What’s to say about Yngwie Malmsteen that hasn’t already been said? I mean, the guy has always been a rock star – still is – and everybody, at least in Sweden, knows who he is. Even people who isn’t the least interested in hard rock and metal knows of him. Hell. even my granddad knew of him. Me, I have been a Malmsteen-fan since I first heard his debut solo album Yngwie J Malmsteen’s Rising Force (1984). Back in the day, I missed out on both Steeler and Alcatrazz, but in my book, neither were anything to write home about – without Yngwie those bands wouldn’t have been of any interest at all. All the follow-ups – Marching Out (1985), Trilogy (1986), Odyssey (1988) and Eclipse (1990) – were killers, in my book. Love those records. After those, the quality on the records started to fade even though he did release some really great records later on. The Seventh Sign (1994), Facing The Animal (1997) and Alchemy (1999) are all awesome records, but after those records, Yngwie hasn’t managed to release anything worth of interest, give or take the odd song or two here and there. The biggest problem have been the production on his records. I get the feeling that Yngwie have become jaded and just don’t give a shit how his albums sound as long as he gets to release a shitload of them – quantity over quality instead of the other way around. Now, since the mid-nineties Yngwie has had a thing for being repetitive and in some cases, song-cloning his own stuff. But his constant change of musicians – especially vocalists – has saved the records – the new voices has managed to keep the albums interesting and keep them varied. But in later years, not even a new voice could save his records, things have gone worse with each album after the song wise ok, but production wise horrible War To End All Wars (2000), to finally hit rock bottom with his last debacle Spellbound (2012), an album full of repetitive and recycled instrumentals, poor drum programming, zero production and a lame – to put it mildly – try to act a lead vocalist on the few songs that did contain any vocals. Any expectations on his new give, then? Well, no, not really. If there are any expectations, they are lower than low. In fact, when the word was out that Yngwie would take care of all vocal duties on this album as well, I didn’t expect anything but carbon copy of his last record, production wise. But as always, whenever I listen to a new record, I try to do so with an open mind, even if that is hard sometimes. So here we go.
The album opens with the title track, a track that could have passed as ok if he had bothered to hire a decent singer. I get the impression that he has looked back to the Trilogy album here, but the song is really nothing but a re-write of something he has done a million times before. “Sorcery” is an instrumental and again, he has written this song many times before. Even though the song is ok, I can’t think of one reason why I should listen to this one when there are so many brilliant instrumentals from his past. Then “Abandon”, another instrumental follows. I dunno what to say except than that I could just as well make a copy / paste of what I wrote about “Sorcery”. “Top Down, Foot Down” – instrumental # 3. I’m glad to say that with this one he has finally written something that could make me smile. The melody is catchy and moves at least a bit out of the Yngwie-box. Not that he’s doing something completely new, but at least the melody isn’t a carbon copy of everything he’s already done. A really good song that saves at least one point in the final rating here. “Lost In The Machine” is a heavy piece and I’m thinking The Seventh Sign here, which is a good thing. The song is ok, well at least it could have been with a decent production and even though Yngwie’s full of auto tune vocals sounds somewhat ok here, a decent singer could have bettered it big time. The instrumental “Largo” is Yngwie on repeat once again and this ballad-like tune maybe could have been something if Yngwie had at least tried to make something cool out of it. As it sounds now, no. With “No Rest For The Wicked” he decided it was time for something fast and hard, but unfortunately it’s also a dull, boring and yet another 13 a dozen Yngwie instrumental – yawn! “Soldier”, easily the best non-instrumental on the album, starts out as a ballad, but turns pretty quickly into a fast and heavy tune. Now, this tune pisses me off a lot because it has a really good melody and even though we have heard this before, at least it has something that brings hope. But again, Yngwie’s voice isn’t strong enough even on auto tune and the lyrics are painfully embarrassing – this is a song that had every chance on being a killer, but it falls flat. But hey, at least it’s not lousy. “Duf 1220” is another instrumental, heavy and fast, very Yngwie Malmsteen but completely forgettable and nothing special at all. “Abandon (Slight Return)” is just unnecessary and I can’t see the need for this at all. The album’s closer “Nacht Musik” is a pretty good instrumental with a beautiful melody and some bad-ass guitar playing and yes, this one saves yet another point in the rating.
So is there anything good about this album then? Well, yeah, Yngwie is still an amazing guitar player and there are two decent instrumentals on it and it’s not the plane crash that the horrible Spellbound was. But that’s about it. I just don’t get it. Why does Yngwie do this to himself? Has he stopped caring about his music completely? Isn’t music and guitar playing his number one passion, the thing that makes him click? If so, how can he turn his back on it, how can he sell himself so short? I mean, he must hear that this is a complete disaster. The production here is so amazingly worthless that I’m almost speechless, the drum programming – yes, I know there’s a drummer listed (Mark Ellis), but if there’s any real drums on this record then I’m Leo Fender…) – is just amateurish, to put it mildly and Yngwie couldn’t sing if his life depended on it. His voice is heavily auto tuned, which doesn’t help on bit and his vocals are very low in the mix – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why that is. What Yngwie needs, apart from a singer and an actual band and a producer and a song writing partner, is someone who dares to tell him “no” once in a while, someone to steer him in the right direction, someone to help him not to fuck his career up more than it already is. I mean, it’s quite easy to understand why things are the way they are. No singer, no band, no producer or engineer, Yngwie in a DIY mode equals all the money earned goes right back in to himself and his management (wife). The problem is that if he carries on like this, soon there will be no fans left. This is just tragic – the guy is a God gifted musician, but he has a whole career full of making bad decisions, bad managements and an ego that is clearly too big for his own good. Yngwie Malmsteen is in his fifties now and he could have been huge by now, but instead he hardly sells any records and plays clubs for a 100 people and so on and looks more and more like a has-been that keeps releasing the same songs over and over and over and over again, every time with a worse result than the one before. I really should give up and stop caring, but I can’t. Yngwie’s music – back in the day – means too much for me and the next time he releases a record, I’ll be crossing my fingers that this time he had turned things around. As for this record – avoid!
Other Yngwie Malmsteen reviews:
1. World On Fire
4. Top Down, Foot Down
5. Lost In The Machine
7. No Rest For The Wicked
9. Duf 1220
10. Abandon (Slight Return)
11. Nacht Musik