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Balance in excess - 85%

gasmask_colostomy, June 30th, 2017

I'm not sure how Yngwie went from hugely engaging cover art on the preceding Trilogy album straight to a kind of undead image of him hugging his guitar, but it's pleasing to say that the music didn't change much in quality, making Odyssey another fun romp through vocal excess and guitar ultra-excess. Personally, I'm much happier with the song-based formula that Yngwie was employing late in the '80s than the purely instrumental music that dominated much of Rising Force, while the neoclassical influences are toned down somewhat to share the stage with hard rock and power metal styles, as well as the pervasive presence of Joe Lynn Turner, who is probably up there with the best singers that have accompanied the guitarist through his career.

I think I mentioned something similar on my review of Marching Out about variety playing a big part in the success of the music, as well as the musicians' ability to hold back being more important when they are going for broke in terms of speed and virtuosity at other moments. Restraint is not quite the word that one would use about most of Odyssey, yet a song like 'Dreaming (Tell Me)' remains at a diverting low ebb for full five minutes, nobody breaking the tension and still proving that these guys had great chemistry. It is of course followed by the shredder interlude and the fast-paced, lead-centric 'Riot in the Dungeons' (which sounds more like a party in the dungeons, but I guess Sweden is a more orderly country than most), though it's better to have a few moments of downtime rather than one long euphoric sprint for 50 minutes. I guess I should explain that I'm a big fan of the euphoric sprints too, particularly the aforementioned 'Riot in the Dungeons' and the majestic chorus of 'Rising Force', though the album is made of more than just those parts.

It's quite evident on Odyssey that this was more of a band album than most of the preceding ones, everyone contributing something worthwhile and having some time in the spotlight. Joe Lynn Turner has a rough, husky voice with plenty of power and is capable of hitting some hellishly high notes when things get exciting, though sounds almost generic on 'Now Is the Time', reminding me of Jon Bon Jovi in 'Livin' on a Prayer' or similar. He has the pick of his moments in 'Rising Force' and the wonderful control exhibited in 'Dreaming', while Yngwie shows his bass skills in the latter song as well as the instrumental 'Krakatau'. Two Johanssons leave their mark on the album, Anders on drums cycling through a range of contemporary (i.e. 1980s) beats and power metal staples that had been picked up about the same time, while his more famous brother Jens does with his keyboards what Yngwie does with his guitar, backing up his occasional solos with some atmospheric lines that set the mood in a manner that shredder material generally can't do. There is nothing cheesy about the keyboards on Odyssey though some of the songs, most notably 'Heaven Tonight' and 'Now Is the Time', feel rather vulgar with their hard rocking drums and hair metal vocal exploits, especially compared with the purer classical and power influences displayed elsewhere.

What I have already stated, though, is that variety makes this an enjoyable listen. I find that I can't get too tired of Yngwie's showboating or of Lynn Turner's raunchier moments, since there is always something to contrast it against, while the album is not too long to drag either. The structuring is sensible: the opener hits hard, we settle into a groove of slightly slower numbers, get a ballad, return to full speed, wander into commercial territory again, and then conclude with the idea piece 'Krakatau', which requires more concentration to explore though is no less satisfying as a result. I do get the feeling that sometimes the songs fail to strike the killer blow, particularly the likes of 'Crystal Ball' and 'Hold On', though that's a feature ameliorated by the fact that the three faster songs, 'Deja Vu', and 'Dreaming' are fairly perfect in this style. As such, this isn't a total winner but Odyssey does plenty to make sure that fans of guitars, metal, or simply good music won't leave disappointed.