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The Animal is Tame, but at Least it's Friendly - 72%

Superchard, November 4th, 2018

A divorce later and singer Michael Vescera cast asunder for committing adultery with Yngwie's wife at the time, Amber Dawn. Putting together a cohesive album wouldn't have been among fan expectations back in 1997. Especially after Amber's mother pressing charges against the virtuoso for allegedly physically assaulting Amber, despite her not baring a trace of injury. The charges were dismissed, bass players were exchanged, (though they're both named Barry; not to be confused for one another), Black Sabbath's Cozy Powell filled in to play the drums, and Vescera was inevitably replaced with soon-to-be Krux's very own try hard Mats Levén. And I mean that in the most positive way possible. Mats may not fit quite as comfortably as his predecessor, but his talent speaks for itself. His nasally, high-pitched register reminds me of Mike Patton during his debut with Faith No More, but with a coarse harshness to it that Patton never implemented. It's exemplified on songs like the regal, melodic progressive rock track "Alone in Paradise", and especially so in my personal favorite the album has to offer, "Another Time", an upbeat old-fashioned rocker with a dreamlike and uplifting quality to it.

Something is off with Face the Animal though. No, it's not the plain simple fact that everyone but Mats Olausson is the only surviving member after the purge after Magnum Opus. It's the songwriting, the more grandiose productions from the previous two albums have since faded and we're left with an album that feels simple by comparison, almost like a return of the old 80's sound of Trilogy in many ways. Yngwie seems to refrain himself from being overtly "extra" on this album though, and much of Facing the Animal also seems to have one eye on the 90's alternative rock scene. Had he not followed it up with a grand scale orchestrated album I'd have been lead to believe that this album would've wound up being a transitional mark in his discography for something more reflective of the contemporary pop music of its era, or perhaps even a little bit before its time in minuscule ways. To give an example, I cannot for the life of me not listen to the song Yngwie dedicated to his newly beloved April Malmsteen, "Like an Angel" and not hear Avenged Sevenfold's "Seize the Day" within it. Yes, it's a pop ballad that's tantamount to the wimpy, sappy psuedo-emo A7X. It's a shame he couldn't have just made another instrumental the way he did for his former porn star wife... at least I'm guessing that's her profession, I've never seen a photo of her in which she's not bedecked as a heathen.

Speaking of heathenry, or animals for that matter, Facing the Animal is just downright false advertising. There's nothing overtly wild about this album, and if we're facing an animal here, it's surely tamed. The album's heaviest track is perhaps either the slow banger "Heathens from the North" or the more accessible speed metal style we've come to expect from Yngwie on songs like "Poison in Your Veins" or the Scottish highland themes of "Braveheart". By no means a bad album though, I am surprised by the fact that everyone who contributed to this collection of music actually made it a full band experience as opposed to Yngwie shredding over half-hearted progressions considering many of the one-timers on this album were quickly replaced by the time had come to produce another studio outing on 1999's Alchemy, with the legendary Cozy Powell passing away only a year later in a tragic car accident. The Greek tragedy pertaining to this album though, is that its best song was left off the original release and only later added in as a bonus track. "Casting Pearls Before the Swine" will truly satiate those who felt the more "normie friendly" tracks like "Sacrifice", "Enemy" and "Only the Strong" were a slightly disappointing step backward following the content of Magnum Opus and Seventh Sign.

As for me, this was my first Yngwie Malmsteen album, and yes, I'm fully aware that this is probably the most odd choice to start, initially being drawn in by the fact that Cozy Powell was on the album. I largely discredited Yngwie as a talented yet obnoxious musician, that doesn't necessarily hold entirely true for this album, but sometimes I think to myself "did the solo on 'Like an Angel' really have to be THAT long?" or "was the neo-classical baroque flamenco tune 'Air on a Theme" really necessary for this album given the context this song is being presented?" After all, this is more or less Yngwie dumbed down to a degree. That certainly won't be a bad thing for many listeners though, especially those who don't consider themselves fans. My analogy for the album is that it's a tame animal, it's a listener friendly album unless you find guitar solos annoying or something. Personally, I think the album has a number of interesting moments even on the songs I don't necessarily care for, such as the overly strained and forced melodies of "Enemy".

Superchard gets super hard for:
Another Time
My Resurrection
Poison in Your Veins
Braveheart

Yngwie's most accessible album. - 99%

hells_unicorn, November 30th, 2006

Throughout the 1990s heavy music was experiencing a dark age of sorts, mired by an endless collection of bands that specialized in grooving rather than innovating. Many in the critical field believe that “Facing the Animal” represents a compromise between the predominant style of this period and his own music, but when one listens to the full collection of songs on here and is mindful of the gradual evolution in Yngwie’s sound that began on “Seventh Sign”, this viewpoint becomes hard to defend.

The structure of the songs have not really changed all that much since Marching Out, as Yngwie has tended away from the progressive pursuits of others whom he has had an influence on. The riffs on certain tracks, particularly the title track and “Enemy”, are a bit minimalist in nature and groove a bit. However, these riffs function more to complement the more harmonically intricate sections that they lead in and out of, rather than fully dominate the song and turning it into an exercise in pure boredom, as was the case with many metal releases in the early to mid-90s.

We have more attention paid to melody and a more measured approach to shredding than was the case on previous efforts. Songs such as “Like an Angel”, “Sacrifice”, and “Alone in Paradise” have highly catchy guitar leads that you can easily hum along with. “My Resurrection” and “Heathens from the North” have signature riffs that are easily picked out from the vast Yngwie back catalog, where certain tracks do become interchangeable with others on previous releases. Even faster tracks such as “Braveheart” and “Poison in your Veins” are easily distinguishable from previous Malmsteen cookers, particularly the former which contains a brilliant Scottish highland inspired lead riff.

If I had to pick one song on here that stands out amongst the rest, which is extremely hard to do as there is so much great music on here, it would be the straight-forward rocker “Another Time”. This song just never gets old for me, be it the highly catchy chorus, the memorable main riff, or the amazing organ solo that Mats Olausson closes off the song with.

One peculiar aspect of this album that aids in its high level of accessibility is the lack of substantial instrumental works on here. The only one on here is the baroque inspired “Air on a Theme”, which closes the album and functions mostly as an afterthought. Unlike such long-winded and shred happy works as the Trilogy Suite and Krakatau, it’s a short melodic number with a simple tune.

The line-up on this album probably carries as much, if not more musical credibility, than the original line-up of Rising Force. Keyboardist Mats Olausson has proven to be equally apt at both lead playing and providing beautiful atmospheric textures as Jens Johannsen did. Barry Dunaway was something of an unknown before appearing on this album, but he gets the job done on here with the best of them. Legendary drummer Cozy Powell (RIP) of Rainbow and Black Sabbath fame puts on the performance of a lifetime on here, keeping up the consistency of the rhythm section and executing every fill-in flawlessly. But the true highlight performance of this release goes to Mats Levén, whose triumphant yet scratchy vocal style is highly reminiscent of the greatness exhibited by Jeff Scott Soto. He ranks as the 2nd best vocalist that Yngwie has ever had work on an album, with Mike Vescera and Joe Lynn Turner riding a close 3rd.

In conclusion, for the metal fan that is not familiar with Yngwie’s music, this is probably the most accessible of his releases (his debut being the least accessible). It emphasizes structure and melody more than any of his other releases, resulting in a more reserved yet equally powerful version of past efforts. It carries some slightly modern elements in the overall production and the rhythm guitar tracks, but this album is as much a rejection of the musical mediocrity that was going on in the 90s as any other release that Yngwie has ever put out.