"Attack!!" (Epic; 2004)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

As a young and aspiring guitarist in the early- and mid-1980s, I was especially enamored of the technical prowess and dramatic flair that Swede Yngwie J. Malmsteen so energetically brought to the music scene with his self-described 'baroque and roll' style. Any discussion about defining moments in the evolution of the guitar in heavy metal will include the self-titled album from Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Rising Force. Yngwie's first four albums ("Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force," "Marching Out," "Trilogy," and "Odyssey," covering the years 1984 through 1988) found a special place in my evolving heavy metal experience.

Admittedly, I haven't followed Yngwie's career much after Rising Force's first four albums. Yngwie has been surprisingly prolific, but somehow that didn't help me in buying any of his albums in over the last 14 years. However, it's safe to say that - in the time since I've heard Malmsteen's mid-1980s output - I realized that it was safe to assume that Yngwie's style probably hasn't changed too much. Some of that realization was due to reading reviews of his post-1988 efforts, but mostly due to the fact that Yngwie's singular vision and dedication to the style he helped form was too strong to be subject to trends or other influential styles.

It is important to note that the original version of "Attack!!" was released in late 2002 and that that version was only available in the U.S. as an import (but a readily available one at that). The U.S. version, released in early 2004, contains two bonus tracks; this is a nice switch from the usual tack that record companies take in releasing an album world-wide with bonus tracks only in Japan and occasionally other non-U.S. locales. This is also certainly a case where patience (or laziness) is rewarded with more bang for the buck as the revamped "Attack!!" clocks in at a staggering 76 minutes plus.

It didn't take long for "Attack!!" to me make remember why I enjoyed hearing Yngwie's early efforts so much. The neo-classical fury that he is credited with bringing to the forefront of all things metallic is in copious evidence here. Songs I immediately picked up on are "Valley Of Kings," the typical Viking-epic "Valhalla," and the fast-and-furious approach of the best instrumental on the album "Baroque & Roll." Some of the songs even displayed a looser, freer version of Yngwie simply rocking out rather than trying to impress with steady stream of speedy licks ("Stronghold" immediately comes to mind). The two bonus tracks are neat, but I wouldn't know any better or worse as they fit in very nicely with the rest of "Attack!!" (although I must admit the live version of "Dreaming" reminded me of the many times I saw Yngwie perform live back in the mid-80s.)

Overall, compared to my limited experience with the totality of the Rising Force catalog, I realize that vocalist Doogie White brings a more rock'n'roll vocal style to Rising Force. While I think I enjoyed Jeff Scott Soto's and Joe Lynn Turner a bit more than Doogie White's contributions on "Attack!!" Doogie doesn't have much to fear -- he fits in really well with Yngwie's sturm en dang approach.

Needless to say, hearing "Attack!!" after I'd basically ignored Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Rising Force all these years left me feeling a little bit guilty for ignoring most of his work from 1989 through the present. Very few albums motivate me to pick up other albums in an artist's catalog, but I'll be seeking some of Yngwie's other material very soon.

"Attack!" was produced by Yngwie J. Malmsteen, and engineered and mixed by Tom Fletcher.

Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Rising Force: Doogie White on vocals, Yngwie J. Malmsteen on guitars and bass, Derek Sherinian on keyboards, and Patrik Johansson on drums.

For more information visit http://www.yngwie.org/

"Rising Force" (Polydor; 1984)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Yngwie J. Malmsteen hit the scene in 1984 and basically sent guitar fanatics back to the woodshed, made jaws drop in disbelief, and left many others giving up guitar playing altogether. (Malmsteen's prior stint in Alcatrazz didn't exactly get every one fired up like his solo career so don't bitch to me about it, OK?)

Malmsteen's dazzling neo-classical approach stunned many in the music community. It's safe to say that "Rising Force" managed to spawn the likes of Vinnie Moore, Tony MacAlpine, Greg Howe, as well as other six-string slingers who didn't get much recognition and have since been long forgotten.

The first thing you'll notice about Malmsteen's guitar playing abilities is his stellar technique. And the second thing you'll notice is his tone. Put those two things together and he had a recipe for making waves in the music scene as well as a first-class ticket to stardom.

Three of the first four songs on "Rising Force" are instrumentals. The somber "Black Star" leads off the disc displaying Malmsteen's technique at a speed which most people could follow and appreciate upon the first listen. "Far Beyond The Sun" gives the neo-classical twist a shot in the arm as this up-tempo number set the standard for guitar instrumentals for most of the rest of the 80s by incorporating famed composer Vivaldi's penchant for speed and melody into one tightly wrapped package. "Evil Eye" is a stellar composition that melds the groove of hard rock with the complexity of a classical music arrangement; "Evil Eye" is quite the achievement and sounds as fresh today as it did in 1984.

The second half of "Rising Force" starts off with the epic "Icarus' Dream Suite Op. 1" which is more classical than rock but moves nonetheless. "As Above, So Below" is an average rocker that is typical in its song structure without taking away from Malmsteen's guitar prowess it just focuses Malmsteen's flights of fancy into a more concise pattern. "Little Savage" begins slow and deliberate, but ends with a fury it's the perfect songs to hear Malmsteen's ability to put hard rock and classic music into one taut package. The CD ends with "Farewell" a pure classical send off.

"Rising Force" is a genuine classic and a watershed moment for all musicians. It doesn't get any easier to enjoy the neo-classical movement than to put "Rising Force" in your CD player and let the ground-breaking Yngwie J. Malmsteen take you away to a new and exciting land.

Yngwie J. Malmsteen plays all electric and acoustic guitars, bass and Tauras bass pedals. Yngwie is joined by Jeff Scott Soto on vocals, Jens Johansson on keyboards, and Barriemore Barlow on drums. One interesting note: Les Claypool, later to gain fame in his own band Primus, engineered the disc.

For more information visit http://www.yngwie.org/

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2005  by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 15 May 2016 12:32:26 -0400 .