blame Judas Priest’s “Angel of Retribution” and fellow GD staffer Inquisitor Generalis for introducing me to it. AOR turned to “Painkiller” and next thing you know I’m trading some random Eastern European blastbeatfest for “Seventh Son”. And before you ask, I have noticed my estrogen levels rising, thank you very much. Just wish these damn hot flashes would stop.
So “Seventh Sign” is power metal to the max. So powerful, your biceps will harden just by looking at the cover. So '80s, your cock will grow long teased locks and sport an earring and denim jacket when you touch the CD. So cheesy, any food item in front of you will be coated in a thick layer of Munster when you hit play. It was recorded in 1994, but we all know the early '90s were just a (hair) extension of the '80s anyway.
And, Jeebus help me, this album rocks out big time. We all know Yngwie J. Malmsteen (which translates to Hater of Donuts) can play the giy-tar durn good. He’s no slouch at bass, either. And his skill is on display everywhere, oozing out of each abused orifice. Songs end when Yngwie wants them to end. Sure, the rest of the band has played the final chorus, wrapped up their shit, and headed home, but the Malman will throw in one more solo, one more flamenco performance, one more sitar interlude nonetheless. Why? He wants to make sure you know he’s incredible and that each fan gets their money’s worth of Yngreatness. Plus, the nation of Japan formally requested four solos in each song. And when Japan speaks, Yngwie listens.
Guitar aside (ha!), the rest of the band seems to perform their duties appropriately, which mostly involves showing up and not hogging all the hairspray. Take a look at his Metal Archives page if you get a chance – that list of ex-members represents millions of dollars worth of beauty products, thousands of Malmsteen bitch-slappings, and millions of yen in royalties. Anyway, the vocalist Michael Vescera has been in some bands himself and knows how to bust out the high-pitched croon that makes mullets stand on end. Mike Terrana, credited with both drums and triangle, played his heart out on both, but was still probably fired as soon as he laid down the last track. And there’s a dude who plays a small Hammond organ – now that’s insulting.
How does the album sound? Imagine putting Poison, Whitesnake, and Winger in a room. The ceiling opens up and urine rains down upon them. As the fruits in question are trying to save their perms, the ceiling opens again and gasoline pours down. Now really vexed and wondering when they can get a salon appointment, none of the band members notice that slits have opened up in the walls and the nozzles of flame-throwers are poking out. Next thing you know, Yngwie’s standing in a pile of ashes and melted jewelry bending his axe strings all over the place with an orgasmic expression on his face.
That didn't really tell you anything about how the album sounded, did it? What can I say…if you like this type of shit, go out and get it. No use to go into individual tracks – there’s something rad in all of ‘em. “Bad Blood” is probably my favorite. Even the power ballad is fun. If you’re like me and think power metal is teh gay and extreme shit is teh awesome, I dare you to resist the power of “Seventh Sign”. For I have failed.
8 sitars accompanied by triangles and tiny organs out of 10.
Originally published at: www.globaldomination.se
The year was 1994, and music was in the dark ages, scraping at the bottom of the artistic barrel. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was being lauded as some kind of generational hero for writing a bunch of primitive songs with unintelligible lyrics and then blowing his own head off. Pearl Jam decided to release the most revolting and anti-musical release ever in Vitalogy, and gained mainstream approval. Soundgarden was watering down it’s quasi-metal sound for more mainstream approval. In the thrash scene, people were in a rather twisted infatuation with garbled and unintelligible vocals meshed with a rather overly simplistic riff style in bands like Pantera and Rap-Core influenced Biohazard.
During this time, despite being ignored by the States and a few other places, Yngwie was poised to make one of the best releases of his career. Not satisfied with the mediocrity and drudgery of the current scene, the maestro of shred and melody revamped his line-up a bit and delivered an impressive collection of high speed riff driven cookers, powerful ballads and mid-tempo rockers. With guitar in hand and his mind on over-drive, Yngwie would musically drive his polished leather boot square up the ass of Cobain and his bastard generation of flannel wearing , pseudo-punk, dirt bags.
The band’s lineup is the first point of influence, as two highly consequential changes were made, which gave this album a good deal of it’s punch. As stated in previous reviews, Goran Edman was probably Yngwie’s weakest vocalist ever, and this album he has been replaced by Michael Vescera. Unlike Edman, Vescera’s voice doesn’t weaken when it gets higher, it gets stronger and is as sleazy and rough sounding as can be. Stand out vocal performances include “Never Die”, “Forever One”, the title track, and “Crash and Burn”. The other dramatic change is the addition of kit destroying drummer Mike Terrana, whose drumming is not necessarily all that more technical than ex-drummer Bo Werner, but definitely a hell of a lot more powerful. All one need do to hear the difference between these two drummers is listen to “Fire and Ice” and then compare the loudest drum work on there to the thunderous boom sound of the snare at the beginning of “Pyramid of Cheops” on this album.
The songs on here are well spaced out on this album, giving it a very natural pace. Fast tempo rockers like “Never Die”, Hair Trigger” and “Crash and Burn are all spread apart well, and although all of them feature amazing guitar and drum work, “Never Die” takes my pick for the best fast one on here, and Yngwie probably agrees with me as this particular track enjoyed a good amount of live play during the late 90s. More rock oriented tunes like “I don’t know” and “Bad Blood” are much more polished than the ones found on the last two albums, and I would actually argue that “I don’t know” has a more memorable riff than “Bedroom Eyes” does, but apparently the majority of fans think differently. The ballads are also enjoying a good amount of development now, as both “Prisoner of your Love” and “Forever One” are seeing a more straight-forward guitar and vocal approach meshed with the Baroque chord progressions that Yngwie has often utilized.
The rest of the music on here pretty much have their own individual character and deserve specific mention. “Meant to Be” is sort of a quasi-ballad/quasi-mid-tempo rocker with some passionate lyrics, combined with a rather strong descending chord progression during the chorus. The title track is easily the most memorable song on here with both the most recognizable main guitar riff, and probably one of the most insane guitar solos I’ve heard out of Yngwie. Vescera’s vocal performance on the title track is also exceptional, particularly when he hits the high notes. “Pyramid of Cheops” is probably one of the slowest and heaviest songs Yngwie has put out yet, even rivaling “I am a Viking”. The sitar intro on this one sees Yngwie’s proficiency on this instrument taking a big step up from the last album. The two instrumentals on here are essentially like night and day, “Brothers” is an electric guitar driven anthem with some great riff gymnastics, while “Sorrow” is an all acoustic composition that is short, sad, and nostalgic sounding. It reminds me a bit of “Memories” off of the Odyssey album.
The bonus track on the Spitfire release that I own is “Angel in Heat”, which features Yngwie doing vocals. Although he is obviously not fit to do lead vox , for this genre, all the time due to his rather deep voice and husky timbre. None the less, he is a good singer, and this song is yet another strong rock influenced tune, most drawing inspiration from Jimi Hendrix.
People often ask me why I think so highly of the Vescera albums, especially considering that Yngwie’s actual comeback to prominence amongst Americans was found on his collaboration with Mats Leven and Cozy Powell on “Facing the Animal”. And the answer to this is simple, “Facing the Animal” was the climax of a very long struggle from obscurity in some quarters to artistic and musical prominence amongst those fans that had been deprived of his presence due to a turn towards musical medievalism. This album, along with Magnum Opus, underscore that no compromising attitude that Yngwie has always had at it’s best, staring down adversity and daring it to try and take him down. People knock him because of his ego, but you know what, his ego is what creates all of this music that most prominent guitarists can’t stop imitating today. Be it master guitar players like Roland Grapow and Michael Romeo, or third-rate hack sweep-pickers like those two flunkies from Avenged Sevenfold, his influence is undeniable. So maybe instead of complaining about his lack of humility when being interviewed, you should shut up and listen, you might learn something about how to create great music.
In conclusion, this album comes highly recommended to fans of shred and guitar driven metal. Traditional fans will find much to like, in addition to more classic rock oriented fans who love hearing pentatonic riffs with a good amount of wah pedal in it. Yngwie has really gotten his act together on this one, and has a fine collection of musicians working with him on this release. Vescera’s vocals were so exceptional that I am currently rummaging the various online CD shops looking for his more recent work with American power metal outfit The Reign of Terror. Enjoy!