Artist: Yngwie Malmsteen
Album: Blue Lightning
Label: Mascot Label Group / Rising Force
If you know the name Yngwie Malmsteen, you might also know the not-so-old adage, “How can less be more? More is more!” When it comes to furious fretwork, there are few who can hold a candle to this Swedish legend. Blue Lightning, his latest release, is set to come out on March 29th, 2019, promising a look into the blues songs that inspired him.
I’ve never honestly listened to much Malmsteen, though I did watch the live G3 show that he was in and it blew my mind. I have heard plenty of randoms songs with him featured though, such as the cover of “Dream On” he did with Ronnie James Dio, and I know he’s top notch even if I’m not big into neoclassical metal. Nevertheless, my review gang and I like some good guitarwork, so this seemed like the right time to get into it, especially with familiar covers in the mix.
Our first thoughts about this album were… more really isn’t more. Dear goodness, this was an experience. After about three songs, we were all thinking that we could use a break from all the solos. There’s something about the ebb and flow, the dynamics, the rise and fall of emotion, that Malmsteen’s music purely lacks. The guitar playing on this album is certainly phenomenal… it’s just that a lot of these songs originally had a lot more to them than just good riffs, and when you strip that away to focus just on the guitar, you’re not really improving on the original. You’re just kind of wanking over it.
The album boasts famous classics like “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix, “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, and “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones. They’re not bad covers by any means. If you like yourself a metal cover and you’re into those fast solos, Malmsteen certainly hasn’t slowed down as the years go on. His fingers are just as nimble and experienced as ever, and he knows how to rock these songs, that’s for damn sure. It’s just that there’s more to music than guitar speed.
The only other real problem with the album is the lack of consistency of the vocals. When you dedicate everything to the guitars and don’t keep the quality up in the vocals, the overall feel of the music gets sloppy. Sometimes the smooth vocals were paced well and worked, but a lot of the time the vocals kind of sounded like a tired old bulldog. Songs often pack the punch in vocals or lyrics and I think, if you take a cover like the aforementioned “Dream On” that combined the great guitar of Malmsteen with the legendary vocals of Dio, then you get some magic. But if the guitar is so far ahead of the rest of the instruments, vocals included, it just sounds cheap and honestly, a tad arrogant.
Ultimately, this is going to be an album that you’ll love or hate based off whether or not you love or hate Yngwie Malmsteen and love or hate metal cover songs. If you like a band to take it over the top and solo whenever they possibly can, this album will definitely be for you. But was it objectively good? Well, it wasn’t bad, but it’s rather tasteless on the whole. The album feels a bit… teenager-y, in the way the solos overpower everything else the song has to offer, and ultimately becomes overwhelming. It’s a fun gimmick album to throw on at a party, but if we’re taking music seriously, it’s a bit of a pass.
1. Blue Lightning
2. Foxey Lady
3. Demon’s Eye
4. 1911 Strut
5. Blue Jean Blues
6. Purple Haze
7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
8. Sun’s Up Top’s Down
9. Peace, Please
10. Paint it Black
11. Smoke on the Water
12. Forever Man