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Charging at 2/3rd force. - 67%

hells_unicorn, September 15th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2002, CD, Steamhammer

There are few things more perplexing than the inverse relationship that Yngwie Malmsteen's quality output in the early 2000s had with that of most of the European based bands of the power metal revival that he helped mold. It is almost as though victory itself had defeated the mighty Swedish shredder, as his period of exile outside the United States for most of the 1990s had seen him flourish as a songwriter and performer, whereas his attempt to recapture his reputation in the former colonies finds him wrestling with production issues, a likely product of trying to compete with the dominant nu-metal phenomenon of the day to some degree. Malmsteen himself was quoted as asserting that re-appropriating the Rising Force name on 1999's Alchemy after jettisoning it after the close of the 80s was a reflection of that original spirit from said era of his music returning, and the return of Mark Boals as vocalist definitely hinted that that was the desired outcome, but the mushy, muddled mess of poorly mixed instruments that was War To End All Wars reveals an 80s icon who was almost desperate to recapture the approval of his second home with Spitfire Records being a fitting vehicle as it had served several other icons like Dio quite well during said time period, and the Rising Force name as a familiar one from the past.

By 2002 the lineup that was the Spitfire version of Rising Force had completely collapsed and Yngwie had opted for a brand new collection of musicians to pick up the pieces, resulting in the somewhat improved but still highly flawed Attack!!. Perhaps the most significant change comes in the form of newly recruited shouter Doogie White, who originally made himself in the mid-90s as the voice that temporarily brought Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow back after more than a decade in the proverbial grave. His vocal character is fairly similar to that of his predecessor Mark Boals, having more of an authoritative, piercing mode of grit, though White spends a lot less time in outright banshee shriek territory. Then again, the introduction of drummer Patrick Johansson proves almost as significant, as his speed happy, Euro speed/power approach to drumming sees the number of faster songs in the vain of "Liar" and "Never Die" increase to a greater proportion of the album than anything since Magnum Opus. Johansson would prove to be the most loyal studio and live musician in Yngwie's fold since the departure of keyboardist Mats Olausson a year earlier and would play a key role in the Rising Force sound regaining focus.

Being the first of what could be dubbed either the Doogie White or the Steamhammer era of Rising Force, Attack!! is an album that largely lives up to its name and sees some renovation following the previous flop. Along with its successor Unleash The Fury it keeps one foot in the more grooving and heavy era that began with Facing The Animal and it retains a smaller degree of the muddy rhythm guitar, over-loud bass and somewhat distant sounding drums, but it definitely picks up the pace something fierce. With an array of speed metal infused anthems such as the title song, "Ship Of Fools", "In The Name Of God", "Rise Up" and "Iron Clad", it seems that despite the production issues, Yngwie is definitely taking note of the approach being taken by younger adherents to his style such as Iron Mask and Narnia. All of these songs listen well and really drive the point home between pacing and ample doses of guitar gymnastics, but they tend to run together a bit. On the more distinctive side of the speed coin are a couple more nuanced numbers that keep some elements of grooving alongside the speed frenzies, one being a not to subtle homage to Dio's "Sunset Superman" (just listen to the melody Doogie White sings during the chorus for confirmation) in "Mad Dog", the other being a somewhat faster unofficial musical sequel to "Seventh Sign" in "Valhalla", and containing arguably one of the most distinctive chorus sections in Yngwie's repertoire to boot.

As noted before, this album still has itself pretty well situated in the groovier part of Malmsteen's career, and this is mostly where the slightly weaker tendencies in the songwriting on this album show forth. The opener "Razor Eater" attempts to merge a heavy dose of flashy scale runs to one of the more plodding and hypnotic groove riffs that has ever come out of this band, and at best comes off as a far less catchy and more repetitive version of "Facing The Animal". Things get a bit more rocking and old school on "Freedom Isn't Free", which sees Yngwie handling lead vocal duties and attempting an earlier version of what he would do with "Cherokee Warrior" on the next album, and the results are less spectacular save the bluesy guitar shredding. Truth be told, most of the slower material that is found on here tends to listen like sloppier drafts of what would adorn Unleash The Fury, save maybe "Stronghold" which manages to spend a bit less time coasting and a bit more time developing while still largely consisting of that sort of chunky, punchy mid-paced sort of rocking that worked extremely well on "Stand (The)" and "Facing The Animal". Likewise, apart from a rather charming electric guitar reinterpretation of an old J.S. Bach work simply entitled "Air", the instrumental material found on here is generally indistinct and mediocre when compared to the classics that adorned Yngwie's first five albums.

In spite of being an album loaded to the brim with material, the overall impression of Attack!! is of an album that was thrown together too quickly. The lame sounding, pseudo-heavy modern production and stilted mixing job that listens almost like an unmixed demo definitely doesn't help this negative impression at all. Song for song it is fairly decent and with a sound quality closer to Malmsteen's mid-90s material it could have rivaled and perhaps even surpassed Unleash The Fury and traded blows with Alchemy. It's the sort of album that can be enjoyed to an extent while it is on, but doesn't grab the listener by the throat and demand to be heard again and again. It isn't the fault of any of the other musicians involved, as most of this lineup would help usher in the astounding Perpetual Flame about six years later, and there isn't really anything lacking in White's vocals, apart from maybe the melodic material that Yngwie composed for him not fully exploiting his abilities. This is more of a failure to do something consistently that this band's leader had consistently done up until two years prior to this, namely ignoring the trends and making music the same way that he was when telling the mainstream U.S. rock and grunge scene to go fuck themselves.