1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 214

Rising Force, by Yngwie Malmsteen
Suggested by Neil Hodgkinson

Yngwie Malmsteen is ridiculous.

I mean, just look at his name. It’s less a moniker, more a high score in Rock Star Scrabble. And that’s without the superfluous J for the middle initial.

Next, look at his album covers! Bizarrely, Rising Force is a rather tame example of this oeuvre, but even this is ludicrous. A single arm upthrusting a Fender Stratocaster through a fiery lake… I’d claim it was ripping off Arnie’s demise from Terminator 2, but Rising Force was released seven years earlier. The rest of his albums? Go Google “Yngwie Album Covers” and see for yourself.

I can picture the concept meetings.

“So Yngwei, let’s talk album cover. What do you fancy?”
“Just put a picture of me on it.”
“… Really?”
“Yep.”
“Do you want to be doing anything special in the picture?”
“Erm… Rocking out in a ruin on an outcrop? With some fire, or lightning, or a dragon or something?”
“Basically, doing some weird metal sh*t, right?”
“Correct.”
“So… Exactly the same as the last eight?”
“Yes. OH! And don’t forget the duck lips.”

Finally, there’s the hair. I know it’s a staple of the genre, but Yngwie’s barnet is a sight to behold. I am aware that my comments may spring from a deep well of jealousy here. But enough of this nonsense! We’d best embark upon this tawdry twiddlehike before Yngwie’s E-string grows white hot and melts in a napalm frenzy.

I really wanted to hate this record. For a start, I’ve no great love for the genre of Ego-Driven Fret Masturbation, of which Yngwie is a virtuoso. There is a lot of hypertwiddle in this album, so much that to highlight particular songs that exemplify the trope would involve me simply handing you a tracklist. Pick any song, at any point, and there’s an explosion of widdily-widdily-wail.

Mr Malmsteen uses classical music as an inspiration, and you all know my feelings on that turgid field of rotting turnips. Black Star kicks things off with some gentle classical-inspired acoustic work, and that theme does permeate the album like the jelly in a ten-pence supermarket doughnut. But rather than irritating, it’s actually quite soothing. Once you’re past the symphonic pomp, the classical gas fuels music that can actually breathe. My standout track, Icarus’ Dream Suite Op. 4, is based on Adagio in G Minor, but the real surprise was that I sat through all eight-plus minutes without wanting to hoof my speakers into the sea.

Genuinely, I was charmed by this album in parts. And that Yngwie sure can play, so much so that there are treated solos in songs such as Far Beyond the Sun and Evil Eye that are so ridiculously fast they present as a twittering buzz of strangely melodic white noise. They jab you in swift bursts, like a hummingbird with a flick-knife, daggering your chest in a Tourette’s arpeggio.

Rising Force gets a grudging 5/10. As a showcase for skill, it’s beyond reproach. As a well-rounded album? Not so much.

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