The title of Yngwie Malmsteen’s latest shred-fest is Parabellum…most immediately think of that as the name of a gun but, it’s a Latin and is usually quoted in the phrase “si vis pacem para bellum” which means “if you seek peace, prepare for war” and, as there is a track called that, it is safe to assume it is his usual philosophic approach that opts for the Latin phrase rather than firearms.
Yngwie has racked up over twenty albums in his 40 plus years of playing: no doubt many of us became aware of this huge talent with the release of the superb Alcatrazz album, No Parole For Rock ’N’ Roll…it was for me and I have followed his career ever since, although I did seek out his stuff with Steeler too. After that one Alcatrazz album, Yngwie set out on a solo track that majored, naturally, on his prowess on the guitar. One of his attractions for me was his liking for Blackmore and Yngwie uses the Ritchie style, scalloped fretboard adaptation on his signature Stratocaster…I have a Blackmore signature Strat with this kind of fretboard and it does help with bends and sensitivity, although since I got my Musicman, I tend to open tune the Strat for slide and the other for ‘traditional’ playing and the scalloping and action seems to help this too…but then I am a rank amateur. Across those solo albums, he has had some big names behind the microphone along the way too: Joe Lynn Turner, Mark Boals, Doogie White, Jeff Scott Soto but, on this one he does the vocals on four tracks, the remainder being instrumentals. One thing that impresses me most about Malmsteen’s playing is that the speed he achieves in the blistering arpeggios is rarely dependent upon tapping…he is that quick without it. So, expect more shred than a marmalade factory as he again cleverly weaves classical inspirations and themes into the structures of his songs.
Opening with lead single, Wolves At The Door, Yngwie tips his hat to his earlier work with a “neo-classical” song that, after a minute’s shred-fest develops into a classic metal melody and a brilliant (rapid) interpretation of a Paganini Theme (UK viewers will recognise it as the opening music for the South Bank Show.) His vocals are pretty good too.
Presto Vivace in C# Minor is five minutes of stunning playing but, as with a lot of his compositions, it needs a few listens to separate all the different movements he assembles into one work; this is typical Yngwie: an exercise in writing a classical overture for guitar, then cranking up the speed and volume.
There are sufficient pauses with only a few notes in to allow you to draw breath before he’s off again. This one does remind me a bit of Jet to Jet, but in a subtle way. Next up is Relentless Fury, another vocal track, that could have sat well on any Alcatrazz album or the JLT Odyssey album. The solo is, needless to say, blisteringly quick but somehow maintains the melody; skills like this is where some of the other shredders fall foul.
The title generating track, (Si Vis Pacem) Parabellum, is frantic of pace yes, and is an instrumental, but it is still very much a song…by the way, the keys aren’t; it’s him on guitar too! Eternal Bliss is more guitar masquerading as keys and multi-tracked vocals with gentle picking…yes, he does that extremely well too. It builds into a quality ballad and provides a breather from the pace of the other tracks: the solo too, whilst the odd fast run is still there, adapts nicely to the pace.
Toccata, as the name suggests, is characterised by full chords, rapid runs, and high harmonies and gives a neat nod to JS Bach too…clever. God Particle uses different guitars and styles to emulate a complex keyboard intro before the electric cuts in with another well-structured shred-fest. Magic Bullet, however, goes straight for speed from the off and doesn’t slow down…the runs are stunning as he again makes an instrumental shreddie into a true song.
(Fight) The Good Fight brings his more than capable vocal talents to the fore again on a song that has a brilliant nylon-string acoustic intro that moves into a speeded-up Rainbow sorcery with swords, song.
The closing track, Sea Of Tranquility, has touches of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker hidden amongst his trademark lightning-fast arpeggios and runs. Also worth listening out for, which tends to be missed in his lead work, is his innate ability to play chords in so many different and effective ways.
To sum up, as best I can: like most of Yngwie’s work, each track is genius but, unless you are a total shred fan, it can become a bit too much in one sitting; I find I appreciate his skills more by liberally sprinkling my favourites throughout my rock playlists so that the barrage of notes can be analysed, appreciated and enjoyed.
Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen: Like most of Yngwie’s work, each track is genius but, unless you are a total shred fan, it can become a bit too much in one sitting; I find I appreciate his skills more by liberally sprinkling my favourites throughout my rock playlists so that the barrage of notes can be analysed, appreciated and enjoyed.
Wolves At The Door
Presto Vivace in C# Minor
(Si Vis Pacem) Parabellum
(Fight) The Good Fight
Sea Of Tranquility
Musicians: – As far as I can ascertain, it is Yngwie on everything!
(iTunes delivered the Status Quo unofficial fifth member, their roadie, tour manager and harmonica player as well as co-writer, Bob Young who teamed up with the ever wonderful Micky Moody for a feat of whimsy and good music on The Nearest Hits; the song was the slide/harp blues-rock of These Eyes…quality!)