Review Summary: A landmark record that paved the way for the shredders of today.
After Yngwie Malmsteen sent out demos from his homeland of Sweden at age 18, he took the industry by storm and within just a couple years was already the guitar-world equivalent of Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky. He was that damn good. Malmsteen fused Classical music with metal to create something that was off-the-wall and miles ahead of what everyone else was doing. While most axe-wielders were busy working their way through basic phrygian and the pentatonic scales like a fly stuck in molasses, Yngwie was thrashing the entire fretboard with frightening efficiency. It floored classically-trained musicians and mainstream rockers alike. This lightning-fast complex playing revolutionized the way people thought about guitar, much in the same way that Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen did in prior decades. Malmsteen’s 1984 debut Rising Force
shocked the guitar world and left skilled players everywhere scrambling for answers on how to catch up with this Swede.
At this time, Malmsteen was the embodiment of Rock n’ Roll; he was wild, he was arrogant, he was flashy, he loved sports cars and women, and no one could compete with him when he first showed up on the circuit. He was the pinnacle of guitar playing. I once read a comment on a video where Malmsteen was performing live and the stage was filled with fog, where a user commented, “that’s actually smoke from his strings burning out.” Nothing could describe this album more accurately in such few words. Malmsteen’s style of shredding mixed with gaudy bends and vibrato makes for an auditory spectacle that is still impressive today. Nearly thirty years later, Yngwie still has the chops to compete with the young fire-pissers of 2012.
The majority of Rising Force
is instrumental, with the exceptions of “Now Your Ships Are Burned” and “As Above, So Below” which feature Jeff Scott Soto on vocals; Soto’s vocals aren’t great, but again the focus of the album is Malmsteen, so that fault is entirely negligible. Approximately ¾ of the album is performed with a slightly-driven guitar tone typical for the 80’s, while the other ¼ is made up classical and acoustic guitar work. There is also some analog synthesizer work in a few sections along the way that provide additional depth to the songs.
While some continue to hold great disdain towards the virtuoso and his extreme style, Malmsteen’s legacy speaks for itself; without Malmsteen‘s trailblazing, players like Vinnie Moore, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, and Steve Vai probably wouldn’t have released their legendary albums in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (that were heavily influenced by Malmsteen). Furthermore, heavy metal and skillful guitar playing wouldn’t be where it is today without Malmsteen and the men who quickly followed suit, which is why Rising Force
is such a landmark work in the genre.
isn’t about what a superb songwriter Malmsteen is; it’s a testament to human ingenuity and the progressive thinkers who push to new heights by refusing to adhere to mediocre status quos. Rising Force
is about smashing through the boundaries of guitar playing for the advancement of music. Frankly, when the negative folks put aside their preconceived notions and listen to the album with an open mind, they may see that it in fact has plenty of memorable riffs & melodies to go along with the technicality. Love him or hate him, Malmsteen’s importance to the evolution of guitar playing and the metal genre is unquestionable.
-Icarus’ Dream Suite Opus 4