Sound: Yngwie Malmsteen does seem to permanently live on a pedestal in the guitar world, and after hearing his latest album with band Rising Force, it's easy to remember why. There might be naysayers out there who think Malmsteen comes up short on the emotional end of the music, but his new record Perpetual Flame goes beyond amazing riff work and sweeping arpeggios. It's been about 3 years since the release of Malmsteen's last album Unleash The Fury, and Perpetual Flame is worth the wait. The record surprisingly has a lot of depth, and thankfully we don't just get one long, interchangeable solo.
For those who consider themselves disciples of Yngwie, don't worry -- he hasn't eased up on the technical aspect. If you're a guitarist, Perpetual Flame is both jaw-dropping and inspiring. Malmsteen knows how to make an entrance, and the first track Death Dealer is unabashedly meant to impress. Oh, it does. It starts off slowly, with almost an orchestral vibe. After about 20 seconds, the speed begins and the outstanding solo work never lets up. Death Dealer has an epic feel akin to a DragonForce track, and it's that over-the-top vibe makes for a perfect opener.
Malmsteen has taken on multiple duties for the latest album, including bassist, rhythm guitarist, as well as part-time keyboardist and backup vocalist. While Rising Force is essentially driven by everything that Malmsteen plays, there are still some very strong players, including vocalist Tim Ripper Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth), keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater), and Patrick Johansson on drums. It's a solid lineup that is able to keep up with Malmsteen's insane compositions. Although the Neo-Classical Metal vibe is often put on the backburner, Malmsteen weaves it beautifully into the energetic, Iron-Maiden-like offering Four Horsemen (Of The Apocalypse).
Every track stands out as being played exceptionally, but the songwriting is refreshingly inspired on Perpetual Flame. Red Devil delivers a Judas Priest feel (particularly with Owens at the mic), Priest of the Unholy is an eerier offering that often sounds like a metal version of The Exorcist theme song, and Magic City is an unassuming, laid-back track that features a bluesier side of the guitarist. If you're craving the traditional Neo-Classical style of Malmsteen, the instrumental Caprici di Diablo will likely leave you utterly wowed. // 9
Lyrics: While Tim Ripper Owens has the vocal chops to hold his own against Malmsteen, the lyrics aren't necessarily the focus on Perpetual Flame. With songs titles like Priest of the Unholy, Magic City, and Damnation Game, you usually know what to expect in terms of the lyrical content. Don't get me wrong -- the words fit perfectly with what you're hearing musically. With the larger-than-life compositions that Malmsteen composes, it almost seems necessary that there is a bit of lyrical melodrama to accompany it all. // 8
Overall Impression: There is somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Malmsteen for many guitarists out there, but you should approach Perpetual Flame with an open mind. Yes, there are a few songs that revolve around the solo work, but thankfully they are melodically infectious enough at the core. The guitarist does tend to adorn most sections, but it never gets to be a distraction. Say what you will about Yngwie, the new album has given this writer/guitarist the inspiration to take it up a notch during practice each day. // 9