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After all the drama surrounding Yngwie's life at this point, his mother's death, his recovery from arm damage in a serious car accident, and alot of tumult in his personal life and some shifting of the guard within the line-up of his band. Eager to get back in the saddle, the maestro of shred bounced back with an amazing album and then this priceless gem of a live album.
One thing has been certain from the very beginning, Yngwie is a player whom thrives on stage, to the point where it's hard to tell when your listening to a studio job or a live show (save perhaps the cheers of the audience). Although his showmanship can not be viewed visually on this recording, there are plenty of indicators through the way the leads are played and the reactions of the crowd to suggest that Yngwie is flying on air.
The first thing that one must consider when dealing with a live album is what is different from what is observed in the studio releases. In this case, the instrumental works are the primary contrast. The substitution of the top guitar harmony part in "Black Star" with a lead synth ambience is a nice touch, as are the various structural changes that shortened the duration of this composition. "Far Beyond the Sun" displays Yngwie's amazing ability to re-work his own melodies through on the spot improvisation over common practice harmonic progressions. When he says he trained himself by improvising over Paganini's 24 Caprices, this performance makes me a believer. "The Trilogy Suite" has been combined with another of his works titled "Spasebo Blues", which displays his versatility as a classically influenced and rock influenced performer.
The other difference in this performance from the studio work is that all of the "Trilogy" songs are sung by Joe Lynn Turner. Suffice to say, although Turner has a lower natural range than Mark Boals, he handles the screams much better. He gives stand out performances on both "Liar" and "Queen in Love". If he had sung on the studio album that these songs came from, I could have given that album a higher rating.
All of the "Odyssey" songs are well done also. Yngwie's solos are a bit more energetic, as are Jens Johannsen's synth solos. But I must say that the increased rawness that Joe Lynn Turner's voice has on these songs give it a needed contrast from the polished studio versions. If I had to pick a favorite song from the 4th studio album on this performance, it would have to be "Dreaming". In addition to the amazing vocal performance on here, we are treated to a short acoustic guitar rendition of Bach's Little Fugue in G minor. This work would appear again on Yngwie's latest studio album "Unleash the Fury" as a guitar duet.
There is one weak link on this performance however, and that is the Jimi Hendrix cover that Yngwie selected to close this show with. I'm sorry, but this is probably my least favorite Jimi Hendrix song of all time. "Manic Depression" or maybe "Voodoo Child" would have been a much more affective closer. But in all fairness, Yngwie pulls it off well and gives us some great pentatonic work.
In conclusion, this is an essential live album for the shred metal faithful. It rivals any performance put forth by Eddie Van Halen, Stever Vai, and perhaps even Joe Satriani. Although I am partial to his more recent 1998 performance "Yngwie Malmsteen Live", this is an amazing performance that I keep coming back to again and again.
It was the late eighties, Yngwie Malmsteen had just conquered the world. His best selling and most commercial album had just been released and he now embarked on a world tour. After conquering the world, there was only two things to do; release a greatest hits compilation and release a live album. The latter of the two options was taken, while a compilation would be on the menu in the near future.
''Trial by Fire'' starts off with a bang (literally when the pyro kicks in) with the great song from ''Trilogy'', ''Liar''. Joe Lynn Turner provides a great shriek right off the bat when he belts out a Halford like "LI-AAAAARRRRR!!!". This is a great song, one of Yngwie Malmsteen's best and it is played flawlessly and very fast. The guitar God provides a godly solo like in all the other tracks. Jens Johansson's work the on keyboards for this song is just wonderful.
Next up, we have ''Queen in Love''. This is another great track. A little less heavier then the previous song but still provides great vocals and guitar work. This song very much like the studio version.
''Deja Vu'' is next and begins very well and heavy. A great studio song and it carry's over nicely because this is a kick ass song live. Again, another great solo is provided here but this one is a keeper, one of the best ones off the album.
''Far Beyond the Sun'' is one of if not Yngwie Malmsteen's greatest instrumentals (and one the best ever) and it is played exceptionally well live. This song starts off with a two minute instrumental prélude which includes some nice shredding. Then it hits the fan, ''Far Beyond the Sun'' kicks off to the appreciation of the fans in Leningrad. This song is a little different from the ''Rising Force'' version because the Swedish guitar legend just keeps soloing at some parts. There is a lot of extended soloing going on here. Much appreciation towards Jens Johansson again for his nice work on this song.
Now, we have ''Heaven Tonight''. This is a great track. Much like ''Queen in Love'', this song has a similar sound to the studio version. A good song but by far not the best that this album has to offer.
''Dreaming (Tell Me)'' is a must have. This tune starts off with a beauty of a classical intro. This is the obligatory and almost necessary ballad to slow things down after a non stop shredding session with the master. Phenomenal acoustic guitar work on this song. Even with great acoustic riffs, Yngwie still finds time to squeeze in a couple of electric solos. ''Dreaming (Tell Me)'' starts off and finishes beautifully.
''You Don't Remember, I'll Never Forget'', yes! This mouthful of a track starts off very well and energetically while the pyro kicks in. The mixing of the guitar and keyboard add to this. This is a great studio song but man is it ever good live. Joe Lynn Turner is much better than Mark Boals when it comes to this song. Also, this song contains one of the best solos off this album. The added guitar parts only make this song that is already brilliant into a godly creation. Definitely one if not the best song off the album.
Up next we have the long titled but essentially simple track name, ''Guitar Solo (Trilogy Suite Op:5/ Spasebo Blues)''. Wow! The mother of all guitar solos. If you thought Eddie Van Halen, John Petrucci or Ritchie Blackmore are good then this solo shows you why this guitar virtuoso is a God. The ten minute shredding epic contains the first three minutes or so of ''Trilogy Suite Op:5'' which is played at an incredibly higher speed. The drumming is excellent during the beginning of this solo and during the rest of the album. Much appreciation is given to Anders Johansson on the drums. The keyboard work is amazing as always but Jens Johansson really shows off his talent during this piece. The shredding provided by Yngwie is orgasmic and brings the listener in a state of euphoria. Suddenly, out of nowhere Yngwie starts playing ''Red House'' by Jimi Hendrix. Not only is Malmsteen a neo-classical wizard but he displays his genius by playing the blues, which he does mighty well. "What can Yngwie do now?" you might ask. After shredding and playing the blues there is only one thing he can do, play a classical piece. At the seven minute marque he busts out flight of the bumblebee. Shredding at a 100 mph he shows us why he is a God. In a mater of moments it is over and he decides to noodle around and to solo for another solid three minutes while using pedals to make some great sounds.
''Crystal Ball'' is a great and underrated song, studio and live. It starts off with a two minute instrumental intro capturing the excitement from the audience and showing off (again) the numerous talents displayed by Jens Johansson and Yngwie Malmsteen. ''Crystal Ball'' , off ''Odyssey'' is a very solid track.
''Black Star'' is a great instrumental (only second in greatness to ''Far Beyond the Sun'') starts off with a beautiful classical guitar intro which then kicks in to the creature known as ''Black Star''. This instrumental, like 'Far Beyond the Sun'' gives Yngwie the time to showcase his soloing abilities which he takes advantage of.
Finally, the last song on the album is a cover. ''Spanish Castle Magic'', a Jimi Hendrix original which sounds very good. So good that it's almost better then the original. Yngwie Malmsteen solos beautifully like Jimi did in the sixties. Joe Lynn Turner does a great job singing in a Jimi Hendrix type fashion while making this song his own. This songs does a really good job of getting the crowd pumped and excited for more.
This album's greatness is due highly in part to the fact that all the songs are better played live. This is because most songs are played faster then the studio versions. The solos, the keyboards and the vocals all sound better then the studio versions. Playing live also gives the guitar virtuoso a chance to improvise during solos which he does quite well. Also, the added classical intros to a couple songs only add a sense of excitement when the real song starts. If you are a fan of solos, you will be happy because every song contains a solo and they are good ones too.
''Trial By Fire'' succeeds in one area in particular, the song selection is very strong. This live album was recorded during the world tour promoting the ''Odyssey'' album so it's expected that there will be several songs from that album. There are four songs from ''Odyssey'' (''Deja Vu'', ''Heaven Tonight'', ''Dreaming (Tell Me)'', ''Crystal Ball''), there are three songs from ''Trilogy'' (''Liar'', ''Queen in Love'', You Don't Remember, I'll Never Forget'') excluding the first intense and ass kicking moments of the guitar solo which is the beginning of ''Trilogy Suite Op:5''. Also, two songs are found here from the ground breaking first album ''Rising Force'' (''Black Star'', ''Far Beyond the Sun''). Plus there is one cover.
''Trial By Fire'' provides only one possible disadvantage. The fact that Yngwie Malmsteen almost never keeps the same singer for two albums. The question now asked is, can Joe Lynn Turner properly cover the material from Jeff Scott Soto and Mark Boals. The answer is yes and it is done quite well I might add. Joe Lynn Turner, ex-Rainbow and Deep Purple on his resumé is up to the task of singing classics from previous singers. He does this very well and stands on his own going threw a set of classics and of course, his own from the ''Odyssey'' album. Anybody who would be in doubt of getting this live masterpiece because of the question "Can Joe Lynn properly sing Mark Boals' classic stuff?", the answer is yes and he does it damn well. Besides being able to sing previous Malmsteen singers stuff he can also do a brilliant version of a Jimi Hendrix classic.
In conclusion, this is a must have for any die hard fans of the guitar legend or any new and casual ones. ''Trial By Fire'' provides a great set with such classics as ''Liar'' and ''Black Star'' with new songs like ''Deja Vu'' and ''Crystal Ball''. But lets not forget the insanely awesome guitar solo and the extra soloing in ''Far Beyond The Sun''. The amazing Jens Johansson on keyboards is worth the price of this album alone, his presence is very much felt. The only potential downside to this classic live album is that a couple songs that were found on the VHS are not on here. Songs like ''Rising Force'', ''Fury'' and ''Riot in the Dungeons''. But then again there would have been time constraints so this doesn't diminish the quality from an almost perfect live album. ''Trial By Fire'' is highly recommended.