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Inspired songs, Godawful production. - 58%

hells_unicorn, March 2nd, 2008

This album had just about everything going for it: great songs, riveting solos, decent vocals, and some of the most passionate lyrics I’ve ever heard out of Yngwie thus far. However, one element of this album all but completely destroys it for the listener, and that is the absolutely abysmal production job on here. The drums are extremely thin and at times so distant sounding that the guitars drown them out. The keyboards are barely audible, which is not a good thing as Mats Olausson is probably my favorite keyboardist to have played in this band. Also, on certain tracks, the lead guitar tracks are so damned loud that they even drown out the vocals.

I have no doubt in my mind that what was done here was 100% intentional, as you don’t put out 10 extremely well produced studio albums and then suddenly forget how it’s done. My working hypothesis is that Yngwie was trying to model the production on this album after a Jimi Hendrix album, as the overwhelming level of guitar sound over other instruments was also a signature of his original guitar hero. However, one will note that although Jimi’s work as a pioneer guitarist are beyond question, much of his original studio material has not aged particularly well with the advent of better recording technology. Furthermore, as Yngwie obviously had access to far superior recording gear at this point in his career, this album can not be judged by the same standard as a Hendrix album.

Be this as it may, we do have some incredible compositional and musical ability on display here. Fast cookers such as “Prophet of Doom”, “Catch 22”, and the title track are loaded with intensity from start to finish. “Prophet of Doom” has a musical quote from a well-known Paganini composition that is rather nicely worked into what is otherwise a classic “Trilogy” era speed metal track. “The Wizard” has the catchiest chorus out of the bunch, in addition to some rather impressive drum work. “Masquerade” also contains some good hooks, although the production is lacking as the vocals are far too quiet and the lead guitar tracks sometimes overpower the singing. “Wild One” is probably the most evenly balanced and well-produced fast song on here, and could pass for one of the better tracks off of “Alchemy”.

Slower tracks such as “Bad Reputation” and “Tarot” are a tiny bit repetitive at times, but feature Mark Boals doing some of his best singing ever, as well as some interesting keyboard devices. “Crucify” is the most adventurous song on here in terms of instrumentation, as Yngwie’s Sitar playing is continuing to advance with each album, and he even brings a Gong in for this one, both of them appropriate as the song has a highly Eastern feel to it. Closing track “Black Sheep of the Family” is an absolutely hilarious Reggae spoof featuring some rather goofy lyrics. It actually reminds me a tiny bit of the Reggae parody of “Casbah” that Axel Rudi Pell did on the “Knight’s Treasures” DVD.

The instrumental tracks on here are probably the strongest of the lot, be it the bass riff driven “Molto Arpeggiosa”, the Baroque era homage “Preludium”, or the classical shred fest “Instru-mental Institution”. But my personal favorite from this album is the ballad “Miracle of Life”, which lyrically among the more personal songs that Yngwie has put out. It has a beautiful acoustic figure that kicks it off, and the vocals are on point the whole way through and are easily intelligible, despite the electric guitar tracks being a bit too muddy at times.

Regrettably, this album is probably the most denounced of releases to ever carry the Rising Force band name, and it is unfortunate because most of the songs on here are quite excellent. If Yngiwe ever decides to remix this material and corrects all of the hideous flaws in the current version, this could rival "Facing The Animal". However, as no such thing has occurred, it can only be recommend to core Yngwie fans (which I myself basically am), and even in that case only at a price below $6. You could have the greatest gem ever to grace the earth, but if you don’t keep it free of mud and grime, no one can tell because it can not be seen.