Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force: Attack!! (Epic, 2003) reviewed by: Vinaya Saksena
|Track Listing1. Razor Eater|
2. Rise Up
3. Valley Of Kings
4. Ship Of Fools
6. Baroque & Roll (Instrumental)
8. Mad Dog
9. In The Name Of God
10. Freedom Isn’t Free
11. Majestic Blue
13. Iron Clad
14. Air (Instrumental)
15. Battlefield (Previously Unreleased Track)
16. Dreaming (Live)- Bonus Track
Sheesh! Some guys just don’t quit; and Swedish fret burner Yngwie Malmsteen is no exception. Love him, hate him or just tolerate him, you gotta marvel at the guy’s tenacity. Two decades and them some into his career, and Malmsteen’s completely restaffed Rising Force is still churning out letter-perfect renditions of the distinct Neoclassical metal that made Yngwie a guitar figure loved by some and loathed by others throughout the world. And although Attack!! boasts a slick recording (by Tom Fletcher, with Yngwie producing and overseeing virtually all aspects of the record’s creation) that makes good use of modern technology, our favorite Strat-wielding Paganini disciple clearly could give less than a crap about sounding current.
Yes, Attack!! is another fiercely uncompromising album in the tried and true Malmsteen mold, with all of the positive and negative connotations thereof (which, of course, depend partly on your view of his past work). Unfortunately, the faults are more obvious, and I dare say, less subjective than in the past. Attack!! unfortunately stumbles out of your speakers with a pair of barely listenable, untuneful shredfests in the headache-inducing “Razor Eater” and the way-too-highly strung “Rise Up.”
Fortunately, these two mistakes are immediately countered by two noticeably stronger tracks in the sprawling “Valley Of Kings” and the rousing melodic speed rocker “Ship Of Fools.” The rest of the album is a very up-and-down sort of affair, with another annoying bit of thrashing and flailing about on the title track, and a pile of pointless melodrama (mostly on the part of vocalist Dougie White) on “In The Name Of God.” On the upside, however, we get a few nifty surprises as the album progresses: The amusingly titled “Baroque & Roll” is a complicated but fairly catchy shred instrumental that displays remarkably savvy use of harmony and counterpoint; while “Valhalla” finds Yngwie finally managing to put a cool song around a title I’m surprised he didn’t use ages ago. The instrumental “Majestic Blue” is just that: a majestic and somewhat blue-sounding (i.e. melancholy) melodic respite from the overwhelming fireworks display elsewhere.
The prize for biggest surprise of all, however, goes to “Freedom Isn’t Free,” a stunningly hip, Hendrix-invoking funk-up with lovably skewed, deep-throated blooze vocals from Malmsteen himself. (Note: I can’t be sure of this due to the slurred vocals, but as far as I can tell, the lyrics on this one have very little to do with the patriotic theme its title would suggest!) Really, this number makes me wish Yngwie would do more stuff like this, as it shows a different, looser, swashbuckling, I dare say FUN side to his musical persona kind of reminding me of his excellent cover of “Manic Depression” on the Inspiration album.
I wanted to like this album. Really, I did (And as you may have noticed, I did end up liking some of it). I have become a devout, but not fanatical Malmsteen fan in just the last few years (after witnessing a superb show he did opening for Dio in late 2000). In fact, his Concerto Suite For Electric Guitar And Orchestra In E Flat Minor, Opus 1 (now that’s a mouthful, huh?) received a solid 10/10 rating from me upon its release, and I still stand by that controversial grade.
Likewise, I liked his last studio album War To End All Wars, and though I haven’t seen it, his performance at G3 has been called a highlight of the DVD recently recorded at the festival. And regardless of my disappointment, this album HAS landed the man a well-deserved major label deal, after years in indie limbo (there’s two bonus tracks on the Epic release of this album, by the way). So I hold out hope that Yngwie is still at the top of his game, and that Attack!! is just a momentary stumble.
--Vinaya Saksena 05.06.04