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From the frying pan...into the fire - 88%

gasmask_colostomy, March 30th, 2017

I'm a little uncomfortable with the fact that the cover to this album appears to be the face of all the Duran Duran members averaged into one, who then stares at you until you give in and have sex with him. Other than that minor gripe, The Seventh Sign is actually quite good. Sure, there are the usual complaints about this style, such as the fact that there is no subtlety to neoclassical power metal (admittedly kind of true), the shredder Yngwie never shuts up (also pretty true), and cheese is spread more thickly than at Pizza Hut, but looking beyond those generic difficulties there is a whole crust to sink your teeth into. However, I'm not going down the pizza-as-review-technique thing again because I already did that with Stratovarius's Fourth Dimension and it's a bit unhealthy to always have the same meal, so I'm going to compare this to a cooking program instead.

Whatever cookery show you have seen before, you can rest assured that they all have one thing in common - excitement. Now, I can't be the only one who finds this confusing, because I know that basically everyone else cooks dull as fuck meals by themselves at home, while the TV chefs have an audience watching them, talk ten to the dozen, usually manage to set something on fire, and barely finish 20 seconds before the time limit. That doesn't mean that The Seventh Sign is a relentlessly fast album because it's not, but the reason for that is Yngwie is not the chef, he's the presenter. The presenter, who talks more than all the chefs and contestants put together; the presenter, who dashes about everywhere trying to be involved in everything that's happening in the kitchen; the presenter, who runs the fucking show. To an even greater degree than on his '80s albums, Malmsteen is everywhere, barely letting a moment pass when he and his guitar are not front and centre, plus he plays bass too. Then again, having watched this kind of show a few times before, we should have known what we were going to get, so the real question is, "What kind of presenter is he?"

As it turns out, he's utterly suited to this kind of show. Yngwie doesn't stop gabbling away into the camera for practically the whole of songs like 'Hairtrigger', 'The Seventh Sign', and 'Meant to Be', not only playing solos as frequently as possible but melodies, licks, and riffs as though they were also solos. Sometimes it's slightly obnoxious, such as when Michael Vescera (vocals) is trying to explain how important the concoction of spices are in the verses of 'Bad Blood' while Malmsteen is keeping up a running monologue at his side, though we are also reminded that he's an expert in the field when the camera turns away from the chef and we get demonstrative proof that our presenter is a master of the frying pan (by which I obviously mean he plays an awesome guitar solo). Aside from Vescera's great addition to the show with dishes such as the simple yet satisfying 'I Don't Know', the moreish 'Bad Blood', and the slowly growing flavours of 'Prisoner of Your Love', the other chefs take up less time despite adding their own expertise to proceedings. Mike Terrana (drums) is great at chopping vegetables, as proven by his nimble fingers on the faster likes of 'Never Die', while 'Pyramid of Cheops' sees him make a greater impact with the slow pounding of the meat cleaver. However, Mats Olausson (keyboards) is relegated to washing the dishes every now and then, even if his classical methods are called upon to bring a certain degree of sophistication to 'Forever One' and 'Brothers', also saving those recipes from being dominated by one strong flavour.

In terms of the dishes created during the program, Yngwie has something to say about them all and drives the assembled talents on to more fanciful and extravagant efforts. The assortment of different tastes are varied enough to please most palettes, including a fusion of modern and old-fashioned Germanic influences in 'Crash and Burn' (Bach and Helloween, give or take), Mediterranean cuisine on 'Forever One' and 'Sorrow' (that would be the Spanish guitar), some near-Eastern spice in 'Pyramid of Cheops' (sitar in an Egyptian song?) and some simpler bites for the general consumer with the likes of 'Meant to Be' (hard rock, like a fat hamburger). While watching, I hunger most for the freshness of 'Bad Blood', the strong bite of 'Pyramid of Cheops', and the snack 'Hairtrigger' that bursts with flavour, though I suppose that 'Never Die' whets my appetite just fine too.

For those of you totally confused about why I've been talking about food for the last 500 words (or the tl;dr option for you lazy fuckers), Seventh Sign is an album dominated by the slash, glide, and noodle of Yngwie Malmsteen's guitar, though it's enjoyable pretty much throughout. He's inventive, allowing a little room for his three bandmates to play their part, from which Vescera's performance on 'Bad Blood' is outstanding. If you don't like power metal, shred guitar, or cooking shows you ain't going to like this either.