1. Razor Eater
2. Rise Up
3. Valley of the Kings
4. Ship of Fools
6. Baroque 'n Roll
8. Mad Dog
9. In the Name of God
10. Freedom Isn't Free
11. Majestic Blue
13. Touch the Sky
Pony Canyon 2002
Releases by Yngwie Malmsteen:
Facing the Animal (1997)
War to End All Wars (2000)
Releases (Doogie White):
Midnight Blue - Take the Money and Run (1993)
Rainbow - Stranger In Us All (1995)
Nikolo Kotzev's Nostradamus (2001)
Cornerstone - Human Stain (2002)
|The subject is Yngwie Malmsteen, a
touchy one at that, with it being either love or hate, and with only two sides to that
fence, few choose to straddle in-between. His past few albums, not trying to be harsh here
but...they have without a doubt, sucked badly. The much hyped "Alchemy" was a
blazing stinker but it took a turd like "War to End All Wars" to cause his
umpteenth record label, Spitfire, to gasp in utter horror. Spitfire had ponied up some
advertising money and spent a bit of effort trying to promote Malmsteen and put him back
into the minds of America. Just imagine their faces when Yngwie waltzed into their offices
and dumped that load on their desks! His singer at the time, Mark Boals knew it was a real
stinker, for he resigned his place at the mic and took off to dedicate his pipes to the
low-key supergroup Ring of Fire, a mere day before "WTEAW" was scheduled to hit
stores. Another priceless moment in the rich history of this renegade Swede whose antics
have blasted him into the embrace of infamy. Just a sample Includes: getting it on with
his singer's girlfriend in the bathroom (and worse, being caught!), the car accident that
left his hand useless for weeks and his mind in a coma for days, being arrested for
holding his wife hostage, which happened to be a call-in to the police by her loony tunes
and disapproving mother. They ended up being divorced a short time later (and the charges
were dropped, but I can't imagine he likes the song "Amberdawn" all that well
anymore...). His third wife April attacked singer Jorn Lande during a concert (then blamed
it on Jorn, for shame!), not to mention the fights and blowups with many musicians in his
ever rotating roster. Then there was the South American incident; alienating the crowd
during one of his concerts... does it ever end? But run-ins with craziness aside, he's
still a damn good guitarist, with a style that is bubbly and distinctive. With just a hint
of Malmsteen's shredding, his sound is instantly recognizable, which few axe slingers are
able to claim. Its a shame he's tied himself up with poor cds the past few years and a
boatload of controversy to go along with them. Just because people are talking about you,
doesn't mean the publicity is good. Even some of his most diehard fans are doing a
disappearing act faster than the annihilation of the rainforests and are quickly becoming
an endangered species on the brink of extinction. Sad, yes of course, but for those that
wept in sorrow over "WTEAW", there is hope on the horizon in the form of an
With Boals and then Lande out, and ex-Rainbow'er Doogie White in, Malmsteen decided to search the past for a new sound and thus ended up creating something that's a little bit "Alchemy" (yech), a dash of "Trilogy" (oh yeah!) and a whole lotta his second solo disc ever, '85's "Marching Out" (superb!). With a style carved out and White popped in to sing whatever the mad guitarist dreams up in that same tone Malmsteen cracks the whip and forces all his vocalists to key in at, "Attack" actually comes out of the plastic with some decent tunage that on the plus side does not have the distinct feel that it was recorded in a tin trashcan with a budget of ten bucks. That's something to get excited about right there, but there's more. The songs don't even suck! After the bomb of "Alchemy" it may be hard to imagine a world with quality 'new' Malmsteen material but it seems that wish upon the star came true because here it is. A slab of metal that is pure 80s neo-classical riffing and over-the-top fantastic themes all belted by Doogie and his magnificent set of pipes. He is not given as much room to play as in say, Nikolo Kotzev's Nostradamus or the ultra swank prog outfit, Cornerstone, but hey, when you sound as good as he does, he wins the audience over even if just belting some generic mishmash. That's because he sounds convincing, with both the power and the sincerity required to hocus pocus a spell on the listener. It would be a shame not to mention ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian on the keys, but where's Mats Olausson? He had been the only musician staple from the 90s albums and now even he's gone. There's not too much key pounding in here so he's not sorely missed yet. Then there's Yngwie himself, who claims his past material was crap (that was actually classic) while his writing took a fast track nosedive right into the discount bin at the latter part of the 90s. Yet he never missed a beat with the technical ability, his strings of notes, each separate without blurring and dizzying reflex defying solos are still as fast as ever, like a hurricane wind flurry. He's got the quickness and the talent, and honing that into a well written song is like a gift from heaven. All of his 80s cds right up until the mid 1990s were must-haves on every aspiring guitarist's list, the pop sensibilities of "Odyssey" and "Eclipse", the classical touches of "Fire and Ice", the forceful slam of "Seventh Sign" and "Magnum Opus", and finally, where the current day theme of "Attack" is headed, back to the opaque northern flavored Viking music of "Marching Out" and the dark classical forces of Trilogy.
A big and fat powerhouse of a track that whips us right back to the glory days of Malmsteen, despite a slightly muddy production (hey also a characteristic of early Yngwie!) Anyone that cut their teeth on the medieval majesty of his mostly instrumental debut and the much talked about in this review already, Marching Out, will find themselves right at home from the get go. The guitar is vicious yet bubbly, the ominous atmospheres are something right out of Rising Force and Doogie Whites pipes are so clean and belted straight from the gut in a style that is reminiscent of Mark Boals approach to Malmsteens whims.
02.] Rise Up
Razor Eater took its time in places with kind of a midtempo style going on, but this kicks it up a notch, with fast as blazes drums and vicious guitars cutting right to the chase with building fury. The lyrics are typical Dark fodder, with demons chaining him down and all sorts of hellish visuals. White sounds quite taken with the whole business, setting to record an honest performance. He builds the word demon gorgeously, very low with the first syllable and quickly rising to vibrate the last, sending shivers through the song. Neatly done.
03.] Valley of the Kings
Could it be warped pan flute? Oh yes it most certainly is. This one is flung in our faces very similar to something from the so holy Trilogy. Think Mirror Mirror or Fire. Having loved on Trilogy so much and so often through the years, I certainly cant imagine hating on a song that has so much in common with these. Carefully plodding and well embellished, Yngwies guitar a mighty presence lurking not so subtle all around.
04.] Ship of Fools
Someone has certainly been listening to a lot of Trilogy lately. Hmm wonder who that could be? But you know thats alright, because they chuck in plenty of twists and turns that give it an almost Axel Rudi Pell flavor in places. The verses are done superbly with lots of vocal bits that turn the head and keep one hanging on till the very end. I swear though, that solo is right out of Trilogy Suite Op: 5. God can he ever play though, this one chokes me up just because he is so damn good, and even if his choice of notes strung together strikes a chord of familiarity, its a warm, fuzzy, much missed feeling.
Another fury in a bottle piece, it is about time for a breather, dont you think boys? You must die now, you must die now! Err okay seems a tad on the extreme side but this is certainly no friendly waltz in the park or square dancing night at the Ho Down Barn. Every instrument is crouched and waiting in the attack position and do they ever. The drums thunder, the bass just pounds, the axe level every obstacle in its path, and Doogies voice has the kind of power that could crumble mountains.
06.] Baroque and Roll
Yngs music has often been referred to as Bach N Roll over the years, so how clever is this to name a song with a twist on that often parroted theme? Its generic instrumental stuff from the master, which means that its dazzling in technical ability but loosely holds onto the qualities that turn an instrumental into a good song. Of course I often love this sort of thing if the mood strikes and it fits the bill nicely. Theres a bit about two minutes into the Spotlight on the Guitar fest that is especially nice.
A dirty blues chord has been struck and pushes us into the next track that promises to be different than what the album has been stacked with thus far. Still mind meltingly aggressive, and the song revisits those ahhh atmospheric background sounds that popped up on the first two songs on the disc. The chorus just slays. Definitely not pop-like, can you imagine MTV or VH-1 playing something like this? They dare not! But there are hooks galore to be found most notably in the chorus itself; Doogie wraps us around his finger by laying down his voice in a way that is instantly memorable and likeable. All the while Yngs guitar is displayed in sonic rings of fire, circling for the kill and exploding into showers of notes for the enrapturing solo that knocks a little grit into his usually crisp sound.
08.] Mad Dog
Continuing the vent of anger, this one seems to touch upon some relationship problems rather than the more impersonal whipping post of slaughtering armies or supernatural villains. Its more in the straight up metal vein than taking medieval influences into consideration. The solos are unsurprisingly longwinded and in rich abundance, all backed by plenty of fantastic bass. What is surprising however, is them breaking out the old Hammond organ for the ending and Doogie swinging his voice out into the realm of blues that gives the finale a Burn Deep Purple-like touch.
09.] In the Name of God
Mr. Malmsteen once said he wasnt very religious, or at all for that matter, but with lyrics like these this song could very well be done by Petra or Guardian. I would say Stryper, the well-known bee striped bible giving 80s rockers, but I doubt they did anything this heavy. This is more in the Jamie Rowe & Guardian co. style of harsh music with a Christian touch.
Yngwie broke his vocal skillz out of the closet back on Inspiration covering Jimi Hendrixs Manic Depression and guess what? Hes treating us to his voice again. Hes got energy and sincerity, so did Stevie Ray Vaughan but that didnt mean he should be taking up the mic for good. When crooning out that lower register, Yng is adorable. Otherwise hes kind of loose and untamed.
11.] Majestic Blue
With the first strains of guitar, luxuriously soft and brimming with the tears drops of sorrow could it be a ballad at last? Another Prisoner of Your Love or the lovely Meant to Be? It roughs up a little further on down the line but retains this rich feeling of elegant delicacy. Like a butterfly newly gaining its wings thats struggling for takeoff, finding himself and gliding on summer winds into tomorrow. The electric is quite majestic indeed, but paling in shades of misty blue Where Baroque and Roll failed on the emotional scale and making the transistion from mere instrumental to a complete song, Majestic Blue succeeds in every way imaginable. The first vocal-less offering from Mr. Malmsteen since 1994s Brothers that leaves a little tear peeking from the corner of the eye, unless your heart is made of absolute stone. Its brilliant, just simply brilliant. Faith has been restored.
Pick up your sword, pick up your shield, get yourself to the battlefield. That pretty much sums it all up in one quick sentence. This is pure power metal, theres no fooling anyone with a piece like this. The blistering drums, violent lyrics, thick guitars, and operatically forceful vocals scream no frills metal from every crack and seam. Insert a juicy arpeggio heavy solo and you have yourself quite the nifty power packed Yng track.
13.] Touch the Sky
The partys not over yet, oh no. At least one cannot claim they didnt get their moneys worth quantity wise with this release. Content is another thing indeed, but I tell ya, you cant complain with this song because it blows nearly everything else on Attack out of the water. The chorus has got the stuff that Trilogy wet dreams are made of, stacking right up against Stronghold. Doogie just has so much untapped power, hearing it released in a controlled form such as when he belts the title: touch the sky, is just heaven. The bridge is also divine, heart stopping and just superb. Great stuff! Its too bad more of the album couldnt be like this
14.] Iron Clad
The acoustic is finally out n about and on display. He plays the instrument so well its a shame that it doesnt get used much on this disc. I guess the Swede was too concerned with making the album heavy. This is a decent outing, yes, but a bit on the generic side. I was hoping for it to grab me more, but the structures are so typical, the kind of stuff weve heard a million times with no outstanding features of its own.
This is a reworking of a classical piece, and is it ever beautiful. So ethereal, lighter than the air and squeezing the soul for every ounce of emotion, one could imagine this being played in Heaven over Heavens Gates audio system. Not an angels eye would be dry when this was over.
The bland Alchemy and the production mishap crippling horror called War to End All Wars might have sent his fan legions headed for the hills but Attack should bring them back, slowly but surely. Theres sparking hints of past brilliance in such well written tunes as Touch the Sky, Majestic Blue and Stronghold, but too many generic fillers without variety bog the album down considerably. Stuff like Iron Clad, In the Name of God and even the title track are more like afterthought Japanese bonus tack-ons than the kind of material one would save for the meat of your album. Discard these and a couple of others (yes Im looking at you, Baroque and Roll), throw in a lighter-in-the-air ballad and another in the style of a mid tempo bluesy crooner like they repeatedly kept teasing us with and you would have an album that comes close to being worthy of sitting on the same shelf with Seventh Sign and Fire and Ice. As it is, Attack is overly longwinded and pulls too many punches that come off the same page as Trilogy. Is it worthy of owning? Definitely. But is ranked as a Malmsteen classic? Not even close. Better luck next time.