This album, in its purest moments, truly shreds. Right out the gate, the guitar is just screaming, but a delicate yet forceful scream, not in the slightest bit disorganized, utterly & savagely precise, and then the vocals kick in for a while, and then there’s just a brutal guitar solo, well, not solo, cuz there’s drums and some bass, but it’s muted, you know, and Yngwie is just filleting his instrument of sonic force like a benihana chef looking for not just a promotion but to open his own restaurant, every cut indelibly intricate, every stroke planned out days in advance, the results of which are not only delicious but surprising in their sweet tenderness and unmuted strength.
Seriously though, you know, cuz I was being so inanely comical up until this point, this album is on some norse gods fighting in Valhalla over the last slice of cheese type shit. And you might be thinking, “dude, any hard rock album with chainsaw guitar licks could make such a claim,” to which my rebuke would be to laugh in your face and maybe look upon your visage with something not completely opposite to fear. This is because the truth is a frightening thing, and the truth is that Mr. Malmsteen and his cohorts in this endeavor have discovered something very close to otherworldly rhythms.
This is not to say that the music is inaccessible to the non dungeon master crowd. Far from it. If you enjoy, say, going to the dairy to see how milk is made, and, by the same token, ice blocking down old Mr. Withers backporch lawn leading down into the forbidden gully, either way you have to have respect for and awe of Yngwie’s guitar skills. Part of me thinks, and I shudder to utter it, as I’ve often considered him the best ever despite his death at such a young age, that this is roughly the skill level we would now be seeing from a certain Mr. Randall Rhoads if he had not decided to board an airplane with a drunken busdriver and makeup designer. Que sera sera. That which Randy originated, Yngwie has vengefully and awe inspiringly taken and run with.
Anyway, this is definitely a pleasing album to the eardrums, in the classic 80’s guitar rock sense, along with nods to classical music screened byway of the rock & roll language, and throw in a nice dash of that spinal tap mazes and monster vibe without the banality and self inflicted sarcasm. Van Halen (minus the now shlock infested awareness of itself) meets Black Sabbath (minus some of the legend status) meets Rush (minus the druids and wood nymphs crying in the background) and then proceeds to pillage the village, burn it to the ground, kill all the orcs & trolls and gallop out of town with an authentic Norwegian Smiting sword strapped to its back, the bounty of a persistent battle with passing fads, radio whores, and wistful gazes on soft candles. None of that is permitted nor given relief from annihilation within these walls. Or something like that.
While not a perfect effort, peppered briefly as it is with misguided operatic angst (some of which, granted, work delightfully), the withering, punishing, perfectly shredded licks and “holy shit, what sound(s) just came out of dude’s guitar?” moments blow these piddling concerns away like whales coughing up perverted carpenters. Do yourself a favor and rock it pronto.