The master of speed, Paganini’s heir, Yngwie Malmsteen has released a new album “Unleash The Fury”. This blazing-fast compilation might sound familiar, yet it gives him ample space to unleash his skills on his signature scalloped fretboard, inspired by a 17th century lute design.
Some in the music community find his style repetitive or boring, but there are many others who swear by his work, and live, breathe and dream Malmsteen. His supporting musicians seem to fade in the background, making it hard for any but the most ardent fan to name them, or track their appearances across albums. He saw much success in the 1980s and 1990s, but more so in markets like Japan, where he is “Ichiban”, or Number One.
He constantly features in those interminable ‘greatest guitarists’, but isn’t given to much self-praise or publicity. Malmsteen’s richly detailed website features the following response in the ‘Ask Yngwie’ section,
Question from Emmanuel Calvario: “Yngwie, I know that you know Michael Angelo was nominated as the no.1 shredder of all times. They say that you and Angelo both mastered sweep picking and economy picking. But they say that you haven’t mastered playing a one note per string arpeggios. Is that true? For you, Yngwie, who’s faster between you and Michael Angelo. Just a direct and sure answer from you, sir. Because for me, you the best guitarist in the world.”
Answer from Yngwie: “I don’t personally know Michael Angelo or his music, but regarding contests and who is faster or whatever. It doesn’t interest me. Trying to determine who picks more notes per second is ridiculous. What is important is the quality of the music and how well it speaks to fans who love it.”
His musical longevity is testimony to his talents and prowess, as well as his seminal influence on hordes of aspiring guitar maestros the world over. I remember reading in a fan-mag subscribed to by a friend, an avid Malmsteen fan, that when he was asked why he did not make any MTV videos, he scoffed at the trend, and noted that he would still be around, and rocking, when Nirvana were dead and gone.
Prophetic words – and now it behooves this review to examine the disc in question – “Unleash the Fury”
The Rising Force band has had keyboardist Derek Sherinian replaced by Joakim Svalberg. The other members are Dougie White on vocals and Patrik Johansson on drums.
The first song, “Locked And Loaded”, like much of the vocal tracks, has a Judas Priest-style flavor, although evaluating the influence is tantamount to solving the chicken-and-egg problem. the song takes off after the first half, with Yngwie raising the pace and keeping it high.
“Revolution” is an unremarkable song, except of course, when Yngwie takes control at the end – nothing unusual though.
From the outset, “Cracking The Whip” is Yngwie-driven. The vocals, too, stand up to the frenzy in this track, sounding somewhat like “Breaking The Law”, and following the same meter.
“Winds Of War (Invasion)” is my favorite song from this album. Beginning with an introspective, gentle tone, every member of the band comes together on this track, from the vocals to the keyboards to the drums, balanced perfectly by Yngwie, who seems to keep pace with the band, rather than the other way round.
“Crown Of Thorns” is a good metal track, and some interesting lyrics.
“Bogeyman” has a different flair to it, a richer sound at a lower octave. Dougie’s voice, too, seems different and inspired.
“Beauty And A Beast” returns to familiar territory, with a frenetic guitar-controlled tempo. This song, perhaps, comes closest to his traditional ‘dragons, swords and monsters’ territory from previous albums.
“Fuguetta” is the first of two JS Bach-inspired pieces on the album. This one, nominally a fugue, is too short to set up and demonstrate the counterpoint necessary for a fugue. All the same, it allows us to experience a different side to Malmsteen, one more in touch with his classical training and passion. His earlier “Concerto” album will be re-released this fall with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra.
“Cherokee Warrior” features Yngwie himself providing the vocals, with a richer and more effective voice, perhaps, than Dougie. Apparently Hendrix-inspired.
“Guardian Angel” is an instrumental piece, with poignant tones. The keyboard-work creates a kind of staccato effect, before Yngwie frames the center-piece in his usual style. Great practice piece for aspiring duos.
“Let The Good Times Roll” returns to speed-zone and will be a real hit on the concert circuit.
“Revelation (Drinking With The Devil)” is a track about Yngwie’s grappling with his personal demons, drink and danger. “You always hypnotize/But now I realize/That I’ve been drinking with the Devil/When I must lift this curse/It went from bad to worse/My overflowing cup is filled again/(It’s hard to tell you no)/…/(Why do you tempt me so?)”
“Magic And Mayhem” is just that, an instrumental solo composition.
“Exile” features a fast staccato opening before a powerful vocal-driven track, one of the few where Dougie truly shines.
“Hunt” is more of the same, with Dougie’s voice totally drowned out by the maestro, good drums/bass work here.
“Russian Roulette” is a classic metal track, humorous lyrics.
“Unleash The Fury” has a different atmosphere and tone. Commencing with the tolling of bells, it layers a sitar track, played by Yngwie, onto his fast guitar-work. Great song.
The album wraps up with another Bach-inspired, all-too-short piece, “Paraphrase”. This is an upbeat number, real fun.
In toto, Yngwie does what he is good at, and delivers an album aimed to please his fans and critics in mixed doses. He noted on the making of the album,
“With Unleash The Fury I was very, very meticulous and very, very particular about what I wanted. I was really involved with everything, including drums — even when to use crash or ride cymbals. It was a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this album.”