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Well-Rounded - 78%

DawnoftheShred, August 26th, 2008

If it wasn’t previously evident that Yngwie was heading towards a more pop-oriented sound on his previous album, Trilogy, then it had to have been clear on this album. Having already mastered the art of electric guitar technique, Malmsteen honed his sights on mastering the art of songwriting, rounding out his neoclassical chops with catchy melodies and pop hooks. It worked for Eddie Van Halen, so why shouldn’t it work for Malmsteen?

Sure enough, just as on Trilogy, the result is a spectacular, not to mention less self-indulgent, success. With new vocalist Joe Lynn Turner (who, despite lacking the edge of previous singer Mark Boals, makes up for it with a much stronger, more confident presence) in tow, Odyssey finds Malmsteen cutting synth-laden rock tunes like “Hold On,” “Crystal Ball,” and the borderline glam metal hit “Heaven Tonight.” Considering the sheer volume of criticism against Malmsteen’s ego, his songwriting is surprisingly pure: the main riffs are solid and rarely inflated, the vocal melodies demand most of the songs’ focus, and though he always throws in a blistering solo, he confines it to a traditional bridge section rather than wanking all throughout the song. Even if the title of a particular track slips my mind, I can always recall it just from the opening guitar line, as it usually mimics the chorus melody. Seems to me his critics need to find something to bitch about besides his arrogance: he doesn’t dominate this album and his songwriting kicks ass.

Anyway, top everything off with a strong synth presence (courtesy of the mighty Jens Johannson) and you’ve got yourself a rock solid pop-metal album. But just in case you happen to be a fan of Yngwie’s older, heavier power metal material and are worried about the strong pop influence on Odyssey, there’s still plenty of hard edge guitar songs to be found. The opening cut, “Rising Force” is a devastating power metal tune which Yngwie uses to open his shows even to date. “Riot in the Dungeons” is another startlingly heavy one, and “Déjà Vu” is pretty strong as well. In addition to these, there’s a mini-shred fest entitled “Bite the Bullet” and another worthy instrumental (from a long line of worthy instrumentals) by the name of “Krakatau.”

Also of particular note is the song “Dreaming,” a delicate, expressive marriage of acoustic guitars and keyboards that blows all his other emotive songs out of the water. Joe Lynn Turner delivers arguably his best performance and anyone who retains the notion that Yngwie is incapable of “playing with feeling” after hearing this masterpiece is incorrigibly obstinate.

Fans of impressive guitar technique and catchy tunes have yet another great album worth purchasing.